Coronavirus · My Thoughts

Poetic View: The Future As I Saw It in April

What does the future hold for us? Here it is nearing the end of May, and I want to share two poems I wrote at the beginning of April, more than a month ago. Not a lot has changed. The death count continues to increase daily with it nearing 100,000 in the United States.

My world & the future?

In the midst of this pandemic, people’s reactions shock me! One person posted on my Facebook page that this virus isn’t dangerous. Tell that to the families mourning 99,031 deaths. Tell that to the world whose losses stand today at 345,554 at 2:00 pm this sunny Sunday afternoon. I shudder at this callous response to this tragedy—it is dangerous and heartbreaking! Today, I choose empathy and compassion for the losses, for the pain, for the struggle, and I continue to wonder about our collective future.

In my circle of family and friends, I know someone who was diagnosed with Covid 19 ten weeks ago and is still experiencing symptoms. So some say it’s just like the flu? I’ve never had a flu that lasted that long.

My first poem contemplated the new post-coronavirus future.

Are Masks a Part of the Future?
Are Masks a Part of the Future?
What Do We Face?

April 1, 2020
 
The future always felt
            Predictable!
Not now!
            Not post-coronavirus pandemic,
                        Not after the deaths
                                    The insanity
                                                The world in turmoil!
 
What’s coming?
            Social distancing
                        ‘til April 30
 
More cases
            More deaths!
                        100,000’s dead?
                        1,000,000’s sick?
 
The uncertainty
            No one knows
                        For sure
                                    But why?
 
Our tech age believed
            We could control
                        Order
                                   Orchestrate the world!
 
But no!
            Here we stand frozen
                                    Paralyzed
                                               Isolated
 
2020—
            with all its advances
                        can’t contain
                                    this small
                                                tiny
                                                            enemy
It controls us!
 
The USA
            Ill-prepared
                        So sad,
                                    But so true!
 
Trump, a part of the problem
            Yes,
                        But China lied!
 
Would he have acted differently
            If he knew the truth?
                        Not 81,000 deaths in China
                                    But possibly forty times that amount!
                                                3,240,000
                                                            Oh, my God!
We will never know.
 
Where are we headed?
            Done and recovered 
                                    At the end of April?
                                                May?
                                                            September?
 
I haven’t even a thought
            About our financial losses
                        Not in the wake of the deaths
                                               The sickness and trauma
                                                            The despair!
 
We’re all in the same boat
            Headed somewhere,
                        Destination unknown
 
God, help us!
LaLa Land vs. reality for the future
Living in LaLa Land

My second poem did a reality check. Reality—different to different people? I’ve struggled with reality my whole life, wanting to live in a LaLa Land of my own making, but adulthood forced me out of that imaginary land into the territory of the REAL The coronavirus catapulted me farther—into a stark face-to-face encounter with reality.

Reality Check

April 2, 2020
 
The sun keeps shining
            The world spins
                        Night follows day.
 
On the surface
            Normal is constant.
 
Yet the massive choirs
            Of heartbroken cries resound
                        Across the plains
                                     Down through the valleys
                                                 Atop the mountains
                                                                Through the deserts
 
Human kind is under attack
            A virus war zone!
People die
            The number mounts!
 
Doesn’t matter his color
                                   Her Ethnicity
                                                His Religion
                                                                No immunity!
 
The coronavirus kills
            Has no prejudices
                        Is not judicious in its target
 
The massive grief grows
            The weight of the pain stresses
                        This world to its limit
 
A mother
            A father
                        A Daughter
                                    Die alone
                                                Not a hand to hold
                                                            No last kiss and hug!
 
And it’s not just the virus’ victims
            But anyone unlucky enough
                        To die now
                                    Like my dear friend, Jan Steel
 
Karen, Joan, and Julian stood vigilant
            Outside Jan’s door
                        No kiss
                                    No touch
                                                No hug
                                                            Only death!
 
Hearts break in unison
            Too many to count—
                        Exponential pain multiplied
                                    By this devastation!
 
Yet the sun rises
            Days melt into weeks
                        Pain from this horror lingers
                                    Forever
                                                An acrid taste in my mouth
                                                            And
                                                                        Heart!

You may wonder why I keep posting my poems. I struggled so through this pandemic and recorded it. I wonder if you relate to my cares and concerns. Let me know.


~DO YOU WANT AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   It’s available NOW! I am experiencing a delay from the publishers—sorry about that! Go to my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW.

~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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/

Christianity · Coronavirus · My Thoughts · poetry

Poetic View: I Wrestled with God, Faith & the Coronavirus

As March 2020 ended, I pondered God and faith issues in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and sheltering in place. I seldom ventured out—only for groceries and prescriptions, but I ventured inward. As always, poetry helped me wrestle with deep emotions about this controversial time and face some spiritual reservations.

Wrestling with God

Do you question God and his presence in this world? I do because we talk regularly, and we have that kind of relationship. I don’t need to blame God about the pandemic because my God is good, but I challenged Him—where are you? What about faith and fear? Can I have both at the same time?

Through my poetic view, I labored over God’s absence and my struggle with faith and fear.

God's Angel looking over the world
Where is My God?
 
March 30, 2020
 
I see the coronavirus cases
                        Increase
            Where is my God?
 
Who will protect me?
            You?
                        People have died
                                   Are dying
                                               Will die
 
Screams of despair
            Reverberate across
                        The world
 
Mass mournings in the loss
            Of a son
                        A daughter
                                    A mother
                                                A father
 
Left to die alone
            No one familiar to hold a hand
                                                Wipe a tear
                                                            Whisper, “I love you!”
 
God, in your infinite mercy,
            Where are you?
 
"Each one of them is Jesus in disguise."
            Disguised like Mother Teresa shared as
                        A doctor
                        A nurse
                        A LPN
                        A caring neighbor
                        A stranger’s smile in the grocery store
                        A phone call or text message to check-in
                                     With loved ones
 
I believe you’re in
            The midst of this
Oh, lover of souls!
 
I believe your heart
            Breaks
                        As you watch
                                    The loss
                                                The horror
 
Have you rallied the angels?
                        The archangels?
                                    The guardian angels?
 
Have you thrown your power
            Into the wind
                        To bring a new day?
 
You hold me gently to your bosom
            Scared
                        Frightened
Yet knowing full well
You have the power
                        You are the power!
 
You are in control!

As you can see from this poem and last week’s, I believe God is in control of this mess, my mess, any mess that comes along. I wind my way through the caverns of questioning always to arrive at the same place!

As this pandemic has struck, many spiritual people wonder about their personal faith. Often, I hear people say either faith or fear, but I came up with a different answer.

God: Faith and Fear Not Faith or Fear
March 31, 2020
 
It’s not either or.
            I’m human—
                        Fear lurks
                                    Faith falters
 
But
            I can open my hands
                        Have faith in one
                                    And fear in the other
 
I can raise them up
            To my God!
 
I can release
            Both
                        To do what needs done.
 
Fear reminds me
            I’m vulnerable
Faith reminds me
            God is in control.
I need both.
 
Fear chokes my throat
            Strangling life out of me
Faith hugs me to close
            Saturating my heart with love
God extends his hand.
I need both.
 
Fear drives me to despair
Faith draws me to the Comforter.
Yes, I need both
            In balance.
 
Too much fear
            Paralyzes me
Too much fear
            Focuses me
                        On the problem
 
Then my faith comes
            And refocuses me
                        On the solution.
 
I want more faith
            Less fear
                        But I need both!
                                    A balance
                                                To stabilize me
                                                            To force me
                                                                        To look outside
                                                                                    
Myself to Him
           Who waits for me!
 
Faith is power
            So is fear
I yearn to be faith-powered!
God: Man and woman on two horses

I present a dichotomy in this poem—faith and fear, side-by-side and needed. What do you think?


Cover of Flippo's biography

~DO YOU WANT AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   It’s available NOW! Go to my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~WAITING FOR A KINDLE OR NOOK E-BOOK VERSION OF THE E-BOOK OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY? Hopefully, they will be available in three days! Sorry for the delay!

~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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/

Christianity · Coronavirus · God · My Thoughts · poetry · Recovery

Poetic View: Who Is in Control of this Mess?

I continue with a poetic view of my feelings and the coronavirus pandemic. I wrote two poems where I dealt with the question of control and prayer. As I faced these thoughts on March 28, I faced the reality of surrender which always takes me to “Let Go.” My recovery program has taught me the power of letting go of results and turning to a Power Great than myself that has everything under control. Then the next day I wondering about all my praying frenzy—who was I praying for in reality?

Let Go
Let Go—Surrender

March 27, 2020

Step three 
(Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.)      
            encourages me
            To view this world
                        And its trials
                                    Then let go!
Let go of
            Control
            Manipulation
            Power
            Authority
            Wisdom
            Rules
            Everything
As I let go,
            My hands open up
                        Palms face up to the sky
                                    Ready to receive
As I let go,
            Tension leaves my throat
                                    My stomach
                                    My chest
As I let go,
            I give God room 
                        to moving around
                                    in my life
                        Safety
                                    A container to work in
                                                A place to bless
Often, I scrunch my eyes shut
            Hold my breath
                        Clench on tight to
                                    False security
And try to control
            Only an illusion!

This closed-off space offers
No place to receive
                        No openness
                                    No receptivity!
If I let go
            And let God
                        Power is in the right hands!
                        I’m at ease!
                        God is in the control
                                    My fight is over!
A topsy-turvy world
of Today
Coronavirus pandemic explodes

The third step remains
            The same today
                        As always
                                    And God is in control!
Let Go!

My control issues fan out into all parts of my life, so I had to look at one of my personal private times—my prayers—and wonder deeply.

For Whom Am I Praying?

March 28, 2020

Stripped bare today, I wonder
            For whom am I praying
                        REALLY?
When I utter
            My prayers to my God
                        Stand naked
                                    Before him
Where is my heart really?
Does empathy reign?
            Does compassion cover
                        Me like a mantle,
                                    Rich green velvet shawl
                                                Draped over my shoulders
                                                and the world?
            Do my words
                        Include you
                                    Your needs
                                                The world's?
Or does selfishness rule?
            Does each sentence
                        Begin with I
                                    Dotted with me
                                                Sprinkled with my and mine?
I focus where?
            Inward
                        Outward
                                    Me?
                                               You?
As I turn these thoughts
            Over
                        In my mind,
                                    I know the truth!
Interdependence
            Not me, not you
                        But we!
Not mine, not yours
            But ours!

Deeply I feel that!
            Our world needs this
                        Whole-hearted unity
                        A healing alliance
                        Life-flowing love
The imaginary wall of
            Indifference melts
                        In golden droplets
                                    On the ground
Green Irish clover pops up
            Verdant and life-giving
Dutch tulips spring into action
            With lips reaching for the sky
A multi-colored, multi-cultural garden procreates
            From those drops
                        Those tears
New life forms
            And a new world begins!

