family · My Thoughts

A Mother-in-Law? Two I Cherished!

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

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

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

How Betty Affected Me

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

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

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

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

Massage by my mother-in-law

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

Foot massage by my mother-in-law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? ad

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

Blogging · Blogs · My Thoughts

Eight Years of Blogging—So What?

Eight years of blogging

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

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

During 2021, I addressed the following topics:

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

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

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

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

Visitors vs. Views Stats

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

Views and Visitors

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

My Audience Spans the World in eight years!

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

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

Top Five Favorite posts:

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

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

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

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

Future Plans

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

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

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

Finally

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


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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Flippo’s Last Dance: A Night to Remember!

Flippo's Lasr Dance
Flippo’s Last Dance

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s what he claims.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, I’m leavin’ here a better man

For knowin’ you this way

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

And I’m leavin’ here a better man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Callers:

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

Local Callers:

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

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

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


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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme - Flippo's last dance

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

Coronavirus · Dancing · Goals · My Thoughts

2022, Hello!

2022

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

My Book Business in 2022

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

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

I have five areas of focus this year:

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

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

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

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

2022 Goals

My Personal Life This Year

Dancing

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

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

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

Dancing is my passion and I just have to dance!

Our Ranch

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

Our Response to the coronavirus

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

My Spiritual Life in 2022

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

Finally,

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


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

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

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

Dancing · family · Friends · Holidays · My Thoughts

New Year’s Eve Memories & Shenanigans!

Happy New Year Ev'es

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

New Year’s Eve With Bub & Lela

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

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

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

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

Square & Round Dancing on This Night

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

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

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

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

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

Unique Night for New Year’s Eve

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Few Years on New year’s Eve

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

Finally,

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

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


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

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

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

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

The Day After Christmas—Now What?

Girl sitting sad the day afer Christmas

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

Looking Back

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

Christmas Eve

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

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

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

Christmas Day

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

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

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

The Day After Christmas

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

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

Extended Christmas Season

Twelve Days of Christmas - day after Christmas

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

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

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

Day after Christmas

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

Games - Day after Christmas

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

Finally,

The day after Christmas has arrived—enjoy it!

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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

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

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My Thoughts

Our Christmas Newsletter

Merry Christmas - newsletter

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

Here’s our for 2021! Enjoy!

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


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

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Press release about Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
Christmas · Christmas · family · Friends · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Homemade Christmas—I Love It!

It's a homemade Christmas!

Homemade Christmas decorations and gifts have always given me a lot of pleasure in the making! From knitting stockings to plastercraft figurines to annual family calendars, I have made quite a variety.

Homemade Stockings

I started knitting in 4-H when I was ten years old and still enjoy this productive hobby. Many years ago, I found a fantastic stocking pattern and made my first. Then I branched out, making my nieces and nephew their own with their names on them. I also did great-nieces and nephew. Recently, I have made a great-nephew one.

I didn’t limit my production of Christmas stockings to just family. Because of my close relationship, I made my best friends’ children each one, and over the years, I have knitted so many I do not know how many!

To make these colorful holiday stockings, I always use red, white and green yarn or variegated yarn, but I don’t plan out the color scheme until I start. I have to graft out the name so it will fit on half of the stocking, so that takes some designing for sure. You can see my name almost doesn’t fit. I learned from mine a trick to make long names to fit!

Homemade knitted Christmas stockings
Stockings I knitted

What a truly wonderful experience it is to finish it, then add my label that says, “From the knitting needles of Larada Horner-Miller.”

Plastercraft Figurines

As a young married couple in 1973, we didn’t have any Christmas decorations and not much money to buy them, so I found out about plastercraft, “. . .similar to ceramics, but there is no firing or kiln necessary. Simply use easy water based acrylic paints.”

https://www.plastercraft.com/#:~:text=Plastercrafts%20are%20similar%20to%20ceramics,easy%20water%20based%20acrylic%20paints.

The first year I made Santa and love the whimsical look he has on his face with his wink. The next year I added Mrs. Santa. Over the years, I have protected my favorite Christmas plastercraft figurines in my many moves. After Christmas, I always stored them on a shelf in a spare bedroom to make sure they survived any storage problem. So when Lin wanted to store them in trunks in a storage shed, I panicked, but he wraps them up carefully and they have fared well these last ten years.

My other plaster craft figurine is a Christmas tree with lights. Every year, I love putting the little light bulbs in the spots and marvel at how pretty it is lit up.

