Advent, the liturgical season leading up to Christmas, has been a favorite of mine for years. But I have never written about it before in my blog. Now’s the time! I wrote about it in Chapter 2 in my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir. Here’s a sneak preview of my new book!
Advent: Why Anticipate Christmas?
Yes, it’s only one day a year, but celebrating the entire season leading up to that day fulfills me as an adult—and as an eternal child.
My memories bolster me as I grow older. Each time a specific event comes up, I rush for my computer to capture the thought and the feeling. I hope that enchantment never dies.
As an Episcopalian Christian, I take part in the season before Christmas, Advent. Surprisingly, I have never written about Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas.
When I first became familiar with this season, I jumped in full force. Every year, I put out the Advent wreath. It held four candles—mine were purple—in a circle with a white one in the middle, the Christ candle.
In the morning before work, I lit first one candle the first week, then two, then three, and then four for the four weeks of Advent and read a corresponding prayer. When Christmas Eve came, I was supposed to light the white one in the middle, but often I forgot because of the busyness of the day. Still, I enjoyed the anticipatory energy this tradition gave me.
Then, for many years, I drifted away from this observance. I divorced my ex-husband and began a sad seven years of my life, turning my back on God.
After twenty more years of being angry at God for my divorce and losing my adopted child, I returned to my God, cautiously searching for a church. Advent had come and gone for so many years, I felt no connection to it anymore.
Every year around Thanksgiving, a faint remembrance of Advent swept over me, but my anger and pain won out. Then I found my present church, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church, and a Higher Power I could work with through my recovery programs. Advent began to seep back into my life ever so slowly. The familiar quiet celebration of past years won out as I rediscovered the joy of Advent and the anticipation of Christmas anew. What I enjoyed the most was the focused anticipation of the birth of Christ, again, this year, not 2,000 years ago, but this year!
Two years ago, a friend from recovery asked if I wanted to do a phone group Advent study of Father Richard Rohr’s book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent. What an inspiring experience that was. In this short book, Father Rohr shares daily Scripture readings, a short commentary, and then a reflection question that helped me interact deeply with the theme of the day. I loved the focus on this instead of the commercialism in our world!
So last year, I reread the Rohr book by myself and once again enjoyed the anticipation of the birth of Christ.
I haven’t done the Advent wreath recently, but maybe next year!
If you’ve never done it, now might be the time to give it a whirl.
Larada Horner-Miller, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, (2023): 5-7.
Creating an audiobook? Really? I’m creating an audiobook for my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, and what an experience!
This is my second one. In January, 2022, I experimented with my shortest book, Let Me Tell You a Story, and learned a lot. But that’s almost two years ago, and I forgot many key lessons.
To prepare for recording, I bought an exceptional training, “Audiobooks Made Easy,” from Derek Doepker, so I’d like to give him credit. He has supported me totally in producing my audiobooks, as recently as today!
I really wanted this audiobook available for Black Friday, but Jesse, my cat, sidetracked me with his death in October, so I’ve been behind the gun ever since! And I have felt like a beginner in so many ways.
My husband, Lin, helped me create my recording studio in our walk-in closet. We hung a quilt and attached my mic stand to a shelf.
I have two previous blog posts telling about my beginning of this adventure and my first audiobook.
So, here I’d like to tell you about my current experience! I recorded my thirty-three chapters a couple weeks ago, then I went back to edit, deleting breaths and any identified mistakes! (Derek has a great way to identify a mistake and keep recording.)
As I recorded, I had a horrible time not bumping the mic stand with my glasses, my iPad, whatever, causing me to need to re-record sections! More delays!
What I found out was I hadn’t recorded each chapter at the same volume, so I had to go back and re-record several chapters. That set me behind more.
Then, in the last few chapters, I started hearing a hum sound in the background of some recordings, so Derek helped me with that. When I sent him a sample, he didn’t hear it. I realized accidentally I only heard it when I was using my AirPods or Lin’s earphones.
Don’t ever, ever update an application in the middle of a project! Because of the hum problem, I updated Audacity, the Open Source program I use. In the update, everything changed: the display, how it recorded! OMG! I had recorded 26 chapters on one track. The updated app showed two!
So, I put on my thinking cap and came up with a solution! First, I deleted the updated app. Then I went into my Mac back-up program, Timeline, and re-installed the older program! It worked, but I wasted so much time yesterday trying to deal with the new update.
One last reminder: I never alter the original recorded file! I duplicate it and work in that file. Then I have four folders in my project: the originals, the fixes, the edited file, the file that has the effects and is the final and the .mp3 folder. I also keep a log of each chapter and record when I finish it.
The biggest reward in recording my audiobook: getting to read my book again. I love reading my books and hearing my words in my voice! For you writers out there, it has become a valuable revision tool! I have found mistakes that even my editor missed.
Finally, today I need all the time I have to finish my audiobook, so this post will be short! Hopefully, I finish it tomorrow and upload it to the two distributors: ACX and FindAwayVoices. Tuesday afternoon, I venture up to Colorado, so that’s why I need to get it done tomorrow!
Creating an audiobook is awesome! I would do it again in a heartbeat! See the cover below for my new audiobook, hopefully done soon!
Days 12-15 came so quickly! We opted to stay in Grassau and explore then on to Salzburg. Then we had another free day to pack up and enjoy a farewell banquet. Then we flew home—our magical Bavarian ended!
Day 12: Free time. Optional tour offer—Tolzer Twirlers Anniversary Dance in Bad Tolz.
I know most people who know Lin and I will be shocked that we opted to not dance that day but to explore Grassau. We made that decision because of three reasons:
The trip to Salzburg the next day—we wanted to be rested for that because we both looked forward to the city and the Mozart concert that night.
We had been going at such a clip, we both worried about our current health situation, and needed a break.
We had been in Grassau for two weeks, but hadn’t had the time to explore this quaint little village.
After breakfast, we walked to town in the rain. First, we went to the Information office and inquired about restaurants for dinner. Interestingly, being a Saturday night, we thought we’d have lots of options! No, we had two choices, both Italian! We visited the May Pole—each village had a May Pole that told about the life there.
Next, we went into the church, the church of Assumption of Mary, right across the street from the Information office. We had walked by this church often and did not know the magnificent interior. It’s amazing how this small village supported this gorgeous church, stunning and ornate!
What made it fun, too—we watched a wedding party prepare for a wedding that afternoon!
Our next stop—a steamy latte for me and cappuccino for Lin, and delicious German sweets in a coffee shop. We relaxed, enjoying people-watching and no rush!
Our favorite thrift shop we had visited earlier wasn’t open this Saturday—Heidi’s is only open one Saturday a month. Then we found out that all the shops in town closed between 12 and 1! What a difference in commercial attitude than what we are used to!
We found a nice-size department store though. Lin bought a much-needed umbrella because ours had died! I bought two sweaters—one gold and one lime green for a great price. I got a nice discount on the first one I bought.
We ended our afternoon back at our apartment, then we met John & Barb Sloper for dinner at Mama Mia’s Pizzeria for dinner. I had rigatoni with pepperoni. When the server brought our dishes, I didn’t see any round meat on my dish. I took a bite, and it blasted me out of the room. Then, I grabbed the server and asked him about the pepperoni—I found out in Germany pepperoni is a chili pepper, not meat. So, I drank lots of water and ended the meal with Tiramisu, then we went to the ice cream parlor near and Lin had his usual ice cream.
NOTE: Everyone who attended the Tolzer Twirlers Anniversary Dance in Bad Tolz raved about their experience. They had over 300 dancers!
Day 13: Salzburg: City walking tour with English-speaking guide. St. Rupert’s Day Evening – Salzburg Mozart Dinner Concert. No dance, live Classical Music tonight!
This day became one of my favorites! When I think of Salzburg, I will think of two things: The Sound of Music and the bells ringing!
When we left the bus once we arrived, I asked about leaving our bags. “Yes, that’s okay,” so we did. As we prepared to go on a walking tour of Salzburg, Kim Oxendine and Gina handed us our bags and said, “The bus is not coming back!” Thank you, Kim and Gina, for taking care of us.
We started the walking tour at the Mirabell Garden, the same place where they filmed a memorable scene from the Sound of Music. It sent chills over me! When Lin and I got home, watched the Sound of Music and stopped it every time we recognized a place we had been—what a thrill!
The garden features gorgeous flowers, statues and fountains—and the Sound of Music!
Then we walked to Old Salzburg. It was the Feast of St. Rupert, the patron saint of Salzburg and the city overflowed, even though it was a Sunday! The narrow streets fascinated me—metal shop signs hung over our heads!
On the tour, we saw Mozart’s birthplace, “The house where Wolfgang Amadé Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, is now one of the most visited museums in the world. No other place makes the person behind the artist Wolfgang Amadé Mozart and his music as tangible as his birthplace.”
At the end of the tour, Lin and I stopped in an outdoor beer garden and enjoyed venison sausage and sauerkraut and a cheese tray. So delicious!
After lunch, we shopped some and then walked to the cemetery. The cemetery plots overflow with flowers. We visited the chapel there and lit more candles for our friends.
Then we rode the funicular up the hill to the fortress overlooking Salzburg. We spent a lot of time wandering around the fortress. My favorite part—standing near the wall and listening to the bells and taking pictures of the skyline full of church steeples! It felt other-worldly!
After our great time in the fortress, we rode the funicular back down and arrived at the restaurant just as our group went in. We savored a three-course meal. The entertainment began during the meal and continued. They did a section of one of Mozart’s opera, then a course, then singing! It was fabulous!
Day 14: Free time for last-minute shopping and time to pack. Last dance 11 am—1 pm. Please bring luggage to the hotel lobby to be loaded onto busses no later than 4 pm. Special Farewell Banquet. No dancing after banquet—party or early to bed.
Sadly, our trip was ending! We had a last dance and enjoyed our last time in the barn dancing. After lunch, we shopped some more, and I bought a fantastic pair of shoes! Wore them to church today! We packed up our bags! That’s always a major event, trying to get all our souvenirs in, but once again, we succeeded.
The day ended with a Farewell Banquet. I thoroughly enjoyed a highlight of the evening—each person in the group shared if they wanted to share their favorite memory of the trip. It really brought back so many outstanding memories as I listened!
Day 15: Depart Grassau for an early flight from Munich to USA.
Because we had people who had early flights, we left Grassau at 6:00 A.M., breakfast at 5:00 A.M.!
Our travel day home was eventful for sure! We had delays and friends missed connections in London, having to stay a night there. We made ours, but we got home later than planned with a delay in Denver.
Days 12-15 sped right on by! What an amazing trip we had! Tom, Gina and Curtis Crisp provided a trip of a lifetime with their experience and knowledge. If you’re interested, the next trip is September 16-30, 2025. Tony, Jet, Tom and the international callers entertained us with their great calling! Thanks so much!
Days 9 – 11! Three fun-filled days lay ahead of us: from Innsbruck, Austria to the Hofbraeuhaus in Munich and more. We ended the week with a trip to Reit im Winkl, a scenic village near Grassau. That evening we had the pleasure of a traditional Bavarian show with lots of dancing and music!
Day 9: Innsbruck capital of Austrian Western State of Tyrol and Rattenberg am Inn – famous for Swarovski Crystal.
During our drive to Innsbruck, Austria from Grassau, we traveled along a valley with the steep Northern Chain mountains in view, 7,000-8,000 feet high. So scenic! Fog hung down on the mountains, adding a mystique to those glorious mountains so nearby.
When we got to Innsbruck, we did a bus tour first, then a walking tour. During the bus tour, the tour guide shared the history of the city. It was heavily bombed in World War II with twenty-two air raids. The bombings destroyed every second building. Innsbruck hosted the Olympics twice: 1964 and 1976. That wasn’t surprising with it surrounded by mountains.
During the walking tour, we saw the famous Goldenes Dachl (Golden roof).