All because I prayed for us!
            You prayed for us!
            The world opened its heart
                        To our kinship
                                    Instead of our differences!

These hard times offer possibilities, spiritual opportunities to see everything differently. Pause with me and pray for our wounded world and its people! I would love to hear how you are praying during this turbulent time!


~DO YOU WANT AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?   It’s available NOW! Go to my website and pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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/

Coronavirus · My Thoughts · poetry · square dance

What is Normal Today?

Normal to you, normal to me? Nothing alike, I’m sure! I want to share a poem I wrote a few years ago about why I dance, then I end with one I wrote on March 27, 2020, in the midst of our unusual world!

Normal life: Lin and I dressed up for our wedding and a square dance!
Lin and I dressed up for our wedding and a square dance reception!
Why We Square Dance—Why I Dance

It’s a Friday 
                  Or
                     A Saturday night
A dance night!
 
The week lasted for eons
                  grueling
I had my work face on for five days
                  and I kept going.
I finished this week
                  Exhausted!
 
My family needs drained me
I am wilted,
                  ready to dissolve into bed!
 
But it’s my dance night.
                  I breathe deeply,
                                    I know!
 
I select my square dance outfit.
                  What do I feel like tonight?
                                    Red or turquoise
                                                      Southwest design or frilly lace?
 
The familiarity of my weekly dance routine
                  takes over
 
Systematically I put on my outfit
                  As each layer goes on,
                                    my perspective and energy level changes!
First my hose
                  With a deep breath, I release part of my stress
Then my pettipants
                  Oh my, it’s going—another deep breath
my top and skirt
                  My goodness—a glimmer of hope
my belt
                  A smile slowly crosses my lips
Next my matching petticoat and shoes
                  Yes, I sigh with relief
Finally, my club badge
                  To identify who I am—
                 
                  A square dancer!
 

A spray to finish my hair
                  a touch of lip gloss
A final look in the mirror
A pirouette and a spin
                  crinoline flowing
                                    I am complete!
My exhaustion replaced with anticipation!
 
The drive to the dance hall
                  becomes a time tunnel
                                    a vacuum
                                              a timeless space
                                                            void of the demands of this world
                                                                                                    
                  stress free
                                                                                                                                relaxing
 
Either soft music in the background
                  or
                                  a compatible silence
                  or
                                  a casual conversation
 
A bridge between the world out there
                  with its demands
and the dance world
                  with its pleasures!
 
Friends greet me as I enter the dance hall—my dance family
The music starts
I step onto the dance floor
                  and I am free!
The carefree child within me
                  spins round and around
                            claps her hands
                                           and
                                                Shouts for joy!
                                                                                                            I am free!
                                                                                                                              The tip starts,
                                                                                                            and I am safe
                                                                                                            to spend two hours
                                                                                                                              In sheer joy and ecstasy!
 
I drop the world’s cares and concerns,
                  at the door,
                                    kicking them out of view!
 
So if you have problems in your world, join me
                  and
                                    leave them at the door!
 
If you are angry or sad
                  The magic begins
                                    when you show up
                                                      and
                                                            dress up!
                  The music starts
                                    and
                                    I step onto the dance floor!
And then the real magic takes over!
 
Cares melt down my shoulders
                  and flitter away on a breath
                                    giving a lightness to my step
Sorrows cluster together
                  and ride away on an angel’s wings.
 
Music playing
                  I am surrounded by dear friends
I step onto the dance floor
                  It is a safe place
                                    and
                                      I am free!
 
That’s why I dance!
 
Copyright©2015 Larada Horner-Miller

As I juxtapose these two poems against each other, I realize the loss I’m experiencing. My husband and I have had a couple of years with limited dancing because of health reasons, but I remember in 2015 when I wrote the above poem, we would dance three times a week. Then we often went away to weekend events that started on Friday evening with a dance, dance all day Saturday and Saturday night and Sunday morning. We were dancing fools!

The world I face today in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic differs drastically from our normal life.

Dream about normal life. The word dream on green leaves
I Want Normal Again

March 27, 2020
 
I want to dance
            To laugh
                        To hug
                                    To live!
I want my life back!
 
This disruption has created havoc
             Distance
                        Isolation
 
I want my old life back,
            But not at the expense
                        Of loss
                                    Of risk
                                                Of stupidity
                                                            Of you
 
I love my normal life
            Lin
                        14 Asher Lane
                                    Jesse, my cat
                                                The richness of community
                                                            Friends
                                                            Family
            Branson
                        The ranch
                                     My brother
                                                And friends
 

Sixty-six years
            Full and rich

I count my numerous joys
            And I submit to the world’s needs!
                        To my elderly neighbor
                                    To my high-risk dancing friend
                                                With a double lung transplant
                                                            To the stranger
                                                                        I want to consider
I submit; I must or perish,
            But as I say this,
                        I yearn for my life back!
 
In my nightly dreams,
            I spin off of Lin’s hand
                        We promenade around the square
                                    I hoot and holler on an allemande left
                                                I relish each hug in the "thank you" circle
 
When it is safe,
the next time we dance,
           I will hug you
                       From the depths of my soul
            And will be made new
                        In your touch
 
But for today,
            I kiss my husband
                        We hug and snuggle
                                    We touch
                                                And it keeps me alive
 
Those dreams
            Sustain my spirit
                        Today
 
And I wait for the day
            For normal to return!
 

As I compare these two poems, I mourn the loss of dance right now–the movement, the activity, the music and our friends! And I’m going to be oh, so careful on the return! How do you keep six feet apart when square dancing? How can you wear gloves and masks and dance? Do you change gloves after every tip? And no hugs? Hugs are a big part of it for me!

What does your normal life look like? I’d love to hear about the activities that feed your soul.


~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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 AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?  Visit my web site and you can order a book on the homepage:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Coronavirus · My Thoughts · poetry

What’s One Person’s Value in this World?

I embrace a poetic view of life—that’s me. I grew up in a ranching community where we valued and celebrated life, babies, the elderly and rain! We valued older people and children equally! We also placed value on life in any form, and in the spring, a rancher’s delight centered on spring time calving season and the birth of the new calf crop.

I watched my dad labor over a cow struggling to give birth, and if she died, then I witnessed his tender care for an orphan calf, bottle-feeding it to keep it alive. Each season offered a reason to celebrate life and nature and respect death and loss, so the environment fostered a deep yearning in my soul to look at this world in a different way. It also encouraged me to wonder about the good and the bad—the heavy summer thunderstorm that filled the reservoirs and the loss of that momma cow. Life offers me opportunities to look, to see, to wonder and that’s what I’ve done in our current world situation.

So, it was a natural reaction for me to write poetry in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Over a month ago, I wrote this following poem pondering the value of human life. As the numbers have increased, I can’t become immune to the horror. Thousands of people have died daily because of this pandemic, and it forced me to think about the value of each of those lost.

            In this past month, I’ve watched bizarre behavior on the news and wonder, “what about empathy first for the dying? For those who have lost someone in this tragedy?”

What’s One Person’s Value?

March 27, 2020
 
How do we value one person’s worth?
            How do you gauge a life?

Do we honor each other?
            Treasure each other?
 
One individual’s death
            Sends ripple
                        Across the sphere!
Angels celebrate
            With cheers and tears
Humans lament
            Their loss
These two worlds collide
 
How do we value one gone?
            You had a life
                        A family you loved
                                    Who loved you
                        A spirit
                        A soul
 
Your color doesn’t matter
            Your ethnicity
                        Your religion
                                    Your gender
 
You mattered
            To someone
Their hearts broke at your death!
Mine did, too!
 
Instead of becoming
            Immune to loss
                        During this pandemic,
My heart hurts
            Wide and deep
                        For loss
                        For disruption
                                    For you.
 
Chances are
            You died alone
No loved one held your hand
            Kissed your brow
                        Whispered sweet memories
                                    Into your ear.
 
The horrors
                        The Aloneness
The deaths
                        The losses
Gone
            Never to return!
 
What did we as a world lose
            When you died?
                        What contribution?
                                    What impact?    
          
We will never know!

What do you think—do we value the individual? Does our behavior match our words? I would love to hear your thoughts!


~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography streamed on Facebook Live — TBA! Be ready! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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 AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?  I HAVE 234 PRE-ORDERS!  Release date: mid-May! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Book Production · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

Can Worry Paralyze You?

Woman worrying at computer

Do you worry? I have a worrier’s heart! My journey with worrying has had bumps a long the way. Genetically wired to worry, both of my parents had this trait, and I picked it up. Historically, my strongest positive characteristics worked: a goal-oriented person, an A-type who accomplishes every job given! My strongest negative trait paralyzed me: worry! The worry struggle has haunted me my whole life—I’ve overcommitted it once more! I kept going and worked through its insidious power it had over me! My current book project became one of my teacher!

I’ve been working on my current book project for three years. I started thinking about the possibility of writing Marshall Flippo’s biography in April 2017. But somehow recently my process changed—I had to trust the process. Worry has kept me awake nights and consumed my waking hours quietly in the background. I am not in control, thank God!

Flippo died in November 2018, so I focused on releasing his biography at the National Square Dance Convention in June 2019 but I couldn’t make that because I had a horrible stomach problem came up, and I had to deal with it. Then I moved my targeted release date to Revco Square Dance Festival in Indio, CA, in November 2019. Flippo had called there for years and many dancers would want to read about his life and his hilarious stories but that didn’t work—postponement again. I still needed to revise, edit and cut the massive verbiage of 258,00 words to a manageable size. Also, I got deathly ill in October, unable to work on it for a couple months, so we missed the dance altogether.

Then the perfect venue appeared in the future—CALLERLAB Convention in Reno, NV at the beginning of April 2020. All through these months of working, I worried and fretted about how to get it done—we had two international trips planned and I couldn’t imagine how I could do it! Many mornings I woke early before the alarm went off, listing in my mind everything I needed to do on the Flippo book, and the list grew, not shrunk. How could I do it? But, I’m the eternal optimist and have historically pushed myself relentlessly! I could do it!

At the end of January 2020, we went to Costa Rica, and the timing of this trip worked out. Breathing a sigh of relief, I sent the manuscript off to my editor in late December, so she had ample time to look it over and emailed me the results a couple days before we left Costa Rica. I left worry at home and really enjoyed this trip.

Her email shocked me! She wanted a basic rewrite—I had interviewed Flippo for over 40 hours, and in writing his biography, I relished his words and comments, so the majority of the book was his dialogue. Her comments stung, “A great script, but I need more of you in the book.” In my mind, I argued with her comments, but how smart is that—I hired her to be my editor. Now, was I going to take her advice or not?

So, when we got home, Lin suggested I take a two-week writing retreat at my home in Branson, CO away from all the local distractions, and that’s what I did. My dear friends there knew my mission and respected my need for privacy. I worked hard for those two weeks and added me to the book which was fascinating.