So almost fifty years later, I continue to enjoy these three items as they remind me of our many years together.

Homemade Annual Family Calendar

A couple years after my dad died, one of my team teachers, Rebecca Betzen, reached out to my mom and put together a calendar filled with a variety of pictures from my childhood to my graduation dinner for my master’s degree! Several pictures high‐lighted favorite places on our family ranch. Those pictures ignited fond memories as my mom and I flipped through the pages, and I needed that. The gift thrilled me so much that I decided to do the same thing for my own family the next year. The recipient list grew over the years, so I added my brother and sisters, my nieces and nephew, cousins and great nieces and nephews. And it’s a tradition I continued until the pandemic. We weren’t together in 2020, so I have no pictures to highlight.

Each year I highlight whoever had a special event that year, like graduations or weddings. If a family member died the previous year, I featured him or her on the cover. I also featured our family ranch on the cover of several calendars. My second cousin married in England in 2017, and Lin and I attended, with me taking lots of pictures. Her new husband said, “I bet we make the calendar next year!” And they did—front cover!

Over the years, these calendars have become keepsakes, logging the key events of each year.

My joy came when my family members opened this gift and leafed through the pages, laughing at certain pictures and making heartfelt remarks. These calendars have become a historic family document of our year together.

Larada Horner-Miller, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? (2021): 217-218.

So I didn’t make a calendar in 2020, but it’s back in 2021 and here’s the cover:

2022 Horner calendar cover - homemade

Finally,

I love making homemade Christmas decorations and gifts. As I set out my decorations I’ve made, I get nostalgic remembering sitting at the table so long ago and making them. With each stitch I knit or photo I place, I have the joy of thinking about the gift and the person I made it for. How about you? Do you make anything for Christmas gifts? If so, what?


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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - homemade

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

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Christmas · Christmas · My Thoughts

Santa Dear: You Broke My Heart!

Santa Surprised!

Dear Santa,

Last year I asked for a desk and I was so very specific—a children’s roll top with drawers on each side and little cubby holes under the top for my pens and pencils and favorite notes. I could just see myself sitting in front of it doing my homework.

I saw it in the current Christmas catalog from Sears & Roebuck. Yes, I saw the price was more than you usually spend on me, but I’m getting older so I thought the price change matched my growing age.

I sent off my letter to you with a specific description and referenced the catalog number so you couldn’t make a mistake.

I started getting concerned when Mom and I talked one night after I sent off my letter. She brought up my request. How she knew about it was puzzling. She repeated several times that maybe Santa couldn’t afford such a pricey item.

I said nothing—just nodded my head. My stomach knotted up. Really? Santa had a budget! I knew we did. We weren’t the poorest family in town, but I knew Dad worried about money because I overhead him telling Mom his concerns for a happy Christmas this year.

But Santa had money concerns, too—oh, no! That caught me by surprise. I knew I was in trouble because Mom revisited this topic again and again in the next couple weeks, trying to protect me from a deep disappointment. She realized how much I wanted that desk—more than any doll or toy I had ever asked for before.

“Don’t be disappointed!” she repeated. How could I not! Until this point, you always came through each Christmas. I dreaded Christmas Eve last year because I knew that specific desk I’d dreamed of wouldn’t be under/near the tree for me. And it wasn’t.

You replaced it with a tacky metal desk with no drawers—only two shelves, one under the top of it and one near the bottom.

I hid my tears and broken heart last year, but I lost all faith in you, Santa. So, how do I write to you this year? Do I just make a general request? Can I be honest and say it doesn’t matter because I believe no more?

Help me out here on what to do? This is a pre-letter, so answer me please before I ask for something this year!

Thank you,

Larada

Did Santa ever disappointed you at Christmas? What did you do?


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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme - Santa

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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Christmas · Christmas · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Is a Nativity Set Important?

Stained Glass Nativity Set
Stained Glass Nativity

Nativity sets, trees, lights—what’s your favorite Christmas decoration? Mine is my Nativity collection that I feature on a buffet with white lights, and I want to share why I think it’s an important part of my Christmas decorations.

The Nativity is what Christmas is about—Jesus’ birth is the centerpiece with Mary and Joseph by his side. Three Wisemen bring their gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh. Shepherds kneel close to the Christ Child in humble adoration. And an Angel stands near Jesus glorifying his birth.

I have a fun collection of Nativity sets I’ve gathered over the years I’d like to share with you.