“The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) is a landmark structure located in the Old Town (Altstadt) section of Innsbruck, Austria. It is considered the city’s most famous symbol. Completed in 1500, the roof was decorated with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I to mark his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza. The Emperor and his wife used the balcony to observe festivals, tournaments, and other events that took place in the square below.”
After the walking tour, we walked around the downtown area, and the mayor of Innsbruck rode by on a bike. He stopped, and we got our picture with him. What a friendly, hospitable ambassador for Innsbruck! Then we ate quickly to have time to shop.
From Innsbruck, we drove to Rattenberg on the Inn River, known for beautiful crystal. This little village sat right next to the river. We wandered along the main street shopping.
We danced that evening in the barn—an exceptional way to end the day!
I continued to write haikus about my experience:
Connected only in room!
I like the freedom!
I love Germany!
The home of my ancestors.
Their feet touched this soil.
(Thinking about our trip to Scotland in May)
I love Scotland, too!
The home of my ancestors.
Their feet touched this soil.
My heritage has
Deepened as I have traveled.
I’m more than I thought!
Day 10: Munich City Tour with English-speaking guide. Visit downtown Munich, including Marienplatz & the famous Hofbräuhaus. Return to Grassau in time for dinner and dance.
Again, we traveled to Munich, but this time to see the city! And once again, we enjoyed the bus tour seeing city and then walking see the people. Before the bus tour, we drove to the Nymphenburg Castle for a potty break. What gorgeous gardens surrounded the castle! During the bus tour, I take lots of notes—way too many to share here.
As we passed one building, the tour guide identified it as the building where Hitler spoke to the people. Today it is a high school. Then he stressed we need to be attentive to the Neo-Nazi movement because it’s a world-wide threat.
When the walking tour started, we had a tight schedule: we needed to get to the Marienplatz (heart of Munich) at noon to see the Glockenspiel in the New City Hall. As we walked rapidly, I kept my eye on Curtis, one of our tour guides. When we arrived in the Marienplatz, I had a couple minutes to get my camera ready, but tourists packed the Marienplatz!
How fascinating the Glockenspiel was! Here’s more information about each part:
Then we headed for the famous Hofbräuhaus. Our tour guide showed us where his beer stein is locked up—small little lockers lined the room.
How lucky we were! Lin and I headed towards the band and took several pictures, enjoying the Oom-pah music and the personalities of the musicians. A couple seated right by the band motioned to us to join them, so we spent the whole time there, sitting right by the band!
After sharing a sausage tray with three different sausages and the best sauerkraut ever, we leisurely listened to the band and enjoyed the show. Then we had plenty of time to leisurely shop and enjoy the atmosphere.
When we got home that evening, we danced again after dinner—I loved all the dancing!
Day 11: Morning: Visit the beautiful village of Reit im Winkl. Evening: Bavarian Traditional Schuhplattlers Show. Oom-pah music tonight.
We had a later morning departure, so we had a more relaxed morning. We had a rainy drive to Reit im Winkl, a beautiful alpine village. The bus driver told us the tale of how Bavaria won Reit im Winkl from Austria—very entertaining.
When we arrived, we walked to the St. Pankratius Parish Church and went inside. Again, I lit a candle for our friends, Bob and Linda, who had COVID. Then we hiked to the falls above the village. The rain added to the atmosphere, and I thoroughly enjoyed my yellow raincoat. Then we shopped around and ate some local goodies.
Flowers, flower boxes, flowers draped over balconies—that’s what I remember about this quaint little village.
On the trip back to Grassau, Gina Crisp told us her immigration story—so moving and so sad! But she has certainly taken her experience and had an open heart to all immigrants!
After dinner that evening, we returned to the barn for the Bavarian Traditional Show—a highlight of the trip for me! I dressed warmly this time and kept comfy the whole evening. During the show, we enjoyed traditional Bavarian music and dance! During an open dance, Lin and I enjoyed a spirited polka—what fun!
The dancers spanned all ages from young children to grandpa and all in traditional outfits. I saw such similarity to our square dancing in their costumes. Also, it reminded me of dances I grew up in Branson, Colorado, with children allowed to enjoy themselves on the dance floor between dances. They ended the show with something like a Grand March or the Mexican “La Marcha” with floral arches they put into different shapes, ending in stars.
I took lots of video that evening!
Sample the Bavarian Traditional Schuhplattlers Show:
Sample the Oompah band
See these young boys trained up in their traditional Bavarian dance thrilled me
What a fantastic end to the day again—a celebration of Bavaria!
These three days fun-filled days are some of my favorites of the trip! Music, dance—you can’t beat that!
If you have missed my previous three blog posts about this trip, here they are:
During Day 5-8 in Bavaria, we experienced Oktoberfest in Munich and saw two of King Ludwig’s amazing castles. We also had a relaxing day at an Alpine ski lift and a square and round dance.
Day 5: Alpine ski lift. Invitational Square & Round Dance
After a busy day at the Salt Mines & Eagles’ Nest the day before, our thoughtful tour guides planned a relaxing day on day 5. But Lin and I got up early to go to Heidi’s Thrift store in Grassau for local souvenirs. I bought my brother a beer stein at a reasonable price.
The bus picked us up at the chestnut tree, and we drove a short distance to catch the alpine ski lift up the mountain. I love ski lifts; however, I’m not a skier, so most of my experiences have been in the sunshine. We marveled at the different pine trees and a creek running below us. I had fun taking pictures of different people in our group.
When we got on top, Lin and I ate lunch with friends from Arizona, John & Barb Sloper. What gigantic meals we had—Lin had sausage, and I selected a cheese & bread tray. We should have split one! Then we spent the rest of the time hiking up the mountain higher. It felt like “Sound of Music” country, our first of many times of referencing one of my favorite movies.
On the return trip, Lin hiked back with Curtis and I rode the bus. Then I got a much- needed nap and Lin swam in our pool with a friend from Arizona. I ALWAYS bring my swimming suit and often have to corworse Lin in bringing his. As I packed, I thought, “Germany, swimming suit? It will be too cold!” So, I didn’t bring mine ONCE! And he brought his! Go figure! And he used it often!
After dinner, I walked to the barn with a friend from Las Vegas, and she complimented me on my writing—what a delightful surprise. We danced the night away with Jet Roberts, Tony Oxendine, Tom Crisp, Klaus Völkl & Stefanie Christian on the rounds—and I wasn’t cold! In fact—it was super-hot!
Day 6: Munich Oktoberfest and Opening Costume Parade. Square & Round Dance & Potluck in Munich hosted by the Tamara Twirlers.
Oh, what a day! To get to Munich, we had to get early because we left Grassau at 8:00 AM. The trip took one hour and ½. After arriving in Munich, we walked twenty minutes to get to the park.
As we walked under the Welcome sign, I thought, “This looks like a state fair with then or more beer tents.” To begin with, we walked the total length of the main street to the Ferris wheel and with Arizona friends.
Again, I dressed inappropriately. I wore a leather jacket and wore jean leggings—and what a hot day! I was so hot at one point; I felt nauseous! Our tour guides told us to watch the parade because people from different towns in Bavaria wore their unique costumes, so that’s what we did. I got some magnificent pictures.
When we went inside our first beer hall, the noise inside overwhelmed me. People sat elbow-to-elbow at long wooden picnic-type tables. Young people stood on top of the table with their beer mugs, singing a spirited song. Beer maids and servers carried six liter-size beer mugs. In the center of the tent at the bandstand, a band played spirited Bavarian music. What an amazing atmosphere!
Right as we arrived, one band from the parade wove their way inside the hall and played a song, interrupting the band at the bandstand. We had just heard this band out in the parade—such a celebration.
Leaving there, we ate bratwurst for lunch and continued watching the parade—yes; it goes on for hours! I ate a bite of brat, ran over to the parade and took a picture, then ran back for another bite. They did a fantastic thing for recycling plastic/glass. They gave you a token when you bought a drink, then we got money back when we turned in the empty.
I loved all the gigantic draft horses pulling the beer wagons. Also, I enjoyed the leather lederhosen and hats with feathers the men wore, and the form-fitting Dirndls the women wore with aprons. What a photo fest for Line and me!
For another adventure, we visited another beer hall and met a delightful couple, visiting mostly with the husband. Everyone was so friendly—maybe because we sat so close to each other.
Afterwards, we drove to a dance hall in Munich to dance with the Tamara Twirlers. They hosted a “barbecue” beforehand, but really it was a potluck with delicious homemade Bavarian food. What a delightful night we had dancing with our German dance friends!
Day 7: Lake Chiemsee boat cruise to visit Herrenchiemesee Island and King Ludwig’s Castle. Optional: Hotel Wessner Hof. Free Schnapps Tour. Dinner on your own. Caller’s night off.
Another fun-filled day. We drove to Lake Chiemsee and then cruised over to see one of King Ludwig’s castles. When we got to the island, I rode a horse-drawn carriage up to the castle; Lin walked. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour of this amazing castle. King Ludwing was eccentric, building this castle for himself—no one else!
That evening we took advantage of the options and had dinner out at Hotel Wessner Hof. Its owner is a personal friend of our tour guide, Tom. Afterwards, they offered a free Schapps tour. Our group toured first then Lin and I and Nina, Dean Singleton’s girlfriend had ice cream for dessert.
Another wonderful fun-filled day in Bavaria!
Day 8: King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Visit the village of Oberammergau, famous for woodcarving and the passion play.
What a special day—Lin’s 83rd birthday, Neuschwanstein Castle, and Oberammergau!
First, we drove to Neuschwanstein Castle but faced delays because of a detour. Tom jumped out of the bus to get tickets. Then we had a wild ride up to the castle on a windy road and the driver using one hand!
Before our tour, Lin and I walked up to a bridge where we could take picturesque pictures of the castle. I was so excited because I had anticipated this excursion so much.
“The fairytale castle Neuschwanstein is a popular sight in Germany. The castle in Hohenschwangau (Bavaria) was built by order of King Ludwig II and the inspiration for the Disney Cinderella castle.”
Our tour of the went at 12:45 pm. This is where King Ludwig II lived. Inside, it was much more subdued than the castle we saw the day before. Moorish influence showed up throughout.
Then it was on to Oberammergau, another place I had dreamed of visiting. It is the sight of the Passion Play every ten years. When I was a youngster, my Sunday school teacher saw the play and brought each of her students a pen to commemorate it.
To celebrate Lin’s birthday, I bought him an authentic cuckoo clock here and shocked him. We had it shipped home.
We ate a late dinner back at the Hotel Sperrer that evening, but Gina had a birthday cake for all those celebrating their birthdays. I’m sure this was a birthday Lin will remember forever!
What a jampacked four days we had seeing all these amazing sights. I slept peacefully that night with such satisfaction at seeing some bucket list sights, but I plan on returning to Oberammergau in 2030!!
Our first two fun-filled days came after two travel days. On September 12 we left Albuquerque, NM and arrived in Munich on September 13. Then we began to sample our destination in the next two days.
September 12—Day 1: Travel Day
September 13—Day 2: Travel Day
September 14—Day 3: Frelichtmuseum—Farmer’s Museum. Dancing after dinner.
September 15—Day 4: Berchtesgaden: Salt Mines & Eagle’s Nest Tour. Dancing after dinner.
What a delightful start we had on September 12 for this trip: we didn’t have to get up at 0-dark-30! We left the house at 10:00 am, ate lunch at the airport and had a leisure time at the airport. But we worried about our connection in Chicago because we only had one hour and twenty minutes, and this was our international connection. However, when we got to Chicago, we faced a two-hour delay. That didn’t bother me at all! We met up with friends from Las Vegas, NV and visiting with them made the time go quickly.
Also, I prepared for my e-book launch the next day of my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir. That launch went on in the background of this entire trip.