The timing on the next trip to Spain worked also! I saw a pattern emerge here! On both flights, I worked on revisions then enjoyed the trip. Worry looked over my shoulder occasionally but I stopped its thunderous voice. My editor’s final revisions waited for me when I got home. She loved what I had done—whew!

So, when we got home from Spain on March 9, I had prepared myself for about three weeks of long days of revisions from the final edit and all the other requirements to get the book published. You see, I self-publish, so I do it all. I could do it—I’ve always thought I could get more done in a day than is physically and mentally possible!

The saga continued. We left Spain on March 8th; the coronavirus exploded there the 9th, so my husband and I self-quarantined for two weeks, afraid of possible exposure to the virus. We had spent our last two days in Madrid, where the virus took off. Now I would have dedicated time to work, and work I did!

book cover for Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

Before leaving for Spain, I had solicited help from some friends on the cover of the book. I had a basic mockup done, but I valued their artistic talent and opinion. It ended up they couldn’t do it but gave me valuable suggestions on how to do the back cover. A major part of any book project happens to be the cover, so a couple days after we got home, I woke up at 3:30 a.m., worrying about the cover and did it—the creative juices flowed!

Worry word cloud

As the coronavirus pandemic worsened, Lin and I respected the shelter-in-place request, and I have been home basically for seven weeks finishing the book. The worries continued: which pictures to include, don’t forget to change the ISBN for all three versions, new to Ingram Sparks and cover questions, indexing woes, ad nauseam!

The CALLERLAB Convention cancelled—oh, no! The perfect venue for selling this book gone, but what I’ve found out in this process amazed me! I ended up with extra time to do a much better, more precise, more involved revision and finish.

I created a step-by-step list I have to do sequentially in the publishing of this book. Each phase, like adding pictures I thought I could do in a couple days—NOT! It took me a week and a half to do that, so I had to move out the release date—possibly April 17, then the 24th!

Then I realized I needed to do a final read-through before anything else. Somehow, mistakes escaped me in the final revision, and it really paid off, and I had the time now to do it! During this extra time, I’ve culled more interesting information from notes I had and found interesting details in emails to include. I’ve communicated with numerous callers and cuers—the extra seven weeks have been a Godsend.

Usually, I keep worry inside, not sharing it with anyone— but today I decided it had to be put out there! To date, I’ve postponed the release date several times—not my norm, but my new normal now is freeing! New release date: the first part of May—be ready!

So, my message is this! I make plans, and God laughs! Road blocks appear; I worry, fume and fuss, and it all works out better than my original plan! I must trust the Master Planner, and it’s not me!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Whitey & Gladys Puerling, playful friends of Flippo’s, 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 AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?  I HAVE 234 PRE-ORDERS!  Release date: beginning of May! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Book Production · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

Flippo’s Biography: How Many Pictures to Include?

That is the question! At this point, I have nearly 300 pictures in Marshall Flippo’s biography and have six more chapters to go! Luckily some of those chapters will have no pictures, so I have about four chapters that do.

To explain the major source of the pictures, during our interview time, Flippo and I roamed through three photo albums/scrapbooks that Neeca made for him. Originally, she made the first one as a Christmas gift and then she continued her thoughtful collection of memorabilia of his career throughout their marriage. She said, “I had enough for the second one and then later enough for the third one.”

So, you will see numerous references to these three albums/scrapbooks throughout the book—basically a walk down memory lane. Included in these albums/scrapbooks are photos, articles and reviews of Flippo’s newly released songs. I used all the resources I could out of these three albums/scrapbooks and much of his biography’s information came from Flippo is in response to viewing these.

Stan Jeffus scanned the albums/scrapbooks for a major presentation he did at the Chaparral weekend in Paris, Texas dance in 2016, Flippo’s last time to call at this event. Stan and I met then, and when this book project came up and Flippo lent me the albums, I wondered if Stan had already scanned them because I realized several of the photos in the albums/scrapbooks were in his presentation. He had scanned them and sent me a CD.

So Flippo and I finished the first album/scrapbook the Wednesday of the CALLERLAB Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2018, then I sent them home with him. From then on, whenever we had our weekly interview time, he viewed the physical album and I looked at the digital album—it worked out great. As Flip went from page to page, it sparked one memory and then another—exactly the bonus I had hoped for in viewing them. He laughed and chuckled and then told another story and another. Then one story would spark another totally not associated with the picture or the ad he saw. I don’t know how many stories would have been lost without the aid of those three albums/scrapbooks.

And it was the photos that fascinated me most and his unbelievable memory for a ninety-year-old man.

After Flippo died, I needed to fill in some information gaps, so I spent countless hours researching all the back issues of Sets in Order and American Square Dance magazines, searching for any reference to Marshall Flippo. In Sets in Order and American Square Dance (previously American Squares), they both first mentioned Flippo in their November 1958 issues. From that point on, Marshall Flippo appeared regularly—reviews of his recordings, interviews, ads for festivals he did, and articles he wrote.

After Flippo died, people sent me photos, so I have an abundance of them, so how do I decide which to use? The selection process has been simple—include as many as possible!

Preparing and importing the pictures has taken a lot longer than I thought it would—I’ve been working on this phase of the book production for about ten days. The process requires that I increase the dpi (dot per inch) of each picture up to 300—the book production computer program won’t allow anything less. Some have needed to be cropped; others needed smears and marks erased. I learned how to do that task and am proud of the results. Here’s one example of the fix.

I’ve enjoyed seeing all the pictures again. As I have looked at them, I can hear Flip’s comments about different ones and laugh—he had a story for each, and some stories can’t be printed! Many people have helped with naming people I didn’t know and Flippo didn’t identify, so this has been a group effort!

My evening ended last night with me importing pictures into Chapter 24, A Calling Life Revered, where I recognize all the awards Flippo received. As I looked at the pictures chronologically and thought about going through this book once more, I marveled at the handsome young caller selling thousands of records, but as I ended the selection of pictures for this chapter, my heart saddened to see the elderly statesman. The words are powerful in the book revealing a humble man who clearly made his mark in the square dance world, but the pictures expand the words as you look at his life visually—the youthful Texas, the young Navy man, the budding young caller, the maturing caller and the elderly man. So yes, the reader will see many pictures of Flippo, his friends and illustrious career events.

This three-year project has grown to a close, and the book will be out by the end of April. It has been a labor of love!

I had originally planned to release this book at the CALLERLAB Convention this year in April in Reno, Nevada but couldn’t because it was cancelled because of the pandemic. I have worked diligently for this month to fine tune all aspects of the book. I will have an online Facebook Live Stream Release Party, so keep your eye out for the date.

Do you have a favorite Marshall Flippo picture? Tell me about it!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~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 AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY?  I HAVE 232 PRE-ORDERS!  It will be published by the end of APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Coronavirus · My Thoughts · poetry · Words Matter

POETRY: Dare I Breathe—Tomorrow is a Month!

I’m a writer, a poet! So what do I do when stressed out? WRITE POETRY! Poetry is the way I have processed life—no different during the coronavirus pandemic. Read the first in a series of poems I’ve written! What a long month! Since we got back from Spain a month ago, I’ve processed my fear and anxiety about the possibility of getting the coronavirus through words, thoughts and poems.

Here’s a poem I wrote a couple days ago, and I will be sharing more in the next couple days.

Not Today #COVID19
By: Larada Horner-Miller
April 7, 2020
 
Thirty-one days
            Since we left
                        Coronavirus-stricken Madrid
                                    And Spain
 We left on March 8th;
            It exploded there the 9th.
 
Thirty-one days of
            Holding my breath
            Self-examination
                        By the minute
            Self-diagnosis
                        Daily
            Self-screening
                        Repeatedly

Washing hands
            washing hands
                        washing hands! 
 
A throat tickle
            Sore throat
                         Diarrhea
            Cough
Is it the virus?
            Dread and anxiety gripped me
 
Two weeks of
            Self-quarantine
Desperate not to share
            If I had it.
 
Dances cancelled
            CALLERLAB cancelled
                        Life cancelled!
 
After two weeks
            A sigh
                        Maybe we made it
Yet. . .
 
Incubation period
            2 — 14 days
                        maybe 27
 
Oh, my God!
 
Shelter-in-place
            Nothing new
                        No new symptoms
 
After two weeks,
            Out of the house for the first time
                        For a prescription and groceries
Panic and fear
            People six-feet apart 
                        at the drug store
                                    Safe yet foreign
            People too close to me
                        In the grocery store
                                    Claustrophobic

Malted Easter Eggs lured me in
            Impulse buying
                        No, it’s Easter time
                                    I always buy them at Easter
                                                Normal routine
            Two bags
I wolfed down one whole bag
            immediately
                   And gained three pounds!
 
Remedy to grocery shopping
            Senior time slot
                        Early in the morning
                                    Safer
                                                Respectful of distance
                                                            Less people
Still washing hands
            disinfecting the bags
                        the Jeep
                                   the steering wheel
                                                the knobs
EVERTYTHING!
  
Watching my husband, Lin, closely
            Fear gripped my heart
Both of us have had health issues
            the last couple years
 
Three weeks gone
            Another sigh of relief
 
Yet in the back of my mind
            And heart
Will it happen?
            Will it sneak up and attack
                        when I least expect it?
 
Tomorrow I will breathe
            Celebrate
                        Relax
                                    Praise God!
 
But today,
            I am still apprehensive
                        Not sure
                                    Wondering?
 
God protect us!
 
 
 
Woman hugging a pillow, relieved.

We live in uncertain times, staying home when I’m used to being with others, dancing, traveling and hugging. I haven’t been able to visit our ranch in southeastern Colorado and be rejuvenated by open prairies, a magnificent evening sunset silhouetting Saddlerock or an evening ride around our ranch with my brother looking for wildlife and sharing favorite memories!

I’m an extrovert, so I need you and your hugs! However, we can cope with this insanity—we just have to find the best way that works for our individual personalities!

I hope my words comfort your heart—take them as a virtual hug! Let me know how you have felt during this sad time! And there will be more!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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

~ I HAVE 232 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  It will be published by in APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Cathedrals End Our Trip to Spain!

Flamenco dancers, more cathedrals, a cathedral within a mosque, and a walled city filled the end of our fabulous trip to Spain.

Flamenco Dancer

In our first five days traveling, I had already seen Flamenco dancer souvenirs in many gift shops. I thought I’d seen “Flamenco Dancers” on our itinerary, but I asked a couple knowledgeable travelers in our group when that was. They both looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

I went back through all of our paperwork and couldn’t find it but rejoiced when Brad, our tour guide, said we would have dinner and see a Flamenco dance group in Sevilla (Spanish spelling) or Seville (English spelling) on March 5. My excitement and anticipation grew!

Day 6: March 5, 2020

We started the day in Sevilla with our tour guide telling us about the many buildings we passed that had been built for the Iberian-American Exposition in 1929. The Exposition affected the growth of Sevilla much like the Olympics did Barcelona.