The Beginning to My Nativity Collection

The oldest one I have is a mobile I made in the 70s that I turned into a mobile we hang each year. I also made a set of three Wiseman candle holders made of plaster craft. I had them set up on the mantel one Christmas and a wreath fell off the wall above them and knocked two of them off, injuring them slightly. So, I’ve kept them and loved them every year.

My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set
My Tonala Blue Pottery Nativity Set

In my early travels to Mexico in the 70s, I noticed a beautiful blue pottery and bought a cup, saucer and plate early on. On another trip, I bought a beautiful pitcher. I found out today on the internet this pottery is called Tonala blue pottery. In the 80s, I bought a fourteen-piece Nativity set of this blue pottery. I place in the center of my collection every year. From an older set, I add some animals to fill it out.

I remember bringing that set home in a carry-on bag. Carefully, I wrapped each piece and worked hard to make sure nothing broke. They arrived safe and in one piece.

More Additions

So slowly over the years, I’ve added to my collection. I have a Native American set, a music box, a Peruvian candleholder, and a small happy kids’ set. In 2020, I picked up a small set in Spain that looks very Gaudí!

Native American Nativity Set
My Native American Nativity Set

Why do I gather a multi-ethnic Nativity sets? Jesus was a dark-skinned middle East man, yet many people only see him as they are—whatever the color of their skin! His nationality doesn’t matter; therefore, He can be a Native American, a Mexican, a middle easterner, or an American!

More Additions
My Outside Nativity Set

I’ll end with one more Nativity set—our outside set I inherited from my parents. I love looking out our kitchen window and seeing it lit up every night on our patio.

Finally,

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas saying, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s why I set up my collection each year—to honor who this holiday is about!

Do you put up a Nativity set? What do you think?


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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Christmas meme

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

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Christmas · Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Christmas Celebration Flippo-Style!

Marshall Flippo - Christmas Celebration

For his Christmas celebration, Marshall Flippo came home to Abilene, Texas, for one or two weeks each year to be with his family after a busy travel and calling schedule. In fact, Flippo sandwiched Christmas in between his tours. He went north and then east, south, west and then home for Christmas. After Christmas, he headed north again and then west.

Heading Home for His Christmas Celebration

Annually, Flip called in Memphis, Tennessee, before Christmas for their holiday dance. After that dance,

Flippo headed west toward home and the holidays, calling in Dallas. “It’s 180 miles down to Abilene, so I went home, spent Christmas. I was calling basically every night. I was usually home around one or two weeks. Then after Christmas back to tour again.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 182.

Flippo’s Christmas Celebration in Sets in Order

Flippo enjoyed notoriety in Bob Osgood’s December issue of Sets in Order. Each year in the December issue, Bob went above and beyond by featuring many callers with a greeting in the footer on many pages. Dancers searched the holiday magazine to see a seasonal greeting from their favorite caller and spouse. This idea personalized that magazine.

From 1964 to 1985, Bob had a greeting from Flippo each year. He repeated other callers throughout the years, but Flippo was the constant for twenty-one years! See Flippo & Neeca’s holiday greetings and listen to Flippo’s Texas holiday song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://buff.ly/2VhFtKk

Neeca’s Special Christmas Present

Neeca created a scrapbook for Flippo as a Christmas present one year, filling it with articles, pictures and memorabilia about his calling career. Afterwards, because of his amazing success as a caller, she filled two more. He cherished those scrapbooks, and they became the source of much of the information for his biography.

Finally,

Flippo cherished his time with Neeca and his son, John, so he prioritized his schedule so he was at home in Abilene every year to celebrate with their families there. Before and after Christmas, he traveled, but he wanted to be home for the holiday.  

What does your Christmas celebration look like? Do you prioritize your schedule to be home for Christmas?


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

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Blogging · Goals · Gratitude · My Books · My Thoughts · poetry

A Challenge for Thirty Days! Whew!

Man in rapids in a kayak - challenge

The Ultimate Blog Challenge, Day 30, is today and I have mixed feelings about its ending. I finished the challenge of writing a blog post every day in November, missing only one day—the first day because I didn’t know about it. A friend in my writing practice group told me about it long, long ago on November 2. So, I started that day and continued successfully until I had network issues one day and had to publish two blog posts the next day. The challenge also asked us to post links on our Facebook and Twitter pages, adding the hashtag #blogboost on Twitter. The next step: post on The Ultimate Blog Challenge Facebook page. Finally, read, comment and post on Twitter 1 – 2 other blogs in the Challenge.

What did I learn in this challenge?