Here’s a copy of haiku I wrote when we settled into our seats on our plane for Germany:
I love to travel.
The secret is: flexible!
It took years to learn!
We are moving now.
Two-and one-half hours late!
Now I am hungry!
Beforehand, we bought Economy Plus or something like that for the international leg of the trip, so we had plenty of leg room. Also, we sat on one side with three seats and the seat next to me was empty, so I stretched out and slept on some of the flight. Lin sleeps easily when we fly.
Waking up on an airplane fascinates me—so many miles have sped away! When we arrived in Munich, Germany, they checked our passports, then we got our bags—our bags came quickly. Then we met with up Gina & Curtis Crisp, our tour guides. Tom rode to Grassau on our bus. Off to Grassau, we went an hour and a half drive.
They dropped us off at the Sperrer Hotel, the headquarters for the tour, for an orientation meeting. Then Curtis made two trips to transport all the apartment residences over to Gameis Apartments. When we arrived, our bags waited at the door. We had a gorgeous apartment in the Bungalow there. Ahead of time, we had volunteered to stay in the apartments and do the ten-minute walk over to the Hotel Sperrer daily.
So, at our welcome dinner, the Mayor of Grassau greeted us and a man played “the alphorn,” which I have seen on the TV commercial for Ricola cough drops. The actual size amazed me and then how it came apart. They continued the evening’s festivities with a welcome dance, but exhaustion hit, so we walked home in the rain. My yellow raincoat I bought at the Edinburgh castle in May came in handy, repeatedly!
The next morning, we slept in and learned that was a bad idea! All the eggs and bacon/sausage were gone, so I had granola, which was delicious! A morning routine started for us in the apartment: we walked over and met the bus at the chestnut tree, about a five-minute walk. Then we drove for forty-five minutes to the Frelichtmuseum—Farmer’s Museum.
What an amazing place! It reminded Lin and me of the Heritage Park Historical Village Living History Museum in Calvary, Canada we visited in 2012. We had too many choices and not enough time. So, we headed in the opposite direction of the rest of the tour and explored on our own. A quaint train provided transportation around the outdoor museum, which we hopped on a couple times. We saw old farm machinery and amazing accommodations, dating back to the 17th century, that housed the animals below and the people above on the second floor. Many meager homes had an altar in the kitchen’s corner.
Religion played an important role in the 17th century farmer’s life, so we saw a beautiful small chapel and crucifixes in various places. We saw wood used in unusual ways, like a water trough. They also used a small tree branch to tie up fences. Beautiful gardens dotted the landscape.
When we returned to Grassau, we had dinner first, then we square danced. A friend who had taken this tour in the past warned me about the barn, where we danced, being cold. So, I put on a long prairie skirt and long-sleeve top and warm socks, but they moved the dance to a different location, and I overheated! Lin and I thoroughly enjoyed dancing to Tony Oxendine (my favorite caller of all times) and Jet Roberts. We especially enjoyed dancing in a square with a Sweden caller, a German caller and Tony & Jet’s wives!
When we got home, I checked the free downloads of my new book: 2000! Wow!
What a glorious day we had!
This morning we arose earlier and enjoyed a great breakfast meeting a new couple from Tucson. We walked to the chestnut tree and enjoyed sitting near the front of the bus on the forty-five-minute drive to Berchtesgaden Salt Mines.
First order of business: everyone had to put on a jumpsuit. Then they packed us onto a wooden bench on a string of compact cars like a train to travel down into the mine. We had to straddle the bench, and they kept packing us on like sardines.
When we stopped, the excitement began. Four of us together slid down a wooden plank. We went down with Dean Singleton and his girlfriend, Nina. Oh, what a ride! We toured that area, then went down another slide with John & Rosie from Las Vegas.
On our next adventure down in the mine, we rode a boat out on the brine and they had a light show. We ended with sampling the water—very salty.
From there we drove to the Eagle’s Nest in Austria, Hitler’s hide-away. We missed our reservation to go up to the Eagle’s Nest, so we had an hour delay. During this time, Lin and I shopped and bought souvenirs.
How breath-taking the bus ride up the mountain! When we arrived, we had to walk through a tunnel Curtis suggested we make note of, and the construction was amazing! Then we rode an elevator up to the Eagle’s Nest—eerie to think Hitler had been there!
Lin and I hiked to the top, the mountain above the Eagle’s Nest. I struggled with some of the steep incline but it was worth every step! We saw Salzburg in the distance—amazing panoramic view!
After dinner back in Grassau, we walked through a park, hoping to hear a band that set up there earlier, but they had finished their concert. How hard to believe the first two days of our time in Bavaria are gone! I continued to get free downloads of my new book. My comment in my journal at the end of the day: “I’m beat! I’m going to bed!”
Tom, Gina and Curtis Crisp made our first two days in Bavaria delightful. I plan on sharing more next week on the next four days of our trip. Be ready!
Our 12th anniversary—today—and what a crazy day we had! It started off great, but the afternoon took a horrible turn!
Twelve years ago, today, October 22, 2011, Lin and I married at the Albuquerque Square Dance Center, surrounded by nearly 300 friends and family. We had a short lovely ceremony and a big dance party with square dancing, round dancing and couple dancing! Today we started our anniversary off dancing at the Trail Out dance to end a wonderful weekend with Dee Dee Dougherty-Lottie calling.
After everyone sang “Happy Anniversary” this morning, Dee Dee played a fun-loving waltz that felt more like a polka during one break, and we waltz-polkaed to it. Then Jerry Gilbreath surprised us during another break by singing George Strait’s “I Cross My Heart.” What’s the significance of this song?
At our wedding, I had written a poem for Lin and read it. Lin knew I was writing a poem and responded to my poem with one of my favorites! Wow! What a treat for Jerry to remember and sing it today.
After the morning dance ended, we headed home. On the drive in to Albuquerque in the morning, we saw a major accident on the eastbound lane of I-40, but we thought it would be taken care of by our return trip! NO!! As a fatal accident, it kept the interstate closed for hours!
Then we tried to figure the best way up the canyon home. See, there’s two ways to go: I-40 or old Route 66. Using Google, we found out I-40 eastbound was still closed, so we went by Cost Co and got gas, then headed up Central. I jumped out of the Jeep to grab a drink at Taco Bell for the possibly long trip home. So, by this time—after noon—we went up Route 66, surrounded by semi-trucks and cars at almost a standstill.
What added to my frustration? The Denver Broncos’ game began at 2:25 PM, and I couldn’t get it on Sirius radio or on the Internet. A friend texted me updates about the Broncos’ game, so I had an idea about what was going on.
About four hours later, and some movement up Route 66, we found out another incident added to our delay—a downed power pole across the road. So a state patrolman told us to turn around—finally I-40 was open.
Finally, we got home at 4:30 PM after spending most of the afternoon in the car, inching our way towards home.
So, I ran out of time to do my blog about our trip to Germany. Instead, here’s the poem I wrote for Lin and read to him at our wedding. I hope you enjoy it.
Our life together starts toda
The past is behind us
The future looms positively in our view!
I have labored over the words to say to you.
How do I find words to describe what has happened
There is not a container to hold it
We come from 2 rich, full lives
a small town New Jersey boy and
a country girl from Colorado
Other places, other times
Other husbands, other wives
We arrive here today
The loss of Kathi
Your dear former wife
And My dear friend
We arrive here today
In our newfound relationship,
Having been friends for years!
I knew you and liked you before
I fell in love with you!
Thank you for proposing to me
On Christmas morning, 2010
In front of Mom and Aunt Willie,
My 92-year-old aunt
making It official.
When You met My Dear Uncle Tanky
After you proposed, he took me aside
And said he's the best!
I agree - I have no doubt!
Many of our friends here today have
Told us that they will be glad when we get married,
So, we would stop kissing and hugging each other
All the time!
I will never stop!
Each kiss and each hug heals my soul at a deeper level
I want more!
Lin, to me
You are a cool mountain breeze
Deer stopping by for nourishment & comfort!
You are laughter! Every Wednesday night at round dancing
when you refer to the foxtrot as the F word,
I laugh deeply!
I know that the life we will start today
And oh, so good!
As I look out over
Our family and friends,
I know we have the support
And power to make this marriage
Become a fascinating adventure.
Today we become husband and wife
And some of you may wonder
At our age.
Here's my reason -
I wanted to stand today before
My family and friends and God and profess my love to you.
To me the sacrament of marriage
Has a different value today!
I wanted the protection for us
That marriage offers.
I commit today
To be Larada
Creative, messy, wacky and fun!
I ask you to be Lin.
Creative, neat, linear and goofy!
Together we form a "we"
I could site a long list of thank you’s today, but I want to
thank you mostly for one thing - choosing to
Share the rest of your
Life with me! It's here!
Finally, our 12th anniversary will be memorable for sure, but even though the afternoon was grueling, Lin and I celebrated this day and each other! We marveled at how much we’ve packed into these twelve years and what lies ahead of us!
On September 12, 2023, Lin and I left Albuquerque for Munich, Germany through Chicago to begin an amazing Bavaria Tour with square dancers and the Crisps. In Chicago, we endured a delay, but the overseas trip went seamlessly. We bought the upgrade to Economy Plus for the overseas leg of the trip and enjoyed the extra leg room.
The Crisp Tour began at the airport in Munich, Germany airport where Tom, Gina and Curtis Crisp. They met us joyfully at the airport even though our group was two hours late! Gina greeted me personally and gave us our room keys and our name tags. They gathered the group, and we walked to the buses—I was in Munich! Yahooo!
Then we headed to Grassau, a small village one hour away. We stopped first at the Hotel Sperrer where most of the tour had their rooms. We opted to be in the apartments, a 10-minute walk away. Curtis carpooled us to the apartments and what a lovely surprise we had with our room. We had a lovely space with a kitchen, living room, spacious bedroom, and a bathroom with a sunken tub. We settled in then returned to the Hotel Sperrer for our first dinner together and our orientation meeting.
After dinner, the mayor (in German Bürgermeister) of Grassau, Stefan Kattari, welcomed us. Looking out the windows, we realized it was raining, so we walked back to the room and didn’t join in the welcome dance that night. We were exhausted.
We had fourteen days of action-packed fun.
Itinerary of our amazing trip:
September 12—Day 1: Travel Day
September 13—Day 2: Travel Day
September 14—Day 3: Frelichtmuseum—Farmer’s Museum. Dancing after dinner.
September 15—Day 4: Berchtesgaden: Salt Mines & Eagle’s Nest Tour. Dancing after dinner.
September 16—Day 5: Alpine ski lift. Invitational Square & Round Dance with Jet Roberts, Tony Oxendine, Tom Crisp, plus a Mystery Guest Caller and Klaus Völkl & Stefanie Christian on the rounds.
September 17—Day 6: Munich Oktoberfest And Opening Costume Parade. Square & Round Dance & Potluck in Munich hosted by the Tamara Twirlers.
September 18—Day 7: Lake Chiemsee boat cruise to visit Herrenchiemesee Island and King Ludwig’s Castle. Optional: Hotel Wessner Hof. Free Schnapps Tour. Dinner on your own. Caller’s night off.
September 19—Day 8: King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle. Visit the village of Oberammergau, famous for woodcarving and the passion play.
September 20—Day 9: Innsbruck capital of Austrian Western State of Tyrol and Rattenberg am Inn – famous for Swarovski Crystal.
September 21—Day 10: Munich City Tour with English-speaking guide. Visit downtown Munich, including Marienplatz & the famous Hofbraeuhaus. Return to Grassau in time for dinner and dance.
September 22—Day 11: Morning: Visit the beautiful village of Reit im Winkl. Evening: Heimatabend – Bavarian Traditional Schuhplattlers Show. Oom-pah music tonight.
September 23—Day 12: Free time. Optional tour offer—Tolzer Twirlers Anniversary Dance in Bad Tolz.