“The Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 was a world’s fair held in Seville, Spain, from 9 May 1929 until 21 June 1930. Countries in attendance of the exposition included: Portugal, the United States, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, the Republic of Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Panama, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Each Spanish region and each of the provinces of Andalusia were also represented.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibero-American_Exposition_of_1929

Plaza América

We ended at the Plaza América, where we had stopped on our amazing carriage ride back to the hotel the night before. See last week’s blog post for that.

“The Plaza de America (Seville), located in the Parque de María Luisa, is flanked by the Museum of Popular Arts (Neomudéjar style) to the north, the Archaeological Museum (Neo-Renaissance style) to the south, and the Royal Pavilion (Gothic style) to the east. These three buildings were built by the architect Aníbal González between 1913 and 1916 for the future Ibero-American exhibition in 1929, each with a different architectural style. Also form Part of the roundabout of Miguel de Cervantes, adorned with the works Ceramics Recalling Most Famous, as Rodriguez Marin.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_de_Am%C3%A9rica

Next we stopped at the Plaza España, built in 1928, for the Exposition in 1929.  The stunning size of the half circle structure overwhelmed me at first sight. Around the gigantic courtyard, each Spanish province had a kiosk with a map, mosaic tiles and a picture depicting the character of that province—colorful and amazing. During the Exposition, natives stood in the kiosk and described it to their guests.

Group Picture

Our group had our picture taken by the fountain there. Brad handed out beautiful Spanish fans to each of the women in the group—so thoughtful!

From there we went to the Sevilla Cathedral, seeing the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Lin and I had lunch at Mateos and shopped. I bought me a beautiful creme-colored shawl to wear to the Flamenco dance that night.

From there we went to the Alcazar, “. . . a royal palace in Seville, Spain, built for the Christian king Peter of Castile. It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress destroyed after the Christian conquest of Seville.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alc%C3%A1zar_of_Seville

Again, I saw the influence of the Moors.

All over town we kept seeing a symbol “NO 8 DO,” and our guide told us the story behind it. Literally it means, “Never abandon me!”

NO8DO is the official motto of Seville, popularly believed to be a rebus signifying the Spanish No me ha dejado, meaning “She [Seville] has not abandoned me”. The phrase is spelled with an eight in the middle representing the word madeja “skein [of wool]”. Legend states that the title was given by King Alfonso X, who was resident in the city’s Alcázar and supported by the citizens when his son, later Sancho IV of Castile, tried to usurp the throne from him.

The emblem is present on Seville’s municipal flag, and features on city property such as manhole covers, and Christopher Columbus’s tomb in the Cathedral.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville#Motto

The busy day ended with dinner at the Flamenco La Catedral en Sevilla and Flamenco dancers, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The mystery and the drama captivated me with women’s long skirts swishing across the stage. The sound of the singers almost felt like cries and screams at times. The sound of clicking castanets and stomping feet filled the air—truly magical.

Day 7: March 6, 2020

The next day our end destination was Madrid with a stop at Córdoba to see the Mesquita/Catedral. This mosque wasn’t destroyed by the Catholic invasion. Imagine that—a cathedral built inside a mosque. Our energetic guide, Gema, led us through this massive building of over 800 pillars and burnt-orange arches. It is not used as a mosque today because the Catholic church won’t let the Moslem kneel.

The many orange-colored arches and pillars went on and on in every direction. The mosque part fascinated me—I had never been inside a mosque.. Again, another overwhelming cathedral with a golden altar and the strong influence of the Moslem people.

Our guide told us the city didn’t want the Catholic part added to the mosque, so the Bishop at the time went to the Emperor, and he agreed to it because “the Protestants were driving him crazy.”

When we left Córdoba, we drove through green fields in La Mancha, and I felt Don Quixote riding his stead, Rocinante, and Sancho Panza everywhere! I looked for windmills but saw none!

Again as we traveled, Brad entertained us, telling us about the different types of ham, jamón, in Spain. The jamón Ibérico comes from pigs that roam free and eat acorns in the mountains. He also shared how expensive it was. Families buy it for their holiday meals starting with St. Nicholas Day on December 6 eating it all the way to Epiphany on January 6. Throughout our travels in Spain, we saw many butcher shops with hams hanging up.

We arrived in Madrid late afternoon, got to our rooms and then went out for a group dinner and heard a musical group, La Tuna, which are traditionally university students singing to help pay education costs. We savored the delicious dinner and the outstanding entertainment .

Day 8: March 7, 2020

The next morning, first, we toured Madrid. Brad had told us about the division in the city: the Hapsburg section and the Bourbon section. Then we went to the El Prado Museum, another place I had anticipated visiting! We couldn’t take pictures inside, so I snapped the above picture of Lin in the lobby.

The highlight for me was seeing a Goya exhibit. I used this painting of Goya’s, Zeus Eating His Son, in my mythology unit when I was a middle school English teaching, and this gory drawing enticed my students immediately. Seeing the extreme emotions of the Goya paintings shocked me in person though. We only had an hour and half, but our guide made sure we saw the key artwork of Francisco Goya, Diego Velázquez and El Greco.

Because I couldn’t take pictures, I concentrated on the paintings and the guide’s explanation, so I felt like I really saw and understood the artist, the painting, and its historical significance.

After this amazing tour, we drove about an hour with the same knowledgeable guide to Toledo, the walled city. Our bus driver stopped at a strategic spot across the river so we could get great cityscape pictures of Toledo.

Thank God for the numerous escalators up the hill to the walled city of Toledo. Lin and I had a delicious venison dish and Spanish potatoes for lunch. We shopped in Plaza de Zocodover and met back with the group.

Then our guide led us through the narrow streets to the massive Toledo cathedral. More golden altars, but here red hats hung from the ceiling—the hats of cardinals who had died. Our guide told us that the phrase “Holy Toledo” came from this city because of all the churches, synagogues and other religious sites.

On our way out of Toledo, we stopped at the Damasquinados Suarez store where we saw how the Damascene jewelry and steel swords was made.

“Damascene is the ancient Moorish craft of inlaying gold or silver on non-precious metals like iron or steel.” https://www.travelsignposts.com/Spain/shopping/damascene-shopping-in-toledo

After the demonstrations, I bought a bracelet, earrings and sewing scissors. In another shop, I bought mazapan Santo Tomé which Toledo is famous for and sampled it on the ride back to Madrid—Yum!

We got back to the hotel at 6:00 pm and left at 7 for our Farewell Dinner in downtown Madrid at the Espejo Restaurante and had a delicious dinner. Sad to see this magical trip end.

When we returned to the hotel, we did a square dance demonstration for our tour group, and then Jerry taught two squares some basic moves. It was so much fun. It’s a video of our group learning to square dance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FITjSm0vfVo

At the end of this action-filled day, Lin and I packed our bags—always a chore I don’t enjoy because of all the souvenirs I bought. I felt like I have to push and shove to make it all fit! And then the weight! Lin brought a bag scale to check! No problem!

Day 9: March 8

The next morning Lin and I rose very early at 4:45 am to get our bags downstairs by 5:45 am. The hotel prepared sack breakfasts for us. We left the hotel before 6:45, our planned time to leave but had to return because we left one of our traveling companions.

The Madrid airport seemed quiet at that early hour. We checked in, went to our gate and waited. I bought a travel pillow at the Madrid airport—one that goes around your neck, and I could sleep on the plane much more easily!

Once again, I continued revisions of the biography I was working on and watched the Mr. Rodgers movie. We flew first to Atlanta and had a sizable lay-over, so we grabbed food and played Cribbage with the two Albuquerque couples traveling with us. Then we came on to Albuquerque!

After about thirty hours of travel time—we came home and went to bed to wake up to the news that the coronavirus had exploded in Spain and especially in Madrid overnight.

I fell in love with Spain, the Spanish people and all the wonder, yet I have felt so sad about how the virus has erupted. My heart goes out to a beautiful country I will remember forever in cathedrals, Moslem architecture, beautiful dances and wonderful people.


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~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/

~THINGS ARE BOOMING! I HAVE 232 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  It will be published by MID-APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Just How Much Did the Moors Influence Spain?

Lin and I with Alhambra in background
Lin and I with the Alhambra in the background

Our trip from Barcelona to Valencia, Granada and then Seville expanded my knowledge of the Moorish presence in Spain. We headed south along the coast and drove a couple days. As we traveled, I marveled at the sights. My awareness of the Moorish influence in Spain grew as I saw their presence!

Day 3: March 2, 2020

Our day started out rainy in Barcelona, and we face a two-hundred-mile drive to Valencia.

We stopped for lunch at Peñíscola on the Mediterranean coast. The hilltop castle was used for the filming of the movie, “El Cid.” Some of us braved the cold windy day and walked up to the castle winding our way through the narrow streets. I bought an expensive souvenir there—a deck of playing cards for twelve dollars. Hard to explain!

As we drove, Brad entertained us with facts about Spain, specifically about Catalonia and the Catalan dialect. He told us about Franco winning the Spanish Civil War in 1939. Franco trained Juan Carlos to follow him, but when he died and Juan Carlos took over, he said that Franco was wrong and organized the states as they are known now.

Brad also explained why Catalonia wants to leave Spain. He shared an interesting comparison of Shakespeare and Cervantes and told us about the “anti-pope.” His narrative helped make the day go by quickly.

Our day ended at Valencia. It is noted for “The City of Arts and Science,” “a cultural and architectural complex” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Arts_and_Sciences

I didn’t feel well, so I napped while my husband, Lin, and friends toured the complex and took pictures. Valencia is also known for paella and we had an extraordinary dinner seeing paella made by a master chef at La Cigrona restaurant. I recovered in time to eat!

Another claim to fame for Valencia is the fallas—celebrations that last from March 1 – 19, “a traditional celebration held in commemoration of Saint Joseph. . .. The term Falles refers to both the celebration and the monuments burnt during the celebration. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organised group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the noted dish paella, a specialty of the region.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falles

Day 4: March 3, 2020

Because of the planned seat rotation, Lin and I sat up front on the right-hand side of the bus and had a clear view ahead—it was awesome because this was another drive day to Granada to see the Alhambra. Again, Brad shared his knowledge of the area we were traveling through.

In preparing for our time in Granada and the Alhambra, Brad shared that the Arabic world arrived in Granada in 711 and captured it in twenty years. Three faiths, Jewish, Christian and Islam, lived side-by-side here for many years.

The Moslem control was defeated in 1492 at the Battle of Granada, the “Reconquista.”

“The Battle of Granada was a siege of the city of Granada. It was fought several months and lead to the surrender of Granada on January 2, 1492. The forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile fought against the armies of the Muslim Emirate of Granada.

This relatively small campaign was of enormous consequences because Granada was the last outpost of Al-Andalus in Spain and its fall meant the end of 780 years of Muslim control in the Iberian Peninsula.”

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Granada

In 1492, the sultan gave the keys of the Alhambra to Ferdinand and Isabella. Brad talked about the Arabic triangle in Spain: Granada, Sevilla and Toledo.