I truly enjoyed writing a blog post every day. Because I had returned to Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice every day in March 2021, it came easier. I outlined topic themes for the four weeks at the beginning:

  1. Writing help—SWAG, doing successful interviews, how I select my blog topics and the value of writing groups
  2. Back Stories for each of my six books and three cookbooks—there’s always a story behind the story
  3. My poetry—I found a sketchbook/journal with several poems I had forgotten about and shared them
  4. Gratitude list & things I was grateful for—I shared about my recovery, key people from my life and my dear pets
  5. I chose two suggested prompts from the Ultimate Blog Challenge & then wrote about my newest adventure: audiobooks

Being organized at the beginning with this outline made the writing every day easy. I didn’t have to search for topics. Being new to this, I didn’t realize topics were provided every day. Also, I created a blog post page with the social media icons in it for each day to make life easier. Normally in my weekly blog posts, I love to add a couple pictures, but I found a wonderful plugin that reduces the size of the picture tremendously and that helps because I have a horribly slow network, and it made my life much easier.

My big take-away: I relearned how much I love to write and share my voice with the world.

What did I enjoy?

I thoroughly enjoyed my topics, especially my gratitude week. Coincidentally or not, the day I planned to write about my dear friend Kathi Raver Miller was the anniversary of her death. I savored each word.

Also, I took pleasure in reading the wonderful posts by the other participants. I learned so much and saw how others handled the challenge. Every blog post I read entertained, educated or consoled me! You can’t beat that!

What was a hassle?

I do my blog in wordpress.com, and it has so many helpful hints which have made me a better writer. But every day I went through the list of suggestions to tailor that post to have both green light (good) in SEO (Search engine optimization) and Readability. In the past, frequently, I have had problems with the Readability score because I write complex sentences. It suggests writing shorter sentences, so I worked hard this month and ended up with a lot of green lights for Readability—yahooo!

Also, my brother visited us for Thanksgiving, so I worked super hard Wednesday night and did two—for Wednesday and Thanksgiving. So, I all I had to do on the holiday after gorging on our delicious meal and watching nonstop football was clean it up and publish it and then do the required assignments!

Would I do it again?

Again, I have mixed feelings about it. It took a lot of work to do it, but the regularity of writing significant pieces every day rewarded me deeply. Yes, I think I would.

Finally,

do + dooubt - challenge

I never once doubted I would finish the challenge. I’m just that type of person. I love a wonderful challenge and couple that with one of my passions and it’s a win-win situation for sure!

What did you think? Did you like it? What was your favorite blog post of mine?


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

STILL AVAILABLE! Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! If you liked my blog posts, you’ll love my books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

My Books · My Thoughts

Audiobooks: My New Adventure!

Girl listening to audiobooks

Audiobooks? Do you listen to them? Seven years ago, after I published my first book, my cousin asked me if I had thought about producing an audiobook—that she would love to hear my words in my voice. I bought a mic and played with it, but I realized I needed more instruction. Then I got busy with writing five more books, and I forgot about audiobooks..

For the last couple years, I’ve heard repeatedly I needed to have my books in audiobook format! So, I jumped in!

Here’s Some Interesting Audiobooks Statistics:

More than 45 percent of American adults responding to recent annual surveys now claim to have listened to an audiobook at some point in their lives. . .”

https://www.statista.com/topics/3296/audiobooks/#dossierKeyfigures

“In 2020, the association’s report says, more than 71,000 audiobooks were published in the United States, up 39 percent over 2019.”

My New Effort

So, in December 2020, I bought a video training program to learn how to do audiobooks, Audiobooks Made Easy, by Derek Doepker. Excited, I viewed the first couple of videos. One of them identified what equipment I needed, so I bought it all immediately:

  • Microphone
  • Microphone stand
  • Music Stand
  • Pop filter
  • Ear phones
  • 2 TB external hard drive to save to because my laptop has limited space

The boxes came in and I gathered them together in a pile in our walk-in closet. Then my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? took over my life! Every time I walked by the stack of tech supplies, I winced and thought, “I have to do the training so I can get going on my audiobooks.” But I had no extra time.

Then this summer, Lin, my husband, gingerly asked one day, “When are you going to use that stuff?”

Embarrassed, I defended my time commitments with my new book and then promoting it and promoting my other books.

He encouraged me, saying, “I was just wondering.”

That became the impetus to get me going. I set up a schedule to finish the training and wrapped it up.