September 24—Day 13: Salzburg: City walking tour with English-speaking guide. St. Rupert’s Day Evening – Salzburg Mozart Dinner Concert. No dance, live Classical Music tonight!
September 25—Day 14: Free time for last-minute shopping and time to pack. Last dance 11 am—1 pm. Please bring luggage to the hotel lobby to be loaded onto busses no later than 4 pm.Special Farewell Banquet. No dancing after banquet—party or early to bed.
September 26—Day 15: Depart Grassau for an early flight from Munich to USA.
I have memories to last a lifetime. I started organizing my picture last night, and I relived each moment! Bavaria, the part of Germany and Austria we visited, is overwhelming in natural beauty!
As you can see, we saw many sights. We danced a lot, and we were busy, busy! We met some wonderful new friends from all over the country. In my next couple of blog posts, I will highlight some of my favorite places and memories. There’s no way I can write about each day individually—I wouldn’t write anything else for the rest of the year. Highlights—that’s what I plan to do!
Have you ever been to Bavaria in Germany? If so, what was your experience? If you haven’t, Crisp Tours may be returning to Germany in 2025. Email me if you’re interested and I will forward it to them.
My Jesse, my cat, died on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, and I’m broken-hearted. I was in Branson, Colorado, doing ranch business, but Lin took wonderful care of him in his last days.
When I first rescued him in 2009, my Jesse kept his distance. In fact, when Lin first saw him, Jesse crawled up in my bed and hid under the sheets. Lin didn’t see him for several visits. At first, his distance didn’t bother me—I didn’t know better. He continued his far-off stance until I had shoulder surgery in December 2011. His loving instinct knew I needed him, comforting me, and he found my lap. Ever since, he loved sitting in my lap.
My Jesse, this twenty-year-old amazing cat, had struggled for several weeks. He had been in hospital two nights at the end of August. In fact, I worried he would die while we were in Germany from September 12-26, so much I took several photos of Jesse and me the morning we left. But he flourished with the care of his two pet sitters, Kathleen and Sandy. When he saw his vet on September 28 when we returned, she gently reminded me he was in “hospice care” now! That shocked both Lin and me.
After that vet visit, I started using pill pockets to give Jesse an anti-nausea pill in the mornings before his food. One of our pet sitters suggested it, but I wondered if it would bother his feline diabetes. His vet said, “No, use them.” That relieved me because I had wrestled with him each morning, using techniques I had learned over the years. But it was not a pleasant experience for him or me. The pill pockets solved the struggle.
Then the morning I left for Branson on Wednesday, October 4, he had no interest in the pill pocket. I added some dried salmon treats, and he ate it. From then on, Lin struggled with Jesse and him taking the pill pocket. One day he called me, and we Facetimed with Jesse. I talked with him, and he ate it. Both of us felt we had found the answer.
Then Jesse stopped eating everything. We continued to Facetime and I talked to him. He meowed in response to my voice, looking for me, but he didn’t want to eat. The decline continued Monday night. Lin moved him on a big towel near his food and a nearby litter box. Jesse didn’t move from that towel and died there the next day.
Tuesday afternoon, I had thrown a grey hoodie on a chair in the dining room in Branson. The sleeve hung down on a stool. In my side vision from the breakfast bar, I looked and thought it was Jesse laying there. It startled me. I wonder if that’s when he died.
When Lin called me with the sad news, my brother stayed with me to console me. I posted my loss on Facebook and texted my support system. Within minutes, I had two phone calls from dear friends, supporting my loss, even though it was a pet. And Facebook friends shared their support so much.
Lin had already dug a grave for Jesse in his beautiful garden in case he died while we were in Germany. Jesse loved Lin’s garden. Lin buried him, made a cross and wrote “Jesse” on the cross. I just spent a quiet time sitting at his grave this afternoon.
When I came home on Thursday of this week, Lin had lawn chairs set up by Jesse’s grave and we sat and cried and ate the Dairy Queen Blizzards I bought. We cried and reminisced about our precious Jesse.
Coming into the house for the first time, Jesse’s absence overwhelmed me. I’ve shed lots of tears the last couple of days.
I want to end this with some special lessons I’ve learned, thanks to Jesse:
God can drop an angel, disguised as a cat, into your life and bless you in ways you have no way of knowing.
Any pet I’ve had has shown me unconditional love, and Jesse constantly did that. The light in his eyes when he looked at me conveyed his deep undying love. His kind of love shows me what my God’s love looks and feels like.
Before Jesse came into my life, I was a dog-person. I have become a cat-person, too!
Taking care of a sick cat—Jesse had feline diabetes, and I gave him insulin twice daily for seven years—taught me about how important routine is. It also taught me I could give him a shot. It also gave me compassion for all those who suffer with diabetes!
Jesse became the heart and soul of our home, welcoming us with his wide-eye stare and a meow anytime we returned. He loved our established routines, especially watching TV. He parked himself on the arm of the loveseat where I sit, then he’d move under my left arm, peeking his head out to sniff the food I had. Routine, routine, routine have their place in life! How much I love routines, too!
As Jesse aged in the last few years, I saw the inevitable coming, but I watched and made note in my mind of the changes. I realized I could learn about aging by watching Jesse and his process. Lin and I both became much more tolerant of my Jesse as an old man. We need to do that for all the elder we know—tolerance!
This year, Jesse vomited regularly, and I did everything I could to manage it. Ultimately, we found out that his pancreas had rejuvenated itself and he needed a smaller dose only once a day. I found out older cats change; therefore, older people’s health can change, too, so I need to be aware.
Jesse loved Lin’s garden, so over the last few years, I took him out there every morning during the summer. He parked himself at the back door, waiting for his “nature fix.” I need to spend more time in nature, wondering around, sniffing my favorite flowers and lounging on a favorite spot, content with my life!
Jesse chased sunbeams. A couple of days before he died, Lin hadn’t opened the solarium up for Jesse to relax in his favorite spot. Lin missed Jesse and found him upstairs (he hadn’t climbed the stairs in months) in our bathroom, laying in a sunbeam. No matter what, I must chase after whatever comforts me, no matter how old I am!
Recently, Jesse needed to snuggle A LOT! Every evening, I held him against my heart, petting him. His purring increased with my touch. If I tried to play on my iPad, he’d grab my hand with his paws and put it on his head. Cats are smart! Elderly people need touch, need to be snuggled! We need to listen to their physical needs.
Finally, my Jesse was twenty-years-old when he died. He was six when he came to live with me—fourteen years he shared my life! What a privilege it was to have those years with him.
Relish any person, any pet in your life—snuggle with them often and think about the relationship as the years rapidly pass by!
Over the years, I loved to write about Jesse. Here’s all the blog posts I wrote about him:
Two Updates: My Miracle Cat & My New Book! September 24, 2023
International Cat Day Tomorrow! August 7, 2022
Jesse, My Geriatric Cat: How We Love Him! March 27, 2022
Unconditional Love: My Pets Know How! November 27, 2021
Jesse’s Old But Playful November 18, 2020
How About a Cat for a Pet? October 25, 2020
Do You Own a Pet? December 18, 2019
An Angel Cat—Really? March 17, 2019
I will get back to our Germany trip next week, like I promised!
I’ve had great book news recently. This week, two of my books have received critical acclaim. All my hard work pays off.
Great Book News #1
Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? won the 2023 New Mexico/Arizona book award in the category of Self Help/Guide. This book was also a finalist in the health category. Last year, it also won the 2022 New Mexico/Arizona book award in the category of Body, Mind & Spirit (health/humor).
This blog became the foundation for that book—the inspiration because I wrote the core in this blog during the pandemic. It saved my sanity as I processed what I went through during the pandemic. I wrote in poetry and prose format. The reader has a choice: read it from cover-to-cover, or the chapters stand independently. Each chapter begins with a thought-provoking photo and quote. Then the chapter ends with a reflection question to ponder. Read, reflect and respond—so we can move on to better, not bitter.
For those interested in buying this award-winning book, choose of one the links below:
You can also buy it from me and get your own autographed copy. Contact me at Larada@LaradasBooks.com for the details.
More Book News
My newest book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, hit #1 on Amazon in three e-book categories:
Christmas (Kindle Store)
US Historical Biographies
Again, some of my blog posts make up a foundational part of the book with many additional snippets of my Christmas memories.
I love Christmas and this seemed like the next nature book for me to write. The hard part—editing, revising and creating it in July! I put on Christmas music and enjoyed the season out of the season!
My E-book of Hair on Fire
Yes, I got the e-book published before we went to Germany and Austria—Bavaria (more about Germany starting next week). Being super-organized, I had to set up all the promotions before we left, so I had busy days ahead of that trip. 2916 readers from nine countries downloaded my new e-book from: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, India, Germany, Mexico, France, and Italy. Those numbers pushed it to #1 in the three categories.
My Paperback of Hair on Fire
So, while we were in Germany, I finally got the final cover, so I uploaded it one night. I proofed the book online, but there was an issue. It said that the trim size (size of the book) didn’t match something, so they adjusted it by resizing it. I knew the trim size of the interior of the book and the cover matched so it could have been an international issue. That night I order a “proof” copy and it arrived on Thursday, the day after we got home.
Oh, no! The text was like shrunk to the center of the page, leaving a large margin all the way around. I spent several hours proofreading it that day, and I realized the “proof” didn’t have the Table of Contents! Oh, no, again! In my rush before we left, I had not selected the Table of Contents to be printed in the print copy of my book. I fixed that easily.
But I had another issue—the cover fit a book of 230 pages. After adding the Table of Contents and fixing a layout problem, I had 224—fewer pages! Now, how did that happen? So, I spent several hours going through and enlarging pictures and doing what I could to rearrange parts! Finally, I ended up with 230 pages, so I uploaded the revision, ran it through the Previewer online and published it.
The print copies will be here on Tuesday, October 2, so I’m excited.
On Thursday, when I opened the package with the “proof” copy, I got all choked up! The first time I see my book in print seems surreal! My words, my stories, my poems! What an emotional experience.
So, I will spend the next two months promoting it before Christmas and I will have a book launch sometime soon. Listen for the details.
My seventh book published! Great book news this week about two of my books! Life is good!
If you’re interested, catch the e-book at this discounted price of $1.99 for a limited time at:
Because this book would make a great Christmas gift for everyone in your family, keep tuned in. I’m going to have some great prices for the purchase of three books or five books. Buying five copies will be the best price!
Sample, sample, sample! Here’s another chapter of my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir.
Chapter 8: What Are Your Christmas Traditions?
In my country childhood, we had many Christmas traditions: the fun and adventure of cutting down a tree from our ranch, hilarious Christmas programs at the church and school, and fun-filled Christmas caroling around our small town. Our family dominated this holiday’s focus.
My dad’s parents lived just across town, so most of my childhood Christmas Eves were spent at their house.
Christmas at the Horners’
It was a big affair, especially when Granddad got all sixteen grandchildren together. That meant a holiday house full.
Each year, my Christmas outfit was always special. One year a white dress with a gathered skirt, trimmed in red, made by Mom.
Grandma, decked out in her festive apron, worried over the meal. She made the best mashed potatoes, smothered in butter. Granddad’s job came after dinner.
The table was set on the porch so we could all fit, a long line of smiles and laughter.
For those of us who knew the tradition, anticipation set in. We tried to hurry the process, with no success.
Finally, after a leisurely cup of coffee and a cigarette, Granddad would disappear to the front door.
His shout rang through the whole house! It had begun.
“I just saw Santa Claus fly over. Come quick.”
We’d race to the front door, and he would race to the back door.
“No, no, he’s out here now. Come this way.”
We’d race to the back door. This would go on for what seemed like eternity, and I never did see Santa, a reindeer, or his sleigh. I was always a second too late! But this also meant that it was time to open our gifts that had mysteriously spilled out from under the Christmas tree.