When we arrived in Granada, we drove immediately to the Alhambra for a two-and-a-half-hour tour—exhausting but exhilarating! Our touring group split into two groups, and our guide was Elena, a knowledgeable and personable woman.

The Alhambra is “a palace and fortress complex. . . constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasridemir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition). . ..”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhambra

Washington Irving’s presence at the Alhambra

Washington Irving wrote his “Tales of the Alhambra” here.

I had no idea of the extent of the Moorish influence in Spain. This palace took my breath away. The mosaics inside and the Islamic calligraphy graced numerous walls. The sheer size spoke volumes as to the position this palace played throughout Muslim and Spanish history.

The Alhambra

Situated on a hill, the fortress’ protection and presence commanded the area.

As we were walking back, Elena told us to go to the Zara store not far from our hotel for great prices on women’s clothing, so I made note of that!

After our tour through the Palace and the Generalife, a walk through gardens to the Summer Palace and walk back, I was exhausted. So we headed to our hotel and napped. We ate dinner at the hotel, then Lin and I walked to the square a few blocks away and took pictures of Queen Isabella and Columbus.

Day 5: March 4, 2020

During the morning, Lin and I chose to do an optional tour to the Albaicin neighborhood which used to be the Moslem Quarters of Granada that we could see from the Alhambra the day before. This fascinating walking tour wound us around through narrow streets with beautiful balconies covered with flowers and our guide, Elena from the day before.

Acorn – Welcome

She shared how many of the houses had acorn statutes as welcome signs to visitors.

“The traditional type of house is the carmen, consisting of a freestanding house surrounded by a high wall that separates it from the street and including a small orchard or garden.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albaic%C3%ADn

The beautiful doors fascinated me as we wandered through the narrow streets, so I took several photos.

Elena shared that one of the ways the Moslems showed they had converted to Christianity was the image of the Virgin Mary on their walls. They were desperate to show their conversion after the Reconquesta.

After this tour, our group stopped for a break and I bought Washington Irving’s book, “Tales of the Alhambra.” Next we visited the Royal Palace and saw five crypts: Isabella and Ferdinand, Prince Charles, the Handsome and his mother, Joanna, the Crazy and Miguel. We were not allowed to take pictures in the Royal Palace.

Gula con gambas
Gula con gambas

Afterwards, we ate lunch in a small street café and I split “Gula con gambas” with Mary Beth. It was a delicious shrimp and noodle dish. Then we shopped at Zara’s, finding some great buys.

We spent the afternoon traveling through olive country to Seville. We stopped for a break and bought olive oil souvenirs. Brad shared an English tourist joke. What’s ABC?  “Another Bloody Church.”

We settled in our hotel in Seville and for an optional excursion, we went out to dinner, sampling delicious Spanish food in a seven-course meal. A singer, a friend of Brad’s, entertained us, then we had a memorable end to the night—a carriage ride back to our hotel, stopping at the Plaza America for pictures.

One of the horses in a carriage next to us was a black, high-spirited Andalusian, beautiful prancing and gorgeous body!

We visited two beautiful cities and saw so much in three days, my head is still reeling! I’m glad I have this blog to go back and peruse my pictures and remember–ah!!!

~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~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/

~THINGS ARE BOOMING! I HAVE 227 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  It will be published by MID-APRIL! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Barcelona, A Two Day Whirlwind Tour of the City of Mystery

Barcelona, a city of mystery and mystique! We had two glorious days in Barcelona to discover its hidden wonders. Lin and I explored narrow streets which looked like alleys, saw breathtaking cathedrals and learned about an architect with a dream. Two action-packed days in Barcelona officially started our “Insight Vacations” in Spain, and I fell in love with Barcelona!

Day 1 – February 29, 2020

On our first day of our official “Insight Vacations” tour, we woke up early at 6:15 a.m., adjusting to the time change. Our group planned to meet downstairs at 8:15 a.m. to buy Hop-On, Hop-Off tickets at the desk and tour Barcelona on our own. Everyone showed up and purchased their tickets, except our faithful leaders, Jerry and Mary Beth—they slept in. I loved the group’s response—total acceptance.

Again it was a walk to Diagonal Street, “Avinguda Diagonal (Catalan pronunciation), in Spanish La Avenida Diagonal is the name of one of  Barcelona’s broadest and most important avenues. It cuts the city in two, diagonally with respect to the grid pattern of the surrounding streets, hence the name.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avinguda_Diagonal

 But this trip was leisure stroll, and we caught the bus to go down to the port because Jerry and Mary Beth had been here thirty years ago and wanted us to see the area where they stayed. The Hop-On Hop-Off bus provided a Barcelona guide book and ear buds to listen to the recorded tour guide’s comments as we passed sights. Lin and I wanted upstairs on the top of the open-air bus. Initially I had some problems with the sound but figured it out.

The whole idea of the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus ticket was to see the whole city and then go back to the specific places that caught our eye—we ended up not doing that.

Our grouped stayed on the Red line until the port, passing many amazing sights, but then we left the bus about 11:15 a.m., agreeing to meet back at 12:15 p.m if we were going to continue with the group (who went on to have lunch together and tour the rest of the city on the bus). Lin and I opted to stay down by the port. We first took pictures of the Christopher Columbus (Colon) Monument.

Colon Monument ( Christopher Columbus)

“The Mirador de Colom, also known as the Columbus Monument, is an impressive pillar dedicated to the explorer Christopher Columbus in Barcelona with an observation deck at the top. It stands 197 Ft (60 m) tall and sits at the end of La Rambla, very close to the city’s port.”

https://www.introducingbarcelona.com/mirador-de-colom

Narrow street in the La Rambla Disrict

After that, a flea market caught our eye, and we wandered through it. From there we headed towards La Rambla and then down alley-like streets so charming and alluring. Bicyclists rode by us as we meandered down narrow streets with hanging flower baskets—so picturesque. Needless to say, we didn’t make it back by 12:15 p.m

One more narrow street tempted Lin, so I waited and watched people, one of my favorite pastime in foreign countries. People of all ages on bicycles surrounded me. Lin and I reunited and went shopping. Then we had a delicious lunch outside at the Casa Lola restaurant “in the heart of the La Rambla Catalunya”  in the brisk, cool air, sampling “tapas” which

“. . .are at the very heart of Spanish lifestyle and culture. Everywhere in Spain, you will find lively, noisy bars serving small plates of superb flavours and local delicacies.

It is essentially a style of eating rather than a form of cooking. Tapas mean sociability, friends and family.”

https://www.eyeonspain.com/spain-magazine/all-about-tapas.aspx

Lin Enjoyed La Tapas!

 Our lunch consisted of shrimped with garlic and pepper, patatas bravas (a potato dish but not like our potatoes), and a pasta salad with shrimp, crab and pineapple—can you tell Lin and I like shrimp!

After lunch, we hopped back on the bus and hopped off to see the Basilica of St. Maria del Mar “. . . a church in the Ribera district of Barcelona, Spain, built between 1329 and 1383 at the height of Principality of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile preeminence. It is an outstanding example of Catalan Gothic, with a purity and unity of style that is very unusual in large medieval buildings.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Mar,_Barcelona

We paid the $7.50 to enter and what a delight it was! I had a big disappointment though. After our trip to Costa Rica, I took my Canon Rebel in to be fixed and thought it was, but at this point, it repeated the behavior from before—so frustrating. I could still take pictures but had to turn it off and on after each shot!

In this church, I started a tradition I tried to continue throughout our tour—I bought a candle and lit it for my loved ones. I had no idea how many churches or cathedrals we would visit!

Again, we hopped on the bus again and went to the Barcelona Cathedral where we only took pictures outside. I bought three precious bracelets there. It was here we realized we were running out of time, so we stopped for gelato and some relax time before we rushed back to our hotel for our evening activities. We were able to sneak in a nap!

 Our tour group met downstairs at the hotel—all 39 of us—with our tour guide, Brad Dick. He handed out bags and information, then we boarded our bus for the first time to go to dinner as a group. Our group split up and sat at different tables to meet our companion-travelers. We sat with a couple from Singapore and enjoyed a traditional Spanish meal with a wide variety of small plates. What a nice introduction to our tour group!

Lin and I ended the evening when we returned to the hotel with a walk to the neighborhood “farmacia” (drug store) to buy him Dramamine in case he got motion sickness when we moved around the bus from the seating chart.

What a fascinating first day in Barcelona!

Day 2 – March 1, 2020

Lin and I selected an optional excursion for the morning to Montserrat, an 11th century Benedictine monastery, 38 miles northeast of Barcelona. A local tour guide, Santiago—Santi for short—joined us and pointed out highlights on the trip in Barcelona and then in the countryside.

Montserrat is built up on the side of a mountain, so we took a narrow road that zigzagged back and forth to arrive at this breathtaking place.

Montserrat’s history has mystery to it: “It is not known exactly when Monks first came to Montserrat and began to build a Monastery. However, it is believed that in the ninth century four of the Chapels were built on Montserrat Mountain. . .”

https://www.montserrat-tourist-guide.com/en/attractions/montserrat-monastery.html

My Picture of the Black Madonna & Christ Child at Montserrat

Santi led us on a tour of the outside then we went inside to see the venerated Black Madonna. Afterwards we were given time to explore, shop or grab a bite. I went inside the church and zoomed in on the Black Madonna from the sanctuary, but I got a great close up when I walked by!

Gaudi’s La Casa Mila

We returned to Barcelona, picked up the rest of our tour group and Santi started a tour of Barcelona with a look at one of Antoni Gaudí’s houses, La Casa Mila. Before this trip, I had never heard of Gaudí—maybe that shows my ignorance, but after visiting Barcelona and his creations, I’m in awe of him and his vision.

Antoni Gaudí “. . .was a Catalan architect known as the greatest exponent of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, one-of-a-kind style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família. Gaudí’s work was influenced by his passions in life: architecture, nature, and religion.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antoni_Gaud%C3%AD

Also we drove by Gaudí’s La Casa Batlló, but I didn’t get a good daytime photo of it.

Our next stop was Gaudí’s most famous creation, La Sagrada Família, “. . .a striking example of Gaudí’s unique Art Nouveau architecture and is filled with religious symbolism and meaning. Eight of the intended 18 towers have been built, which rise to over 100 meters. The towers represent the Twelve Apostles and each one bears the name and statue of its apostle.”

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/spain/barcelona-sagrada-familia

I can not put into words what this structure is like—massive outside with spires, color and small scenes from Jesus’ life, but we as I entered this sacred place, light exploded through stain-glass windows. Santi told us the orange and red on one side depicted the warmth of the south, and blue and green on the other side was the cold from the north. I was speechless! The light streaming through the windows colored the whole inside of the cathedral—it was sensory over load! I couldn’t believe the inside size!

Gaudi’s Workshop

We left through what will become the new entrance which depicts the passion of Christ. To the side was a small workshop where Gaudí worked for over forty years, dedicated to the completion of his dream.