I had been mulling over in my mind where to record. We have a large walk-in closet off of our bedroom, so the back end became LHM Recording Studio (Lin’s name suggestion). I had 3 seven foot poles I used in a Native American unit as a teacher to make a lifesize teepee for students to read inside. Remembering them, we used one to hang up a quilt to cut down the size of the space.

Quilt I hung to record audiobooks
LHM Studio

Next, I recorded several two-minute samples to send to Derek to see how my sound was. Yes, I said several, because it was a learning curve. After a couple of samples, Derek suggested I review the videos on editing, so I did, and it helped tremendously.

As I continued, I had an embarrassing moment. The microphone has a blue light that comes on whenever I plugged it into my laptop. Because of the blue light, I thought it was on. I had never checked to see if it was on. No, it wasn’t! How it recorded any sound was mind boggling, but it did faintly.

Then when I set up my pop filter in front of my mic, I followed the picture on the box of the pop filter. It had the mic pointed straight up, so that’s what I did. I took pictures and sent them to Derek. He questioned why I had the mic pointing up instead of towards my mouth!!

Larada recording audiobooks wrong
See mic pointed straight up instead of towards my mouth!

Finally,

I sent a sample to Derek, and he gave me the go-ahead! Yahoooo!

I plan to finish Let Me Tell You a Story, using a schedule of two chapters a day. Then I will record my current book and hopefully do a couple more of them. Two of my books—A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir and Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo is too long for the audiobook format.

Another great resource: Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasts and Voice Technologies by Joanna Penn.

What’s your thoughts? Would you be interested in one of my audiobooks? Let me know!


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

Cyber Monday/Black Friday Sales Ad

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

family · God · My Thoughts

Advice I’d Give the Teenage Larada

Advice

Wise advice to a receptive spirit can make all the difference! The bad news—teenagers think they know everything and rarely listen. My teenager, Larada, has a receptive spirit today and agrees to listen to the wisdom of the crone Larada. For the first time, I’m using the prompt suggested by the Ultimate Blog Challenge and feel it has lots of possibility.

First, my top advice

Be yourself! As a teenager, I got so consumed by the popular view of my friends. Our jeans had to be long enough to touch the ground in the back, and we had to wear Wranglers. Once Dad bought me Levis, and I hated them. I had to have long straight hair and wore it parted on the side. I had a little curl on one side, so mine never hung straight.

By being quiet and not being authentic, people never really knew the real me because I didn’t share her. It took years to find her, but the “me” I found is delightful, energetic and a strong leader. Trust yourself!

Second piece of advice

My social life isn’t everything! Almost every Saturday night found the Horner family at a local dance, so my normal was an active social life. Then, when a snowstorm hit and we had to stay home, I mourned the loss of not being out and about.

I continued this mindset for most of my adult life, but the coronavirus pandemic forced me to learn balance in that area. Balance provides time with others, then time alone to become acquainted with the most important person in the world, me!

Third nugget of advice

Teenager listening to advic

Not having a boyfriend is okay! AS a teenager, I obsessed about boys, boyfriends, not having one, having one but thought he was the wrong one!

After periods of being single, I realized the importance of being okay as a solo. Then when I remarried, I had lots to offer to the relationship. You are enough!

Fourth snippet of advice

Be proud of your heritage. I remember being ridiculed when we went to Trinidad, Colorado, to shop. The “towny” kids called us “Sh*t kickers” which embarrassed me. Over the last seven years, I have written six books and five of them celebrate my heritage and family. Embrace your history!

Fifth morsel of advice

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Younger Larada worried about everything, spending too much time focussing on the “what ifs?”

“Let go and let God” had become a mantra of mine today, a slogan from recovery.

Last bit of advice

Focus on your spiritual life! As a teenager, I believed in Jesus, but my faith took a backseat. Popularity and peer pressure ruled my life, causing me to make life choices not centered in my faith.

Today, I have a strong faith, seasoned over the years with lots of pain, disappointments, and struggles. As I processed all of this, I leaned in closer and closer to my God.

Finally,

Teenager thinking about advice

The teenage Larada did as well as she could with her limited knowledge. As a crone, I offer my advice, Larada, for your best!

Do you talk to the younger you? If so, what do you say?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

Cyber Monday/Black Friday Sales

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Cats · Dogs · God · My Thoughts

Unconditional Love: My Pets Know How!

dog and cat - unconditional love

Unconditional love and my pets are synonymous. During my adult life, I’ve had four pets: three dogs and one cat. Each pet loved me in their own special way, and here’s how!