A traditional Christmas with the Horners meant cousins, aunts and uncles, sometimes great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, good food, lots of laughter, and traditions that filled my heart with joy and family connection!
Larada Horner-Miller, This Tumbleweed Landed (2014): 67-68.
What was your favorite Christmas tradition?
Sample and savor this precious memory of mine! What was a special childhood tradition you enjoyed at Christmas? Tell me about it!
Two updates on two important features of my life. We thought our cat, Jesse, was gone twice in the last few weeks, but he’s the miracle cat for sure. Also, I’ve turned the corner on my new book! I will release it in e-book format in the next couple weeks and the paperback at the end of September!
Two Updates: Jesse, the Miracle Cat
Jesse has lived for twenty years, which is equivalent to 96 years old in people years. He has feline diabetes, and I used to give him three units of insulin twice a day.
On Thursday, August 24, something happened; we think he had a seizure. For the last couple of years, we have had problems with Jesse vomiting, but it increased. To keep track of how often he vomits, I have kept track of it. However, this day was horrible, and it got worse.
First, Jesse vomited in the hallway on a towel I had put down because the had vomited there before. I cleaned it up, but left the towel until the carpet dried. He had one episode in the kitchen, peeing on the carpet in the living room and liquid coming out of him. He howled, an eerie sound from the depth of his being. Then I took himself outside on the patio, and that’s where he had something like an epileptic episode. He had tremors. His eyes glazed over, and I had to hold him so he wouldn’t hurt himself because he was rolling around. He lost control of his bowels. He howled again! I shed lots of tears. Then he came out of it for a few days, but again it changed.
Then Jesse had two consecutive days, vomiting twice each day, so on Tuesday, August 29, I called the vet and took him in. They decided to keep him over night, and the vet talked to me about the possibility of euthanizing him. I decided I had to do at least one more thing: a night in the hospital might help.
And it did. They fed him intravenously and did numerous tests. Several problems arose for him besides the diabetes: pancreatitis, low potassium, and low red blood count. That’s a lot!
After a restless night, Wednesday morning, we took his insulin up to the hospital. At this point, we didn’t know if he was dead or alive. At Lin’s suggestion the night before, I had prepared myself that he was dead, but Lin kept a positive mindset. He was alive! Later Wednesday afternoon, the vet decided one more night in the hospital, so I picked him up about 5:00 PM on Thursday. The tech then gave me some changes for him: one unit of insulin once a day and wet cat food for diabetic cats. ONE UNIT! I thought that was a mistake, but she repeated it then and when I called to check Friday morning. So the over-dosage of insulin possibly could have caused all the vomiting. Oh, diabetic cats are a mystery for sure! Lots of tears shed again!
When we got home, Jesse was weak, yet looked a lot better than when I took him in. I had to get a shot for him and give it to him on Friday for the low blood count. He has eaten like a starving maniac! So, maybe the dry cat food for diabetic cats was part of the problem, too! Who knows?
Needless to say, he is doing great! Yesterday I spent the majority of the morning and early afternoon outside, and he joined me—Lin’s garden is his favorite place on earth! I’ll keep you posted on his recovery!
Two Updates: My New Book
I said I had two updates, so here’s the second one. It might appear odd, but I’m working on a Christmas book now. Sales statistics show people buy Christmas books starting in September and I’m running behind schedule.
So here’s cover and subtitle reveal for you! The title came easily; I’ve labored considerably over the subtitle. Last week, I surveyed my book coach and his group, and they were split! They felt either would work! For the last few days, I did a survey on Facebook and came up with one a little ahead of the other. So here’s the winner:
As a self-published author, I have the opportunity to do all the legwork behind the scene of creating the book. Yes, I write it, but I also design the interior in different formats: paperback and e-book. I also organize all the launch promotions and do all the marketing. What a daunting task, but this time, I have had the help of Derek Doepker, my book coach, and his coaching group.
Finally, these two updates stirred my life up this week. Hopefully Jesse stays well and continues to improve, and I finish all the needed tasks to get my book finished, uploaded and available to you, the readers!
Grab my e-book at the book launch price of $1.99 for a limited time:
How about a sneak peek inside my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir? Can I entice you to buy it with a sampling of it?
Chapter 18: Give away a Christmas Tree?
Giveaway a Christmas tree? Why would anyone do that? When I first came to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1991 as a middle school teacher, I started a tradition in my classroom. Each year, I put up a Christmass tree, then gave it away to one of my students before our Christmas vacation.
Early in December, I’d have my students put their names in a hat, and we’d draw the lucky winner. I taught in a low-income school and many of my students’ families struggled with the basics. A Christmas tree was a luxury and a fresh-cut one, a novelty.
In 1991, and throughout the time I taught, we could still put up a Christmas tree in our classrooms, and I dressed in my Christmas out!ts, starting the first Monday after Advent. Today, I know that teachers can’t do this, which makes me sad. That Christmas tree always brought a touch of magic into my classroom—the piñon pine smell, the twinkling lights, and the popcorn chain we threaded together in each class and laughed over.
Often, I would turn down the overhead lights and read to my classes with just the Christmas tree lights on. What a precious memory!
Because I put the tree up at the beginning of December, the anticipation grew about the contest. I teased them often with the possibility: who would win? All students were eligible!
I will never forget that first year of seeing the lucky student whose name I drew. He was the winner! Shocked, he and several students helped me un-decorate the tree after our class Christmas party. Then he convinced two friends to help him carry the tree home. As I looked out the window and watched this funny parade, the smiles and excitement the group exhibited warmed my heart. Even though they were middle-schoolers, they treasured this fresh-cut tree. After that first year, I knew I had found a grand tradition to continue!
HOW DID I come about having an extra tree each year to give away?
After I moved to Albuquerque, I often went home to Colorado for Thanksgiving. Like I mentioned before, my parents had a family ranch in southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico. Growing up, we went out to the ranch and cut our own tree each year.
During that weekend home, we went out to the ranch and cut down three trees—one for my folks, one for my home, and one for my classroom. My parents loved the idea of providing a Christmas tree for my classroom and they loved the gifting to a student.
I loved those trips out to our ranch, cutting down a fresh tree. Dad, Mom, and I made a great excursion out of it. On previous trips out there, we had already decided where the best piñon pine trees were. During these years, Dad started the sawing, but because of his breathing issues and his age, I usually helped. And yes, we always got sap on our hands—what a delicious smell, but a sticky mess!
I felt privileged to give away a Christmas tree to one of my students, and this tradition continued for many years. What a rewarding experience it was!
Is a Christmas tree giveaway something special? I thought it was, especially after seeing my students’ smiles. Have you ever given a Christmas tree away? If so, what was the effect?
Larada Horner-Miller, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, (2023): 85-88.
I hope this sneak peek whetted your appetite for more of my stories, poems, and memories! Have you ever given a Christmas tree away?
News, News, News!
~ONE DAY LEFT FOR FREE! Today’s the last day to get Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir FREE on Amazon. Click here!
Moving parts of publishing an e-book—so many for sure! My new e-book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir, has made it through the ringer, available now! This week I struggled with the process and succeeded. Let me share it with you!
Eagerly on Monday, first, I created the new e-book space on KDP, an affiliate of Amazon. I filled in all the required information, which I prepared for a couple of days ahead of time. Lots of research goes into launching a new book for keywords and categories. When a customer searches on Amazon, their search engines use keywords and book categories to find the book—super important for the sales of a book!
Then I uploaded the manuscript to KDP, excited I was finally there. Anticipation about this day had hovered over me for weeks. KDP has an online previewer, thank God! First, I realized I had the Copyright page in the wrong place—after the Table of Contents, not before it. So, in Vellum, the program I use to create my books, I moved it forward one page, but then had to upload the document again. Whew! All these moving parts!
Then, I have several pictures in the book and the placement in Vellum wasn’t true to size. So, I resized and resized and resized, going back and forth several times between KDP and Vellum. Finally, it looked good.
On Tuesday morning, I asked my book coach and group about using my ex-husband’s name in my book. None of what I wrote about him was derogatory, but I have become super cautious about using people’s names.
The solutions they offered: change his name or call him and ask permission. I haven’t talked to him in over forty years, so calling was out of the question. My husband, Lin, had offered the same advice while we discussed this in the hot tub on Monday night.
So somehow, while I was resizing the pictures, I forgot about changing his name in the revisions Tuesday night. Good thing I brought it up to my book coach.
On Wednesday morning, I knew I had to change my first husband’s name. I researched safe names to use for men characters in a book and came up with Alex. Lin came upstairs to my computer, and I told him what I was doing. He came up with a great idea: use a Christmas name. So, I researched Christmas names: Joseph, Nicholas, Rudolph, etc. Our decision: Rudolph!
So that ended the saga! I uploaded the new version of the e-book on Wednesday afternoon and it was ready for purchase shortly!
Finally, I’m waiting for the final cover of the print copy with the description, my picture and brief biography and the ISBN number. Hopefully, it will go smoothly! You never know! Moving parts!!
Did you know all the moving parts of publishing a book? If so, what was your experience?
A negative comment about the Flippo book I wrote—what? Yes, and I’m proud of how I handled it!
Last week, at Hot August Nights Plus Square Dance Weekend in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a woman hung around my book table Saturday afternoon, especially looking at the table with the biography I wrote about Marshall Flippo. So, I walked over to see if she had bought his biography.
When asked if she bought it, she replied, “Yes.” Nothing more.
So I asked her eagerly, “What did you think?” I’ve had such a great response from readers in the square dance world, I wasn’t prepared.
“It wasn’t written very well.”
Surprised, I said, “I’m the author.” She stared at me, unblinking, like I was from another planet. That shocked me she didn’t know I wrote the book. My picture is on the book—I haven’t changed that much since 2020. I have an unusual name—come on! Her partner joined us and I asked him if he had bought a copy. He had helped me with information on one specific event in the book.
He said, “Not yet,” which surprised me.
I said, “Well, your partner has.”
Then he said, “I’ll read hers.”
As this conversation continued with no more reference about the Flippo book, I stayed calm and collected which is unusual for me. Usually, I react—get defensive, get angry— but I didn’t. I listened to my internal dialogue: “Look at the cover. Look at the book awards.” But then I realized I didn’t need to defend it. I watched her stand there, offering no explanation, so, I circled back to the book.
“So, what was wrong with Flippo’s biography?” I asked sincerely wanting her feedback.
“It was in pieces—scattered” is all she said—nothing more. I waited for her explanation. She looked away and had nothing else to say. We danced together for the rest of the weekend and I quickly forgot this incident. But on Tuesday morning, I retold it to my book coaching group, and it generated a lot of discussion. My book coach shared his wisdom, “Take neither the positive 5-star review or the negative 1-star review to heart. Stay somewhere in the middle.”
As a writer, I know not everyone will like my books. I’ve written six books in a variety of genres on less popular topics like country living, grief and losing your parents, surviving the pandemic and the biography of a square dance caller. These are not hot topics—no sex, drug and rock ‘n roll, yet I’m proud of each book.
A friend of ours told Lin I should write more steamy books and they’d sell better—sorry, folks! Not my topic!
So, the take away from this incident for me:
I kept my composure when she made her comment and then asked a probing question to try to get clarifying information to help me as a writer.
When I first released the Flippo book in 2020, someone emailed there were too many typo errors in it and she wouldn’t buy it. I had worked hard on it for three years. I had it professional edited, and this comment crushed me, so I didn’t respond. With some distance and time from it, I realized she probably had just thumbed through it and didn’t realize I had used Flippo’s Texas accent in his responses, so it would like look words were spelled incorrectly. But since then, I have lost her email, so I couldn’t explain or ask her any questions. I just reacted—hurt!
I realized how blessed I’ve been over the last nine years to receive so much positive feedback about each of my books
Obviously, this isn’t the first negative I’ve gotten nor will it be the last, but I felt it worthy to write about.