Afterwards we had a 45-minute lunch break, so part of our group gravitated across the street to small pizza place for lunch. Our next stop on the city tour was the Gothic area of Barcelona, and we revisited the Barcelona Cathedral and the area where Lin and I had been the day before. A gigantic crowd mobbed the area—some sort of walking donation. We returned to the hotel and rested—I was exhausted from our long day of touring, and it wasn’t over!

I thoroughly enjoyed our evening tour, returning to some of the places we had seen during the day and the day before. We returned to the Palau Nacional, the National Palace, “. . .a building on the hill of Montjuïc in Barcelona. It was the main site of the 1929 International Exhibition.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palau_Nacional

I captured the evening view of the palace and then the city from the palace—breathtaking view! I bought a copy of a children’s book about Gaudí in Spanish, Los Sueños del Gaudí, “The Dreams of Gaudí” and look forward to reading it.

On our drive up Montjuïc hill, we passed by the Poble Espanyol museum, the Spanish town with tall figurines of a Spanish man and woman. Then our tour continued on to the “Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys,” originally built for the 1929 International Exposition and used as the main stadium for the 1992 Olympics.

From there we ventured down to the Olympic Village by the pier for a delicious seafood and cheese dinner. We finished this feast with Crema Catalana for dessert, a Spanish delicacy, similar to Crème Brûlée.

We ended the evening driving by Gaudí’s two houses, La Casa Batlló and La Mila lit up at night. Gaudí’s architecture took on a eerie feeling at night! As we drove back to the hotel, Lin and I lamented about all the attractions in Barcelona we missed and vowed to come back—it had been a glorious day!

Our two days in Barcelona started this trip off right!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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

~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  It will be published in the next monght! You, too, can pre-order this amazing story! You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

My Thoughts · Spain · Travel

Can You Do Spain in Nine Days?

Spain in nine days! Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Cordoba and Madrid! I reveled in the mystery of this gorgeous country and its people, the cathedrals, Don Quixote and La Mancha, Gaudi’s creations and the Moorish influence. Yes, we did it, and it was magical!

Again, I want to share my travel experiences with you. I will group them together in about four blog posts, so off to Barcelona we go!

February 27, 2020

Lin and I woke before dawn at 2:30 a.m. Again, like the night before we flew to Costa Rica a month or so ago, I had trouble sleeping in anticipation of this big trip. We left the house at 3:15 a. m., drove to Jerry and Mary Beth Gilbreath’s, dropped off our vehicle and drove to the airport together.

Our flight left at 6:00 a. m. for Atlanta, GA.  In a way, this was a working vacation for me—I needed to finish the last two chapters in Marshall Flippo’s biography, so I took my iPad loaded with Scrivener and worked anytime I could, like on the flight to Atlanta.

We had a sizable layover there, so we grabbed a delicious meal then scooted off to a table in a coffee shop near our gate to play Cribbage with the ladies playing the gents, and the ladies skunked the guys!

While we were in Atlanta, I downloaded a novel about Spain, Winter in Madrid, by C. J. Sansom. Our tour director, Brad Dick, had suggested a list of three books, so I downloaded one and Lin did another.

Our flight to JFK passed uneventful, and I started my book about Spain and worked on my iPad. We had limited time at JFK but squeezed one game in, and the guys won. While we were waiting for our flight and while playing, Lin obsessed about pizza but didn’t get any.

Then we boarded the plane for Barcelona leaving at 5:37 p.m. We were delayed an hour but still arrived on time. They served a delicious dinner, and it was a bumpy ride. I worked again on my iPad then watched the movie, “Judy” and loved it. I did sleep a little.

February 28, 2020

Then the cabinet lights came on, and we lost six hours from New York City! How shocking! As we neared Barcelona and the Spanish coast, we photographed a beautiful sunrise. We moved through customs easily and got our Passports stamped and gathered our luggage. Lin and Jerry exchanged dollars into Euros, and we found the man from Insight Travels, our tour company, who take us to our hotel.

While driving I practiced my Spanish with him and did pretty well. When we arrived at the Meliã Hotel, our room wasn’t ready, so we questioned the desk clerk, and he gave us directions to a place to eat breakfast. As I listened to the clerk talk to someone, I realized he wasn’t speaking Spanish, so I asked him. He was speaking Catalan, a dialect of the region, Catalonia. As we traveled Barcelona, I noticed signs in both Spanish and Catalan.

Interestingly, we found out that Spaniards do not eat a breakfast like we do, so that narrowed down the choices. After a short walk, we did find a lovely place, El Fornet, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast and coffee. We rambled around the area and went back to the hotel–our rooms still weren’t ready, so we went to the bar and played more Cribbage. The guys won, so we were even then, and that ended our Cribbage game in Spain–we were way too busy!

Finally, our rooms were ready, so I unpacked and slept hard for several hours.

We were traveling with a group with many arriving at different times. So, early evening, we met downstairs and walked to El Patio restaurant for our first group dinner. Some in the group thought it was “the death march” because we were told it was just 10 minutes from the hotel–NOT! Lin and I feasted on scallops and clams and reconnected with a couple from Maine who used to live in Albuquerque. We walked back to the hotel afterwards, and I hit the bed exhausted and never turned over.

SUMMARY OF OUR TRIP

Sagrada Familia

We spent three nights in Barcelona because we elected to come in a day early and loved having that extra day. The highlights of Barcelona were a city tour, a drive to Montessarat (an 11th century Benedictine monastery with a black Madonna), the Sagrada Familia, the Barcelona Cathedral, a Roman Wall and the Royal Palace.

After that, our driving tour began, and we followed the sunny Costa Dorada and stopped at Peñiscola where El Cid was filmed. Then it was on to Valencia for the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling well, so I didn’t photograph the arts and science complex, but Lin and two friends did. That evening we enjoyed “paella.”

The next day we headed to Granada and visited the Alhambra, a 13th century Moorish citadel. The following morning, we did a walking tour of the Albaicin Quarter, “the oldest section of Granada, with its narrow-cobbled streets and cármenes (Moorish-style houses).” https://www.britannica.com/place/Albaicin

Flamenco Dancers Thrilled Me!

That afternoon we traveled to Seville and spent two nights. We visited the Alzacar and had two special dinners there: one sampling a variety of Spanish specialties with live music and the other while watching Flamenco dancers! Two memorable nights! The first night in Seville we had a carriage ride to our hotel with a stop at the Plaza America! The second one we saw the Flamenco dancers.

The next travel day we stopped in Córdoba and saw the Mosque/Cathedral, and then it was on to Madrid for two nights. The next day was jam-packed. We visited the Prado in the morning and then drove to Toledo and toured the city and cathedral there.

The weather was cool, but we lucked out with no rain. Our tour guide entertained and educated us with his knowledge and humor and made bus rides enjoyable. There were twelve from our group and a total of 39 in the tour. What an exceptional bunch to travel with. We had people from the USA, Canada and Singapore–couldn’t have been better!

Our wonderful Spanish trip ended the next day with a long travel day home, but I will savor the memories forever!

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

Next week, I will take you through our Barcelona adventures down narrow streets that looked like alleys and more! I will show off some of my great photos of amazing places–get ready! Barcelona is amazing! I want to go back!


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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

~I HAVE 213 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Costa Rica: Snorkeling & The End!

Me Enjoying Pipas!

Our extreme Costa Rica experience was almost over! Snorkeling, shopping and a fabulous birthday celebration ended this amazing trip. We landed at Coco Beach at the Hotel El Colono, a beautiful tropical facility for the last four days.

Day 11 – January 17, 2020

The morning began with breakfast besides the luscious swimming pool before we left for an adventure. Enrique had told us the day before they had a day at the beach planned for today—the name of the beach in English was “The Poor Man’s Underwear Beach”—conjures up quite an image!

We piled into the van with Lucy directing, “Lin, get into the van” and greeting each one as we climbed in. We stopped at a Subways for sandwiches to take with us. Some people opted to go to a supermarket for their food. Lin squeezed in ice cream from the Pops ice cream shop, and away we went.

What an adventure with a change in plans—not “The Poor Man’s Underwear Beach” but La Playa Las Prisas and I didn’t get the translation down for that, and my translation app says “The beach in the rush!” Oh, well!

The Brahmas fascinated us!

We stopped at a roadside stand selling sandias (watermelons) and refreshing pipas drinks (coconut), and across the road was a herd of Brahmas which fascinated many of us. The young man running the stand allowed us to use visit the garden behind the stand and then to use the bathrooms in the house on the property. Again a wonderful serendity along the way!

As we drove there, we wove our way over a rough, rocky dirt road with several cars in front of us, but I wasn’t disappointed when we arrived—a beautiful beach, wave crashing and lots of locals in family and friend gatherings around us! It couldn’t have been better! It felt like Costa Rican life at its best!

After lunch, several enjoyed a dip in the ocean or a walk along the beach. Victoria warned us not to pick up seashells because they would confiscate them at customs—I have a jar of shells I’ve gathered over the years in our second bathroom, so that was a bummer.

Leisure and laid-back is how I would describe this day. Next to us, a woman engaged the day from a hammock, and we made eye-contact, such an easy thing to do. She offered her hammock to me for a relaxing swing, so I climbed aboard—I love hammocks.

Later I asked to take a picture of her group, and they jumped up enthusiastically, then Liz danced a little in the sand with one of the guys. After I took their picture, they took ours! What a playful, fun atmosphere!

We left this slice of paradise about 3:30 p.m. with sand in my shoes and my heart which means I will return someday!

From there we drove to Tamarindo, a hustling beach town for the sunset. Our group parked ourselves at outside tables at a restaurant and did our own things. Some walked the beach, others shopped and others relaxed at our table. beause it was an opportunity to check email. I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the pelicans diving for their dinner and the horses and riders as they passed by!

I kept hearing this strange sound, and Enrique explained it to me as a Guanacaste yodeling, “Grito,” so I found the yodeler and he was eager to have our pictures taken.

As we waited for the sunset, I saw some young girls positioned their hands in a heart in an angle so it captured the sun, so I joined them and they took my picture. The sunset took your breath away—a truly tropical sunset.

Afterwards we enjoyed fire dancers down the beach. I talked to William, our driver, in Spanish and we shared some deep private issues in our lives. It was amazing.

During the evening, a trio came out and entertained us with live music which is always a treat. The evening ended with Pat singing her heart out with them—I forgot the tune, but it was a blast.

Day 12 – January 18, 2020

The next day began with breakfast by the pool and a fun time with Victoria’s family and close friends who came to join in the celebration of her birthday that night.

Afterwards, Lin and I wandered down to the beach, shopped, and I enjoyed a “sandia drink.” A young Costa Rican girl, Tatianna, sold me an ankle bracelet, and I immediately lost in the surf as I was walking the beach. I searched a little and realized what a futile effort, but I went back to Lin and told him. I decided to go up the beach once more to see if I could find her, but I didn’t.