For readers, I have some suggestions:
Review any book you read and you don’t have to give every book a 5-star review
Email the author with your thoughts about the positives and negatives so we can have a personal exchange and possibly grow from the experience
Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion. I love each of my books in a different way—they’re my babies—yet the Flippo biography has a special place in my heart. I felt it a privilege to spend the hours interviewing Flip and then felt proud of the job I did in writing it. By writing it, I recorded and honored his place in square dance history.
In fact, if you are one of the people who reviewed this book on Amazon, thanks so much. If you bought it and haven’t reviewed it, now is the time to do so!
We danced the weekend away at the 17th Annual Hot August Nights! Thanks to a fantastic staff who kept our feet moving: Mike & Lisa Seastrom, caller and Mitchell & Chelsea Thompson, cuer.
Friday, August 18, 2023
We started dancing Friday afternoon at 3:00 PM with an hour “Welcome Dance.” People have just arrived from travels far and near and five squares jumped onto the floor to get their feet wet!
Our annual Friday Night Beach Party had beach balls sailing around the dance hall. Instead of traditional square dance attire, dancers wore anything appropriate for the beach. The relaxed but fun-loving atmosphere set the tone for the weekend. Mike’s high energy calling and songs kept the dancers hopping and Mitchell’s cuing had the round dancers enjoying every song. We ended the night with the traditional root beer floats and lots of casual conversation, a time to get acquainted with dancers you met on the dance floor.
Saturday, August 19, 2023
On Saturday morning, the round dancers came out for the round dance workshop to learn a level four cha-cha that kept us moving.
Then Mitchell and Chelsea offered an introduction to rounds, and the dancers learned how to waltz.
For lunch, a group of dancers went to Millie’s Restaurant close by to visit and enjoy their delicious food. We had the pleasure of talking about square and rounding in Colorado with Mitchell & Chelsea—always a treat to hear what’s happening in other areas.
Then Saturday afternoon we featured square dancing: singing calls, a Plus workshop and then high energy. Whew! My feet ached afterwards, but my heart sang!
Saturday night dancers donned traditional square dance outfits. Our committee wore our gorgeous Hot August Nights outfits.
The fun continued with great square and round dancing. We added a new feature to our evening: Mitchell and Chelsea danced a beautiful demonstration for the enjoyment of the crowd! What a beautiful job they did!
Sunday, August 20, 2023
On Sunday morning, we ended the event with a Trail Out dance and had five squares again of hardy dancers. Traditional on Sunday, we scatter promenade and lots of shenanigans happen. The tradition continued, and we danced to the end!
When the event ended, I received lots of hugs and farewells and thanks for a great weekend. That always makes it worth all the hard work. The committee quickly cleaned up and then had a feedback meeting with Mike and Lisa Seastrom joining us. We considered what went well, what we need to improve on and how to improve. We so appreciate everyone’s input, especially Mike and Lisa.
To end the festive weekend, part of committee and Mike and Lisa headed to Fuddruckers for lunch. During lunch, we enjoyed a heady conversation about square dancing and promoting squares. Again, I appreciated the opportunity to talk about our activity with a national caller.
As always, one highlight of the weekend is the people who attend. We had dancers/friends from Mississippi and Virginia.
We had the short and the tall.
And especially we had Freddie Franks, one of the three original couples who started Hot August Nights in 2007. She lost her husband, Bill, less than a year ago, and it was so good to give her a hug.
Tonight, I’m tired but satisfied. After the pandemic, our attendance has gone down. In 2019, we had twenty-two squares on the floor for Saturday night. In 2022, we had about the same as this year. This year we had ten squares that filled the Albuquerque Square Dance Center with energy and laughter.
And what a committee we have! We worked together smooth like silk, according to Mike Seastrom. It is sheer pleasure to work with this group!
What a success we had! We danced the weekend away! It isn’t always about the head count, but about the laughter and joy on the dancers’ faces. We look forward to next year—we will grow and get it back to where it was!
A hummingbird party continues to rage at our house on the deck where the feeders are. The birds arrived late this summer—first or second week of July. We lamented over their absence in June, but they’re here now and chugging the nectar Lin puts out daily! And what a stunning spectacle!
On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, I selected our deck to lead a meditation group I’m in. Why the deck? So the participants could see the massive amount of hummingbirds we have and join the party. Those tiny birdy rebel-rousers came out in full force.
Our group time together began with: I read my favorite poet, Mary Oliver’s poem, Hummingbirds, for the inspiration part of our time.
By Mary Oliver
The female, and two chicks,
each no bigger than my thumb,
in their pale-green dresses;
then they rose, tiny fireworks,
into the leaves
then they sat down,
each one with dainty, charcoal feet –
each one on a slender branch –
and looked at me.
I had meant no harm,
I had simply
climbed the tree
for something to do
on a summer day,
not knowing they were there,
ready to burst the ledges
of their mossy nest
and to fly, for the first time,
in their sea-green helmets,
with brisk, metallic tails –
each tulled wing,
with every dollop of flight,
drawing a perfect wheel
across the air.
Then, with a series of jerks,
they paused in front of me
and, dark-eyed, stared –
as though I were a flower –
like three tosses of silvery water,
they were gone.
in the crown of the tree,
I went to China,
I went to Prague;
I died, and was born in the spring;
I found you, and loved you, again.
Later the darkness fell
and the solid moon
like a white pond rose.
But I wasn’t in any hurry.
Likely I visited all
the shimmering, heart-stabbing
questions without answers
before I climbed down.
At first, my reading of the poem featuring them chased off all of those hummers. They flee from any sound we make. During the meditation part and the quiet, they came back in full force—dipping and diving. One vied for a position near the feeder, then another ran him off—probably an ornery rufous. I love the collective sound they make—probably their wings flapping, “10-15 times a second. Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, and even upside down.”
Is all the sound from their wings flapping or do they sing? “While most birdwatchers can identify a Hummingbird by the furious buzzing of their wings, they also have a series of calls, songs, and vocalizations to communicate with each other.”
The herd of hummingbirds and Oliver’s poem inspired me to write the following haikus about hummingbirds and tree climbing:
You are the Lord of
The dainty hummingbird gift!
They make me laugh so!
Climb a tree at my
Age? Why not? Discover life!
Nature heals my heart!
Come and sit on our
Deck to see hummingbirds feed.
Sweet nectar lures them.
I can visit the
Whole world, sitting in a tree.
My deep concerns melt.
Clouds hang over the
Sandias. Hummingbirds dance.
A picturesque scene!
New Mexico True!
(I had trouble deciding on the third line. Which do you like?)
The hummingbirds’ migration.
Thanks for stopping here!
The thirsty crowd has
Arrived! Hummingbirds party!
Be quiet and watch!
Yes, living in the mountains has many blessings, but these fanciful little hummingbirds have to be the best. They continue to come—hopefully for the rest of August. Yesterday, Lin prepared two gallons of nectar which according to some formula he uses, means he fed 1000 hummingbirds yesterday—wow! Also, he only plants flowers and plants in his garden like penstemons, to feed and attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies!
Finally, yes, when they gather to party and drink the nectar, the hummingbirds disturb the quiet, but naturally. As I sit and type this, those hungry little lovelies gather at the feeders I can see. Two feeders need filling, but there are ten spread out on the deck, and Lin has a schedule of keeping them full.
I love to sit outside and watch their maneuvers and marvel at their speed and antics. Do hummingbirds party at your house? Do you feed any? many? Let me know! Join the hummingbird party!
I’d like to leave you with a treat—a video Lin took last week! Let the party begin!
Two weekends of dancing: I love it. Today my feet hurt and my lips curl into a smile, remembering the fun we had at USA West Square Dance Convention and Hi Country Weekend. Both offered lots of dancing and both differed, but rewarded us in a variety of ways.
First of the Two Weekend Dance Events: USA West, Albuquerque, New Mexico
From July 26-29, 2023, 450 dancers came from all over the USA and other countries to enjoy USA West. This square and round dance festival began in 1997 in Denver, Colorado. It occurs anytime the National Square Dance Convention is east of the Mississippi. Since 1997, it has been held every year except three years—one year was for COVID.
This year, Albuquerque’s own Randy and Lorraine Pratt organized this event and did a great job.
During the convention, I sold my books and had a significant response. While selling them, I rekindled relationships with many dancers I hadn’t seen in years. What a splendid chance to see friend/dancers!
During USA West, the day began at 10:00 AM and ended at 10:00 PM, with After Parties that lasted until 11:00 PM or later. You can see that many square and round dancers love to party!
Each of the four evenings, we danced the night away to the possibility of 38 callers and 21 cuers from all over the country and Canada. We followed one caller we love around from hall to hall. That’s the option you have at a big event like this.
Often, we found our favorite high energy dancers and danced a fun square.
Also, we thoroughly enjoyed several exhibition groups that performed:
California Heritage Dancers
River City Riders
High Country Dancers
The Colorado Dancers
A couple of these groups highlighted the history of square dancing. One group, the River City Riders, had a fun presentation, with the dancers appearing to be horseback.
After so much dancing, we ended the weekend with tired feet and happy hearts! We thoroughly enjoyed the first of the two weekend dance events. USA West was a smashing success, yet we wanted more!
Second of the Two Weekend Dance Events: Hi Country Weekend, Pueblo, Colorado
At the USA West Trail-In dance on Wednesday, the Hi Country Weekend organizers asked if we planned to attend their dance coming up. They regularly attend our festival, Hot August Nights, and one said, “You know, we support you regularly.”
So, on August 3, 2023, Thursday afternoon, Lin and I headed north with a detour to Branson, Colorado, to spend a night there and saw my brother. That evening, we put a window air conditioner in my house in Branson. Afterwards Lin and I visited our 94-year-old friend who always is a joy to see.
Then, on Friday, August 4, we drove to Trinidad and met my brother for lunch and shopped around Trinidad. Afterwards, away we went to Pueblo for Hi Country Weekend for the weekend. Each evening had a different theme: Hawaiian Friday night and Cowboy on Saturday.
Each evening started with thirty minutes of round dancing, then thirty minutes of Plus dancing. The rest of the evening they had SSD (Social Square Dancing) dancing, with Plus dancing and rounds sprinkled throughout. So see—the focus was SSD dancing.
I really enjoyed their unique vision for a festival with the focus on SSD dancing. SSD is a relatively new program that focuses on the most popular fifty Mainstream calls. An entire weekend dedicated to a beginner level of dancing! Never once during the weekend was I bored as an experienced dancer. How about that! Other event planners should take note!
Unlike USA West, this event had two featured callers: Joe Saltel and Mike Hogan and a cuer: Peter and Chama Gomez. What a talented staff! The callers mixed up the SSD program so well, I never felt bored. This part of Colorado has several new SSD dancers that had a blast at their first festival.
Friday night we attended the “After Party” in one of the committee’s hotel room, overflowing with food and drinks and dancers. One tradition of this group is a “Bed Picture.” They get as many people as possible onto the bed in one of their hotel rooms for a selfie and they post the picture on Facebook. Their record is 24 people, but we only got 17! I always laugh as we jam as many people as possible on a hotel bed.
On Saturday morning, we took part in a challenging Plus workshop and then headed out to get gas and wash the car. We returned to the dance hall for a delicious barbecue lunch. Peter and Chama had a great workshop on Saturday afternoon, focusing on lower level round dances and then a jive workshop. We thoroughly enjoyed Peter’s excellent cuing and his hilarious sense of humor all weekend.
What a wonderful group of dancers come from southern Colorado—so warm and welcoming. Plus, high energy who thoroughly enjoy dancing and each other.
The second festival of our two weekend spree has left me exhausted and satisfied!
Two weekends of amazing dancing! Two weekends in a row—fantastic for those of us who love to dance! Each satisfied my dance needs, and each made my heart smile! In two weeks, we host our dance festival, Hot August Nights, in Albuquerque! So, yes, more dancing, more laughter and more friends in our near future!
Do you square dance? Dance of any kind? Do you dance this often, two weekends in a row?
Revising my Christmas book in July seems absurd, but I have been. You see—to get a book out for the holiday season, now is the time! I have been working on it for a couple of months! Here’s what’s happening!
Last year, I researched popular e-book genres and found out that travel books and Christmas books were on the list. I thought, “Wow! I have both hidden away!” Then I let it go!
So in the early spring of this year, I researched the best time to publish a Christmas book on one of my favorite writing/publishing apps, Publisher Rocket. I thought it would be October or November, giving me plenty of time to get it finished. No, I found out I needed to get it out into the hands of holiday readers by August/September (see chart below).
This app has guided me in a variety of ways as a self-publisher, and I respect Dave Chesson, who created this app and this helpful website: Kindlepreneur.com
So, with this in mind, I moved forward, contacting my editor I’ve used for my last three books. But I didn’t hear from her, and I was still suffering from neuralgia from the shingles I had in April 2022. Being on pain medicine for the neuralgia fogged my brain and my ambition, so I let it slip by for a month or two.
When I finally heard from my editor, physically I felt better, so I created a timeline with her: I sent my manuscript off to her on June 19, 2023. She sent back her critiqued version on July 12. Then I read her email comments and highlighted specific suggestions. After that, I went through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, enjoying her comments and accepting her revisions.
She suggested I write a couple of adult Christmas memories because I had just a few in the manuscript. That spurred me on to write four new chapters, enjoying the remembrances. Then I sent it back to her and am waiting for her final comments.
During this time my editor had my manuscript, I focused on the book cover and description. I paid 100 Covers to do the cover (see cover, but title isn’t exact).
I paid Bryan Cohen’s Best Page Forward to do the description. Gladly, I have finals for both of them. I need to tweak both before finalizing them.
I have wrestled with the title using a website, my book coach, and coaching group to help me. This is my title and subtitle so far: Hair on Fire: My Heartwarming & Humorous Christmas Memoir.
But here are other options for the subtitle. What do you think?
A Christmas Memoir
A Heartwarming Christmas Memoir
A Heartwarming and Humorous Christmas Memoir
A Joyful, Heartwarming and Humorous Christmas Memoir
Hair on Fire: A Head-Warming Christmas Tale
Now I am waiting, waiting, waiting for my editor’s final response. Then I complete my editor’s suggested revisions in August. I love this back-and-forth process. She assured me it would be back by August 8-10. When the manuscript looks exactly the way I want it to, then I use Vellum, a Mac app, to create the interior of the book. Finally, I upload it to Amazon and various other e-book distributors.
Holding the proof copy in my hands always gives me such a warm sensation—I almost have to pinch myself to see if it’s a dream. If it looks good, it’s available to buy.
400 blog posts: that’s incredible! That means approximately 400,000 words I’ve written over the last ten years! That’s a lot of words, so let’s look at what all that means.
During the first three years, I didn’t have a weekly commitment to writing a post, but in 2018, I became more regular. Also, I didn’t include photos then either. From the very beginning, I created a spreadsheet to keep track of the topics for the year and an extra sheet for possible future topics. I also have recorded the number of visitors and views for the month and the monthly average—as a tech person, I’ve always loved statistics.
Over the years, my topics varied from book business topics like marketing or any of my six books or audiobook or three cookbooks. I love to write about our travels and the unique experiences I have had. I also like to write about life and its happenings. One of my favorite life topics is pets, especially my dear cat Jesse and people love to read about him.
I self-published my first book, This Tumbleweed Landed, and studied all I could about self-publishing. In my research, I found blogs mentioned repeatedly, so I thought I should jump in. So, on May 6, 2014, I started with, “Meet Larada Today!” That year I wrote sporadically six times, jumping from the end of May to August to October, November and December. I wrote two posts in May, then one in each of those four months. Not too consistent. All posts talked about my book and book publication. That’s what I thought I should write about to get more followers interested in the same topics as me.
I wrote more consistently—sixteen blog posts which ended up being about once a month. Again, most topics addressed book issues, but my personal life seeped in. I featured my new book, When Will Papa Get Home? and the first of my three cookbooks, From Grannie’s Kitchen Cookbook, Volume 1, which I had published the previous year.
I reverted to 2014’s pace and only wrote six posts. I let the first of the year escape and started in May, then dropped off until November. Then I wrote the rest of my posts in November and December. Here’s where my topic choice changed drastically—these posts talk about my life mostly with a couple of writing ideas. Because of my inconsistency, I didn’t write about the next cookbook I published the previous year, From Grannie’s Kitchen Cookbook, Volume 2.
Something happened and had more of a commitment to writing regularly. I wrote twenty-two posts which average out to be a little less than every other week, but the topic changed again. The first part of the year I wrote about my writing business mostly, but the last part I wrote about our trip to England and Ireland. For the trip section, I described each travel day in a separate post, so that encouraged me to write weekly to cover the trip. I neglected to write about my third cookbook, From Grannie’s Kitchen Cookbook, Volume 3, that was published the previous year.
I continued the England and Ireland trip’s daily description and started a system that year of writing weekly. This year I wrote fifty-four posts—my best year so far! So I expanded my topics coming up with regular yearly topics like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I also added a major topic that has become a focus: square dancing! I added so much about square dancing because I was interviewing Marshall Flippo in preparation to write his biography.
I had my largest year so far of writing blog posts—sixty-six posts! A couple of life events caused this increase. I continued interviewing Marshall, but he died this year. I wrote about that. Also, this year we went on a British Isles cruise, so I had lots of travel stories to share. During the holidays, I wrote two posts weekly as well.
My most popular post was “Why Knit?” with 1939 views. What an increase about a topic I love!
The pandemic hit and I wrote sixty-four posts. During the first part of the year, I shared about our trip to Costa Rica. Then I used my blog to deal with my feelings during the pandemic but those posts were delayed about a month because of another trip, our trip to Spain. We came home March 8, 2020 and the virus exploded there on the March 9. I spent the rest of the year’s blog mostly on the pandemic and, these posts inspired my last book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? which I published in 2021. in 2020, I published the Flippo book: Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo. I sent up a monthly schedule to write something interesting about Flippo, his biography or something about his life. I continued that practice in 2021 and part of 2022 but not as consistently.
I joined a Blog Challenge in November to blog daily! What a feat that was! I ended up writing eighty posts that year, my best year so far! I learned a lot from the challenge because part of my commitment was to visit other bloggers in the challenge, so I incorporated several features I saw on other blogs. I prepared for the challenge by creating a spreadsheet for promoting my books and poetry.
Finally, I had the rhythm and regular weekly habit of writing my blog post down. This year I wrote fifty-seven posts. I had to write about the war in Ukraine and my feelings about it. On April 4, 2022, I broke out with shingles on the right side of my forehead, eyelid, cheek and my scalp which altered my writing life totally, except for my blog. I consistently did my weekly blog post throughout 2022, as I dealt with neuralgia which is unbelievable nerve pain. I continued writing about Flippo, the usual holidays and haikus slipped into many posts. In the fall, we did two cruises, but I only wrote about the first one. Lin and I came home in early December from the second one with COVID which hampered my writing again. But again, I wrote my weekly blog post.
So far this year, I have written thirty blog posts. I tried a couple of different focuses this year. In March for Women’s History Month, I wrote about women in my life. What a joy that was! I interviewed a 94-year-old friend, and it has been one of the most popular posts this year (412 views). Then in April, I focused on National Poetry Month, highlighting my poetry and some of my favorite poets. You can see one of my poetry blog posts has the most popular views for the year. In May, we went to Scotland, so once again, I focused on the stories from that trip, grouping three days together in one post.
So, these 400,000 words in my 400 blog posts, in book language, equal 5-6 full-length books! That’s an amazing figure for sure. Each week, I look forward to sitting in front of my computer and sharing my thoughts with you! That’s why I do it!
Beautiful flowers and laughter! Last Saturday, July 8, 2023, we held our second annual Garden Party. We played garden and flower music while friends toured Lin’s beautiful creation. Raves abounded for Lin’s hard work. What a glorious day! And the weather cooperated—showers in the morning and a partly cloudy afternoon! Perfect!
This all started after the pandemic, and some friends wanted to come and see Lin’s garden. His pictures on Facebook piqued their curiosity because they saw how he had enlarged it over the pandemic. In reality, he expanded it 2/3 during this time of staying home, adding a pond and lots of decorative rock to landscape extensive areas to help control weeds. So, we had our first garden party last year, and it turned out fantastic.
Preparation for 2023 Garden Party
Right after last year’s success, we didn’t hesitate. “Let’s repeat it.” This year, we started planning early. A lot of Lin’s work in the garden in the spring and early summer focused on a completion date before the “Garden Party.” At first, we had two dates picked: June 17 or July 8. July 8 won because Lin wanted more time to prepare things, and he wanted more flowers blooming than last year. Last year, we had it on July 23 and several had already bloomed.
Lin worked hard from early spring until the day before the event, finishing a path around the back of the garden the Thursday before the big day.
Our preparation for our refreshments included cutting back on the number of watermelon we bought. Last year, we bought six and ended up giving whole watermelons away at the end. This year three sufficed. I also baked three batches of brownies. For drinks, we had flavored Pellegrino drinks and ice-cold water and lemonade.
Last year, a friend said, “You’ve got to play Ricky Nelson’s ‘Garden Party’,” so I looped it on my iPad and played it all afternoon. No one complained. For this year, I had been googling other garden and flower songs. Saturday morning, Lin asked me to add six or seven to “Garden Party,” so I did. What an eclectic list I came up with:
“Garden Party” – Ricky Nelson
“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” – Lynn Anderson
“English Country Garden” – Jimmie Rodgers
“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – Neil Diamond
“Octopus Garden” – The Beatles
“Edelweiss” – Julie Andrews & Cast from Sound of Music
“In the Garden” – Elvis Presley
“The Flowers Will Never Die” – Elton John
When our party ended, we had about thirty-five garden lovers come by. What a treat seeing people wandering around Lin’s beautiful creation, oohing and aahing. When time allowed, many people received personal tours with Lin explaining the design and naming flowers. Then, after touring, they gathered in the shade for refreshments and visiting. We had people from different clubs we belong to and work friends of mine. So, many visitors didn’t know each other, but their garden interests brought them together.
Before the event, I wrote several haikus, so I shared a hard copy with our visitors.
LARADA’S HAIKU ABOUT LIN’S GARDEN
Could this be heaven?
Birds, chirping, flowers blooming.
What could be better?
Red, pink, purple, green,
Yellow, and peach flowers bloom!
I could dance for joy!
The world the gardener makes
has plants I have never known.
Lin creates magic!
Lin’s garden is an
oasis to rest my soul!
His flowers bathe me!
Lin has created
a sanctuary for us.
Welcome, come join us!
My words above don’t show the splendor of Lin’s garden enough for me, so here’s a video and a collage of pictures. Enjoy!
Here’s the video tour of Lin’s garden:
Lin’s Flower Beds
SomeLin’s Gorgeous Individual Flowers
I’m one lucky lady to wake up in the morning and see this paradise! Most summer mornings, I walk around with my cat and marvel at all the beautiful flowers. I know how much work Lin puts into it! Thank you Lin!
Do you have a garden? Are you married to a gardener?
Our tour ended in Glasgow, but we extended a couple of days to see the sights and visit a friend. Then it was home. Sadly, I said goodbye to Scotland after such a lovely trip, and couched in my farewell, “Until next time!”
May 20—along the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, then on to Glasgow
Before Glasgow, we spent the morning at Loch Lomond on a relaxing boat ride around the lake. I had heard the song “Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” my whole life, yet never knew the story behind it.