When I got back to Lin, Tatianna had come by in my absence, and he replaced the lost ankle bracelet for me. She was still in the area, so I gave her another hug.

Lin had parked himself at a restaurant with a gorgeous view of the beach, so I joined him there. A guy behind us name Will complimented us on our relationship because I had asked Lin when he wanted me to return when I went searching for Tatianna. Will serenaded us and truly became an ambassador for Costa Rica!

After more shopping on our way back to the hotel, we joined the group to go to a country club to spend the afternoon. We swam, ate Greek food, swam and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

We returned to our hotel to prepare for the evening’s festivities—Victoria’s birthday party at her aunt’s house, and what a party it was! They served delicious food out on the front patio. We danced the cumbia and the salsa. I dance with Lin; I dance with Victoria! We all danced together—the Latin way of enjoying dance and music! I called a short square dance tip to demonstrate to our newfound friends our much-loved pastime. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Victoria, then she brought up everyone who was having a major birthday this year, and we sang to them! What a great evening!

Day 13 – January 19, 2020

Again a delicious meal besides the pool of rice and beans, eggs and lots of fruit. I had to fill up for sure.

A group of us went for one last shopping spree. I needed a long-sleeved shirt to wear snorkeling. Somehow Lin left me, so I shopped alone and had a marvelous time. When I got back to the hotel, I transferred my pictures to Jerry’s laptop as a backup.

Our last afternoon adventure had arrived—a ride on a catamaran to snorkel with dinner and drinks on board and a guaranteed gorgeous sunset. So away we went, having to be tendered from the beach out to the catamaran which held about seventy people. During the trip out to where we snorkeled, we saw pelicans and dolphins. People opted to sit outside or in the cabin.

Lin decided he didn’t want to snorkel, so I went with Greg and saw some fish, but not the variety everybody else did. My stamina from being sick the last year hampered my ability to do much, plus I felt bad with Lin alone on the boat. When I got back, he wasn’t there! Some in the group encouraged him to get in the water, and he waved at me from on the beach.

By being on the boat, though, I got great pictures of each one of our group as they came back—Monica was the first in the water and the last one back.

We ate our delicious dinner as we cruised, and then the crew hoisted the sail for a quiet, peaceful journey. Clouds hung over the western sky, and some bemoaned our chance for a beautiful sunset, but what a sunset we got with the clouds and boats on the water.

We returned to our hotel deeply satisfied with a day on the ocean. We had a little ceremony giving Enrique and William each a gift from the group. They provided us an amazing twelve days I will never forget, so I felt they deserved it. For some of us, it was a teary time!

Day #14 – January 20, 2020

I hate departure days, but this one especially! We had melded as a group, and it was hard to say goodbye. Lin and I organized our bulging suitcase and went to breakfast. The van left for the airport for the first wave; we were on the second wave.

Marian and Lucy had extended their stay, so they weren’t leaving, so Marian rode to the airport with each group.

Our last trip in the van! We drove to Liberia and flew home with an uneventful return. This trip changed my life forever with the “!Pura Vida´!” attitude of the Costa Rican people and the gorgeous country they have.

Lorana, Victoria’s best friend, asked me if I would ever come back. My response, “Not if, but when!”

!Pura Vida!


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

~I HAVE 211 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

~Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft for digital or paper copies of all my books: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

Costa Rica · My Thoughts

Extreme Costa Rica – Zip Line Adventure & More

Group picture before we did zip line
Zip Line Adventure, Costa Rica 2020

During this section our trip to Costa Rica, I had anticipated zip line, visions of soaring over the canopy of the rain forest within the shadow of Arenal volcano, and I wasn’t disappointed. Each day when I came out of my room in La Fortuna, my eyes turned to Arenal to capture a clear picture, but I never did. I was raised about twenty-five miles from Capulin volcano in New Mexico, so I have volcano-loving in my blood!

Day 8 – January 14, 2020

The day started with a unique breakfast to us in New Mexico—eating delicious food outside, but that was a highlight during this whole trip for me.

Lin on one of the bridges at Mistico Hanging Bridges
Lin on one of the bridge!

Our destination for the morning was Místico Hanging Bridges in the foothills of Arenal volcano. I ended up not taking my Canon Rebel camera because of possible rainy conditions but used my iPhone, and it did rain!

Enrique telling us about the rain forest
Enrique Sharing His Limitless Knowledge about the Rain Forest!

Again, Enrique shared his knowledge of plants and animals along the way and referred to his trusty bird book! He pointed out “Walking Palm Trees” that fascinated me.

Waling Palm Tree
Walking Palm Trees

Throughout our hike, we crossed sixteen bridges over the rain forest. Here’s a map of the park:

https://www.misticopark.com/mistico-map

Some longer bridges swayed with the people’s weight and movements, and that was a little alarming. It ended up being a four-hour hike, raining off and on, and my shoes hurt for the first time on the trip.

Eyelash Viper
My Photo of an Eyelash Viper

Standing on one of the bridges, Enrique spied an Eyelash Viper curled up in a tree a safe distance from us—how amazing. I was so glad it wasn’t close to us!

“The eyelash viper, known for its beautiful ‘eyelashes’, is also well-known for its aggression and lightning fast strikes.
An eyelash pit viper bite contains a dose of hemotoxic venom, capable of killing adult human beings and large mammals. Their bright colors help them camouflage in bushes, berries and fruits. 
Mostly found in central and South America, this snake can be highly aggressive and fatal when their survival is under threat.”

https://www.aboutanimals.com/reptile/eyelash-viper/

After our unbelievable trek through the rain forest, we ate a late lunch at the Smithsonian Observatory:

“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”

“The Smithsonian Rooms at Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa are named after the U.S. Smithsonian Institution scientists who began coming to the area in the 1970s to study the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge was originally built to accommodate the groups of scientists, students and occasional tourists who visited Arenal and La Fortuna, Costa Rica.”

https://www.arenalobservatorylodge.com/en/rooms-rates/smithsonian/

I enjoyed arroz con camarones for lunch – rice with shrimp! I added a guanabana shake and coconut flan—what a decadent meal but I enjoyed it to the max!

Our group at the Smithsonian Observatory with Arenal volcano in the background
Our group at the Smithsonian Observatory with Arenal Volcano in the background

The view from the observatory deck was breathtaking but cloudy so we didn’t get a clear shot of Arenal volcano, probably the best place to photograph it! We were so close to it there! We ventured out on the deck when it wasn’t raining then ducked back inside. Coatimundis and turkeys wandered around on the lawn below the deck and we took lots of pictures.

On our travels that day, we stopped at a waterfall, but I didn’t go down—the four-hour hike did me in, so Liz and I had a nice visit. We picked up Victoria, got our bathing suits and went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens “The Springs Resort & Spa” for a lovely soak in the many pools and a relaxing evening.

A topic of conversation all day centered on our activity the next day: the zip line. We had some in our group who definitely decided not to go, but a couple people wavered all day, so us veteran zipliners gave speech after speech trying to entice them. Who would go? Who would not? We enjoyed a late dinner at the spa and ended a wonderful day and anticipated another highlight of this trip—zip lining across the rain forest the next day.

Day 9 – January 15, 2020

 Zip line day was finally here, and it was a rainy day, but, hey—we were in the rain forest. Three newbies of our group decided to go, and I loved seeing their expressions after each zip line–totally enjoyment and awe!

Lin and I had done a zip line in Juneau, Alaska in 2007 and the equipment was totally different. We wore heavy gloves and used our hands on the cable to break the ride. It was much simpler this time!

Our fun-loving group immediately clicked with the crew at Sky Tram Adventures, laughing and teasing as we had the harnesses and equipment put on. We rode up the hill in a small tramp and received training before we started.

The rules were simple:

  1. Lean back and knees up
  2. When the line wiggles (by one of the employees watching you come into the platform), spread your legs as you come into the landing platform to break
  3. If you stop before the platform, turn around go hand over hand back

So away we went! There were seven zip lines, and the first one was short and easy to practice on. On the next one, it seemed to go on forever and it rained, but my glasses protected my eyes. I traveled really fast on that line and also burned the nail on my right-hand thumb because it was too close to the pulley! I learned where to put my hands and had no more problems afterwards. Then next one, I did some crazy antics: I broke too quickly and then started wiggling my legs. After that, I just let it go and went like a bullet! The workers on the platforms really stopped us!

A couple of people rented cameras mounted on their helmets, so, thanks to Liz, here’s what it really looks like: https://youtu.be/73OjUH09L50

The employees’ shirts said, “Xperience Creator,” and they certainly did it! We had so much fun with Pepe and Juan.

Flying above the canopy of the rain forest, seeing Lake Arenal and the Arenal volcano over my shoulder and enjoying the sight overwhelmed me!

As a group, we bought our pictures that Sky Tram Adventures took and some are included in this post.

That evening after our action-packed day, we returned to The Springs Spa for another great soak and social time with our group. My zip line adventure met all of my expectations.

Day 10 – January 16, 2020

After breakfast, Lin, Marian and I opted not to go on the chocolate factory tour—it was a hard choice, but instead we returned to downtown La Fortuna to shop and enjoy the local flavor.

Lin had square danced on the plaza in 2001 when it was dedicated, so we took pictures of him standing next to the plaque. The church, San Juan Bosco church interested me, so I visited it and took lots of pictures.

After shopping, I topped the day with a guanabama ice cream cone from Pop’s and our time in La Fortuna’s plaza ended.

After our group returned from what was a fabulous tour a chocolate factory, we left the hotel and traveled around the lake, heading towards the beach in a four hour drive. We saw coatimundis a long the side of the road and beautiful lake scenery. We stopped at Lajos Restaurante for lunch on the lake. A short distance from the restaurant, we stopped at a German Bakery for delicious German sweets.

As we drove Enrique continued his instruction about the area we were driving through: We took a shortcut on a rough road and cut off fifteen miles, driving through cattle country. We experienced a change in climate heading towards the dry western side of Costa Rica. We drove along the peninsula of the gulf of Nicoya.

Enrique shared a story of the area: Costa Rica supported Taiwan in the United Nations, so they built a bridge over the gulf of Nicoya, named the Friendship Bridge. Six months later, continental China wanted support from Costa Rica and built a soccer stadium which took one thousand Chinese to build. The bridge became the Ungrateful Bridge.

Sadly Enrique shared the itinerary for the last four days of trip. It hit me—we’re on the last leg of our fabulous trip! Oh, my God!

Then we arrived at our hotel on Coco Beach, Hotel El Colono, and ate dinner at Papa Gallo (Father Rooster), an outside restaurant. It was Victoria’s birthday, so we started a three-day celebration of this big event.

Sometime along the way, Lucy began an enjoyable directive as we loaded the bus, “Lin, get on the bus! Jerry, get on the bus!” This became our mantra for the rest of the trip as we loaded and unloaded the bus . Also, sometime during our adventure, Marian named us the “Dirty Dozen, and we applauded her for our nickname

Whew! We just enjoyed three action-packed days in the rain forest of Costa Rica, and I didn’t want it to end!