Our tour guide, John, shared the song told the story of a couple captured by the English. She was the only one released as a warning to the other Scots if they rebelled.
I also found the following explanation:
“The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” is about two Scottish soldiers who were imprisoned on the Scottish border. One of them was going to be set free, but the other one was going to be executed. In Scottish legend, anyone who dies outside Scotland takes the “low road” back to their homeland, where they will finally be at peace.
In this song, the doomed soldier is comforting the soldier who will be set free. He tells them that “you’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll be in Scotland before ye”.
As well as this, he recalls a life full of love and happiness. He harkens back to his time by the “bonnie banks of Loch Lomond” where he met his wife, and he comes to peace with the fact that his “broken heart ken nae second Spring again” – meaning that he will never return to the loch to be with his true love, although he is going to return in spirit.”
The misty morning, such a stereotypical Scottish day, accentuated our time on the Loch Lomond—but not freezing!
When the boat ride ended, Charlotte, one of our newfound friends on the tour, told me she planned to dip her toes in the lake because of our Scot heritage, so I joined her! When we got off the boat, we found a small pier near, took our shoes and socks off and ventured to sit down without falling into the loch. And we sat, and dipped. The water was icy!
So, I’m hoping that legend says by doing that I will return!
As we neared Glasgow, I felt a collective sigh of sadness for this amiable group. During the morning, I had gathered email addresses to invite fellow travelers to a dedicated Facebook I created. We didn’t want the experience to end.
However, we had our farewell dinner that evening, but the setting didn’t work. We sat in individual booths that housed four, but this divided the group.
May 21—Glasgow—Transferred from hotel
This day, we transferred from the hotel booked by the tour to the Point A hotel, one I found and booked for the four of us. Yes, it was a deal for downtown Glasgow, but the Spartan accommodation surprised us. It had instructions on the wall that helped us figure it out.
Where was the closest? The three hooks behind the door. What to do with our luggage? Open them up and push them under the bed. A small writing desk swung down from the wall and a stool for a seat. Oh, well! You couldn’t beat the price.
The rest of the day, we explored Glasgow. We ended up in the Molly Malone Pub for a couple of hours, enjoying the atmosphere and friendly Glaswegian. Then we ended the day with a cribbage game in the Common Area at our hotel.
May 22—Glasgow—Walking Tour & Dinner with Eleanor & Jim
For our first full day in Glasgow, we had a delicious breakfast, then a ten-minute walk to the meeting place for our Medieval Walking Tour with Kevin. What a tour we had! We wove our way through downtown Glasgow, and Kevin showed us historical sights many Glaswegians regularly pass every day and don’t know about. During the tour, we learned about grave robbers. We saw the St. Mungo Cathedral with its darkened wall from years of smoke. Also, Kelvin often repeated an interesting rhyme associated with Glasgow’s coat of arms:
Here’s the bird that never flew. Here’s the tree that never grew. Here’s the bell that never rang. Here’s the fish that never swam.
On the sides of many buildings, we saw massive murals.
That evening, we caught the train and rode ten minutes to Eleanor and Jim. The station and schedule was daunting, but we figured it out.
Before our trip, I visually connected with Eleanor in an International Meditation group I joined in 2022 and prior to that, in an Advent study by text in 2021. We became fast friends immediately, and I was so excited to tell her about our trip to Scotland. As plans unfolded, she invited Lin and I and Jerry and Mary Beth to dinner at her house!
What a delightful evening we had! Her husband, Jim, prepared a delicious dinner, starting with Cullen Skink, haddock and leek soup, better than what we had in Ullapool. We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the meal, the camaraderie, and the conversation. After dinner, Jim pulled out his guitar and entertained us. We also found out that Eleanor does Scottish set dancing, which is like our square dancing—maybe its predecessor. What a memorable evening had!
May 23–Touring Glasgow
The next day, Lin and I met Jim and Eleanor and took the subway to the University of Glasgow, Jim’s alma mater.
First, Jim and Eleanor showed us the Memorial Chapel where they had been married. What a special moment! Then we had a delightful morning walking around the campus and had a serendipitous moment. As a retired teacher, I wanted to see a classroom. I stuck my head in one only to find a campus guard and he scolded me for being there. I let him know I was a retired teacher from the US and only wanted to see a classroom.
He quickly changed his tune and became our tour guide. We crossed a courtyard and entered a beautiful classroom with wood-paneled walls, curved worn bench seats, a massive desk in the of the room and so much history.
Our next stop, the Kelvingrove Museum, surprised us with an organ concert in the main area, so we stopped, listened and enjoyed the beautiful music. Then it was on to the Salvador Dalí painting, “Christ Saint John on the Cross,” our primary destination here at the museum.
“One of Dalí s most famous paintings is Christ of St John on the Cross. (1951) Considered his finest religious painting, it now hangs in Scotland’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery, in Glasgow’s West End and has been there ever since its purchase by the galleries director in 1952. Painted in 1951, Dalí’s iconic painting has become one of the best-loved in the entire collection, amongst Glaswegians and visitors.”
I marveled at being that close to a Dali painting, and this one so amazing—Christ floating!
From there we met back with Jerry and Mary Beth at Molly Malone’s pub for our last time all together, and a delightful dinner. We ended early so we could go back to our hotel and pack up and prepare for our early departure the next day.
May 24—Flew home
The next day our Scottish tour ended with our uneventful flight home—always a good thing! This blog gave me a nostalgic look back at a trip of a lifetime. I hope you’ve enjoyed my wandering down “the country roads of Scotland,” and maybe it ignited a desire in you to visit Scotland, my new found home!
Stop! This week, on June 27, 2023, I celebrated my 70th birthday, and I have interrupted my Scotland trip-focus with a celebration of me!
A Poem I Wrote About My Birth
In my book, This Tumbleweed Landed, I wrote a poem about my birth story. I don’t know about you, but I heard this story often, and it naturally became a poem. Key phrases throughout the poem I heard from my parents frequently and swelled with pride. The repeating of my birth story cemented in my soul and spirit how much my parents wanted and celebrated me. Enjoy!
A Ring to Celebrate My Heritage and Me
Last week, I went to Branson, Colorado to visit our family ranch, my brother and friends. On Tuesday, my brother walked into my house, moved to the breakfast bar and handed me a small unwrapped box, saying, “This is your birthday present from me and my kids.” That’s the way he does his gifts—no wrapping, but a lot of thought and love put into the gift.
I gasped—it was a ring with reversible stones. On one side was my dad’s brand and on the other was my granddad’s brand! But in my fuzzy stupor from the pain pills I’m on, I thought it was a slide for a necklace.
Fast forward to Thursday, we went to the Walmart in Trinidad and then had lunch to celebrate my upcoming birthday. While in Walmart I looked at silver necklaces for the slide.
After shopping, I said to my brother while eating, “I looked at necklaces for the slide you all gave me at Walmart, but I found nothing. I’ll go to a jewelry store in Albuquerque and buy one.”
Not looking at me, he stated, “It’s a ring, not a slide. Remember, I asked you if you wanted to try it on when I gave it to you!”
Again, I gasped! I apologized and asked him about how crazy I must have seemed to him!
More to This Ring Story!
How foolish am I! In March, my brother and I had looked at Calvin Begay’s jewelry in Trinidad, and he had reversible rings like this. I have been a Calvin Begay fan for years! I have one of his rings, and we just finished buying three beautiful expensive pieces from Calvin! It all made sense now.
He added, “It is from me and my three kids. They helped pay for it!”
Quickly, I texted my nephew and two nieces and apologized for the delay in my thanking them and told them the story. They got a big laugh out of it, and Cheryl added, “Lol! Now it will always make you smile for sure!”
Seventy, yes, but this brain fog came from the pain medicine, I know. So, I went to my house in Branson and put the gorgeous ring on and marveled at the fit—like Calvin Begay made for me! LOL! He did!
My brother and niece had texted me early in June with a bet between them on whether her ring finger was bigger or smaller than mine. I thought nothing about it! When I texted my apology, she added, “The story about our ring size being the same was a fake!”
My Delightful Day
After returning home to Tijeras on Monday, I woke up to my husband, Lin, singing happy birthday to me. Then he presented me with a beautiful bouquet, card and a generous gift to help finance my part of our trip to Germany in September.
I had a delightful morning. I led a meditation group on Facebook Live I love and shared my poem about my birth and a Mary Oliver poem about being 70.
I wish I was twenty and in love with live
And still full of beans.
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
The roses are blooming and finding their labor
No adversity to the spirit.
Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea.
Shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch
Though I’m not twenty
and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still
In love with life. And still
Full of beans.
Mary Oliver, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, (2017): 117.
Then I attended a weekly book coaching session on Zoom. Afterwards, Lin took me out to lunch and we had delicious Mexican food in Cedar Crest at Mariachi’s. After lunch, we went next door to the Paris Bakery, and he bought French pastries for dessert.
When we got home, we ate those delicacies, watched a TV show, and I fell asleep—a deep relaxed sleep like I haven’t in a long time.
A Surprise Square Dance Party
Lin had warned me a couple time not to look in the Tahoe—I figured it was more birthday stuff. He also told me he had a hearing aid appointment at 4:30 PM, so we’d have to drive separately to the square dance that night in Albuquerque.
He left while I was sleeping and I slept for over two hours, forcing myself to wake up and get something to eat before the dance.
When I got to the hall about 6:50 PM, Lin met me at the door and I knew something was up. Then I saw a “Happy Birthday” banner over the door. He guided me through the door, and the people said, “Surprise! Happy Birthday!”
Shocked with my mouth open, I realized what this was—a surprise square dance party for me! I received hug after hug and lots of well wishes.
Lin’s smile and twinkling eyes made me laugh—he was proud of himself for getting me—for surprising me! I couldn’t stop smiling.
Lin’s color selection for the tables had sweet, poignant reasons—purple for my mom (her favorite color) and purple for our wedding.
He guided me to the food table to show me a beautiful Pastian’s bakery cake. It had on it, “Happy Birthday Larada, Greg and Lynn.” Greg and Lynn Tillery—a square dance caller in Albuquerque and his wife also turned 70 this year! Lin explained he had invited them to, but he had to tell Greg about the surprise. But Lynn didn’t know.
When they arrived and received greetings from the group, Lynn said, “It’s not my birthday!” So my Lin explained it to her about the surprise for her.
But the surprises weren’t over for me! Someone tapped me on the shoulder and it was Bob Osse, Lin’s best friend, from Arizona. He had his wife on FaceTime to share her greetings. She wanted to join us but had a family tragedy during the week and was attending to that.
Then dear friends Gloria Schwab and Sandra and Gordon from Utah came in. On their way home from the National Square Dance Convention, they contacted Jerry Gilbreath about a Tuesday night dance. He told them about the surprise party! Whew!
During a break between square dance tips, Jerry sang the George Strait song Lin had played to me at our wedding, “I Cross My Heart.” So we got to do a little two-stepping!
Here’s a funny part—I handle contracts for dances at the dance hall. Jerry usually calls on the first and third Tuesdays, but about a month ago he called and asked if he could add a dance on the last Tuesday, June 27, my birthday. Because it was open, I said yes and thought, “Yahoo! We will get to square dance on my birthday!” Little did I know. . .
So, let’s stop here. I’d like to end with some haikus I wrote on my 70th birthday and the wisdom.
Seventy is here.
Yesterday sixty-nine, so?
Does one day change me?
Did I change in my
sleep? A decade older now.
I’m still Larada.
How should I act now?
Does seventy deem me old?
The same and hell, no!
I can’t hold on to
My youth, but I can stay young!
It’s my choice, so YES!
So stop! I will get back to the end of our trip to Scotland next week, but I couldn’t pass this celebration up!
How do you see someone at seventy? Is that old? Do you have a birthday story? Share it with me!