Costa Rica · My Thoughts

Extreme Costa Rica: Mawamba and Our Animal Adventure

Welcome to Mawamba Lodge, Torteguero, Costa Rica

We headed towards Mawamba to enjoy three days of animal adventures. That sounded so African—what did it mean? Dennis, our guide, told us its meaning but I forgot (and didn’t jot it done in my journal) It didn’t matter! What a tropical paradise!

Day 5 – January 11, 2020

Excited about this mysterious place, we got up at 6:00 a.m. We checked out and had breakfast, then it became a waiting game. The large greyhound-type bus finally arrived at 9:30 to take us from Guapiles to the canal to catch a boat to travel the canal to Torteguero, the quaint little town and home of the Mawamba Lodge.

We wove our way through the countryside—only two ways into Torteguero: boat on the canal or plane! A youngster in the seat in front of Lin and me serenaded me the whole drive. His name was Mati, and we ran into him and his dad often during our stay.

On the bus ride, Dennis explained the different excursion packages offered to the lodge guests.  Our package included all meals, a boat ride to the Torteguerro National Park that afternoon and a walk around the luscious grounds of Mawamba Lodge the next morning. Lin and I both wanted to do the two optional excursions: the early morning wildlife boat ride and the evening jungle walk.

Arriving at the muddy bank of the canal at La Pavona, we gathered our backpacks, and now I realized the brilliance of Victoria’s suggestion to downsize to a backpack. The mud made roller bags useless!

When we got seated in our boats, we all donned life preservers for the ride on the canal to Torteguerro and Mawamba. Dennis, our guide, pointed out any animals he sighted a long the way: crocodiles on the banks, cranes, and blue herons. I didn’t have my zoom lens on my camera, so I missed the chance to get close up shots of these animals. We had our first sighting of a JC lizard, a Jesus Christ lizard, but I got a better picture later!

“Thanks to super speed and specially-designed feet, the basilisk lizard can run on water. . .an ability that makes it deadly to insects, and has led people to call it the “Jesus Christ Lizard.”

ttps://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/00000144-0a2a-d3cb-a96c-7b2fc1020000
Brahma Grazing

Brahma cattle grazed above us in pastures. I kept looking for more animals which would be my stance for the next three days. This amazing canal ride ended, we gathered our bags, met as a large group from the boats, got the room keys and wandering off to find them. Our group was scattered.

As we approached our room, a hammock hung on the porch, welcoming us there. We were a duplex with lovely neighbors. I loved the spacious rooms. The windows opened up wide with the loud Caribbean Ocean pounding on one side and the quiet courtyard on the other.

After settling in, I realized I had forgotten to bring any bras to change into—oh, well! I just went el natural!

We wandered through the tropical grounds at the Mawamba Lodge and found the open-air cafeteria. Our group sat at a table that became “Ours” for every meal. The buffet provided a variety of choices, and again I enjoyed the tropical fruit.

After lunch, we rode a boat to the Torteguero National Park office and purchased passes. Then Lin and I and our friends from Albuquerque walked down the mains street of the village of Torteguero and shopped. Because they don’t have any cars there, the street is really a narrow path.

The Main Street of Torteguero

Because we signed up for the evening jungle excursion, I searched for long pants because I hadn’t brought any with me in my backpack, and I found a pair. Mosquitoes love me, and I worried about getting bit. We enjoyed a coconut water drink as we walked the main street of Torteguero. We watched a group of men playing a dominoes game, and this usually docile game was loud and rambunctious!

Caribbean Sea

On our way back to Mawamba, we walked along the beach and saw the Sea Turtle Conservancy. I loved seeing the waves crashing on the North Caribbean coast—the power and magic of the sea!

When we got back to the lodge, we donned our swimming suits and met our friends at the pool. My little singing friend from the bus, Mati, joined us with his dad, and we enjoyed his enthusiasm for the water.

After a shower, our group ate dinner then sat outside at the bar talking and looking at each other pictures.  It started raining before we left, so we got wet getting to our rooms, but I welcomed the sound of the rain as I fell asleep that night.

Day 6 – January 12, 2020

The day began early with us waking up at 4:45 a. m. and out the door at 5:00. In my excitement and drowsiness, I forgot my glasses, so I had to return to our room in the dark to get them. Needless to say, I had trouble finding our room because of dark and poor lighting, so I went up the stairs to a room to see if it was ours—it wasn’t!

As I came down the stairs, the rough soles on my water shoes caught on the cement and pole vaulted me into the walk. I landed hard on my left breast and jammed the thumb on my right hand and a toe—ouch!

I did find our room and my glasses, but what a way to start the day!

Dennis was our guide, and the early morning boat excursion overflowed with animal sightings: blue herons, egrets, spider monkeys, Capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, toucans, more JC lizards, blue herons and iguanas! Whew!! Dennis told us there are so many iguanas, there comes a time he doesn’t even point them out!

We returned to the lodge in a downpour, so I was soaked! And it was only eight o’clock! The group ate delicious breakfast, then Dennis led us on a tour of the grounds, identifying all the beautiful tropical flowers, and we saw a toucan and a couple gigantic resident iguanas!

 After lunch, we had another boat excursion and this time, Lin and I sat right up front. And again, we relished the abundance of animals: egrets, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, tiger heron, and blue heron.

We’d all been anticipating seeing a sloth and we saw two: Victoria spotted one on the excursion, and there was one on the Mawamba grounds.

A Sloth Sighting–Yahoo!

 It sprinkled a little, but I didn’t want the peaceful ride down the canal to end! I marveled at the high canopy of the trees—one of the beauties of Costa Rica!

At 5:30 p.m., we struck out on the Jungle Night Walk. Again, we took a boat but this time to a specific area which had raised concrete walks above the watery jungle we walked through. How amazing! People had iPhones out taking pictures. I took my Canon Rebel, but it didn’t work well in the dark. I hesitated using my new iPhone 11 because I was afraid I would drop it. We saw spiders, some poisonous and a variety of frogs. Dennis, our great guide, had everyone turn off our flashlights to experience the sounds and darkness of the jungle—it was incredible!

The day ended with a lovely dinner. Then afterwards, several of us got into the pool and relaxed after our action packed day. They kicked us out at 9:00 p.m., so it was back to our room for a shower. I found a strong Wi-Fi signal and checked my email and posted my pre-written blog for the week.

What a delightful, animal-filled day we had!

Day 7 – January 13, 2020

I hated to see our time at Mawamba end! This was a travel day, so we were up at 7:00 a.m. We packed and had breakfast. After breakfast, Lin and I went to the miniature pineapple bush on the grounds that Dennis showed us the day before to see if we could see any baby iguanas he said live there—no luck!

We took our backpacks to the boat, loaded up and started out for La Pavona. We traveled just a short distance out and Dennis realized he forgot his phone, so we turned around quickly and retrieved it.

A Canal Sign

 The boat ride on the canal back to La Pavona proved uneventful with no anima sightings. These canals are the highways in this part of the world, and this familiar-type sign really depicted that! When we got to La Pavona, we waited awhile for our bus, so we sampled local goodies!

When the bus arrived, quickly Lin asked me to take both of our back packs. He gets car sick sitting in the back of the bus, and Dennis helped him get on the bus first. In the confusion, I grabbed the two backpacks and took off. Thank God, Victoria grabbed my water, and Lucy collected my purse!

Then the bus drove us to Rio Danta Restaurant, an affiliate of Mawamba, and Enrique and William greeted us there. We ate lunch, jumped into our familiar van and headed towards La Fortuna, a three-hour drive. It felt so good to be with Enrique and William again.

As we drove, Enrique shared some vital information: this was his 1076th trip to La Fortuna! Then he shared his knowledge about Mt. Arenal which used to be an active volcano. It was inactive when he was a child, but it had a massive eruption in 1968 and was active for about 45 years. This made the city of Fortuna a big tourist attraction. He shared that around Fortuna is the most typical rain forest.

He reminded us of the three elements of a Costa Rican town: soccer field, school and church!

 In 1974, Costa Rica built a dam for hydro-electric energy that drains into the Pacific Ocean. It not only provides 40% of the electricity for the country but helped the people on Pacific side of Costa Rica which is the driest part.

Enrique’s dialogue continued with so much information. He noted that he’s seen a lot of change in his lifetime. He also warned of a possible papaya shortage in Costa Rica because of my husband’s voracious consummation on this trip!

As we traveled, we noticed fields divided by lines of trees, so we thought farmers planted them to define their farms. Enrique corrected this assumption: the farmer puts a piece of wood into the ground with barbed wire on it, and the wood grows! So much water!

Enrique pointed out a pineapple plantation as we passed it, and said out of the top exports of the country: coffee, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane, sugar cane is the only native!

As usual, Enrique had planned a great stop where we shopped and saw lots of iguanas!

We checked in at Hotel Sierra Arenal, a small beautiful hotel, ate dinner together downtown and spent the evening shopping around the square at La Fortuna.

Another fantastic three days in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica · My Thoughts · Travel

Extreme Costa Rica: Highlights of Our First Four Days!

Lin and Larada at the La Paz waterfall, Costa Rica
Welcome to Costa Rica from Lin and me at the La Paz Waterfalls in the rain!

The travel blog posts for our Costa Rica trip will be highlights instead of daily journals. 

Day 1 – January 7, 2020

I was anxious to go Cost Rica! After months of anticipation, I spent a sleepless the night before our departure, too excited. I rose to the demands of the next day, and we had a lovely leisure travel day. We flew out of Albuquerque, NM, arriving in Houston, TX at 12:25 p.m. On the flight, I worked on a book project whose deadline was crunching me. A couple from Albuquerque accompanied us, so we had lunch and enjoyed ample time before our flight to San Jose at 5:25 p.m.

While we waited, Lin and I played a Cribbage hand to show our friends the game. We knew the Colorado contingency of our tour had the same flight to San Jose and wondered where they were. Right before boarding, they arrived at the gate. Again, I worked on the flight to San Jose.

When we arrived, we easily went through customs and were greeted by the organizer of our tour and our guide, Victoria and Enrique. They whisked us off to the hotel. When we arrived there, I thought Lin and I would stay there, but Victoria told us, “You’re going to my mom’s house!”

See, Victoria is my husband’s ex-wife, and she knew Lin and her mom wanted to see each other, so away we went and what a welcome we got. We spent the rest of the evening visiting.

Day 2 – January 8, 2020

I started the second day with an education on how a Costa Rican shower works, but Lin forgot to give me vital information, so the water stayed hot. I was quick in and out!

We started our day with a delicious breakfast, featuring an abundance of native fruit. Enrique picked us up, and we drove to the hotel to gather the rest of the group. We met our driver, William, who kept us safe throughout the trip and quickly became a major part of the group.