My First Dog, Windy

My Windy - Unconditional love
My Windy

Meet Windy! My first husband’s grandmother raised miniature poodles, so she gave us Windy as a puppy—a black-haired ten-pound ball of energy. Really, that’s the reason she gave him to us; he was too much for her to handle. What a joy he was to us, and no, he was not a “yappy poodle.”

When my husband and I divorced, we each made a list of what possessions we wanted, prioritizing them. Windy topped my list; my husband wanted our water bed as his first choice.

Windy lived seventeen years. I made the choice to put him to sleep because he had become senile and couldn’t control his bowels anymore. Mom went with me when I took him to the vet. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He’s buried in the backyard in Branson.

His constant companionship supported me through the rocky years after my first divorce, providing unconditional love. You know dog spelled backwards is God, and that’s no accident!

My Second Dog, Patches

My Patches - unconditional love
My Patches

While I had Windy, my second husband and I rescued an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler mix puppy who had one blue eye and one brown. When we got Patches, ticks covered his body, so we had our work cut out for us.

I remember a funny experience with him. Even as a pup, Patches exhibited his natural herding instinct. We had a big backyard in our home, and one afternoon, he herded Windy and a friend’s Great Pyrenees clear to the back of the yard. We watched him do the work systemically. He didn’t care he was a third the size of the Great Pyrenees!

At the end of his life, Patches faced many cancerous tumors, and we agreed to spend the money to treat him, no matter the cost. He died in April 2003 in our living room between us. I cut a piece of his multi-colored fur and still have it stashed away in an envelope in my desk. What a gorgeous dog he was!

Patches needed very little care, being an outside dog, but his loving spirit always touched me as he raced to greet me! Again, an example of unconditional love!

My Third Dog, Kita

My Kita - unconditional love
My Kita

We waited until November 2003 to look for another dog because we had a big square dance festival commitment for Labor Day that required lots of travel during that summer. After several visits to the Humane Society, we had identified three dogs as our future possible pet, but we ended up with Kita, who was supposed to be an Akita/Chow mix.

On our last visit, a volunteer noticed a yappy puppy had caught our eye and redirected us to Kita. She said, “That puppy will drive you crazy. Look at this quiet one.”

Kita laid silent and almost blended into the concrete with his coloring. With big solemn eyes, he just looked at us. We took him outside to see how he would be with us, and he attacked a leaf and entertained himself easily, so we went home with our new pet.

As Kita grew, we realized he had been mis-classified. On a trip to the wolf sanctuary in southeastern Colorado, they confirmed our suspicions. Kita was a wolf hybrid. We became aware afterwards that the Humane Society couldn’t identify him as a wolf. We took him to another wolf sanctuary in New Mexico and they agreed with the other one—we had a wolf on our hands.

Losing Kita in the divorce devastated me, but I couldn’t manage him, so I let him go. Yet I yearned for a pet.

Kita’s wild nature kept me at a distance some, but his unconditional love oozed out as he almost knocked me over with his hearty greeting.

My cat, Jesse

My Jesse Ready to Watch TV - unconditional love
My Jesse Ready to Watch TV

After my divorce, my life took a major change from having dogs my adult life to having a cat. What a life transformation!

When my ex-husband and I divorced in 2008, I couldn’t take our Kita. For the first time in my adult life, I faced life pet less, which I didn’t like. As soon as I talked about the prospect of getting a new pet, a pro-cat colleague encouraged me to get a cat, but I had never had one. She reminded me anytime I mentioned buying a dog that a cat was a better choice.

One day away from my office at a staff training, my phone rang, and my pro-cat coworker exclaimed, “I found your cat. He’s a stray. I’ve fed him outside our office. Come and see him.” So, I drove to the office and met her outside. A filthy Siamese Silver Tip cat hedged his way around us. Skeptically, he kept his distance and meowed his Siamese yowl.

“I heard him crying last night when I left the office after a training I facilitated,” I told her. It felt eerie in the dark.

“Take him home tonight!” she directed.

I refused and went home but dreamed of cats all night, so the next day she helped me gather all the cat supplies I needed and I took him home. When I scrutinized Jesse, my new pet, after a quick clean-up, he looked much better than the day before, which made me realize he probably belonged to someone.

So, I took him to a vet to see if he had a chip—he did. Then, the vet called the owners, and they turned him over to me. When I talked to them, they identified Jesse’s vet, so I had access to his total history. The vet told me Jesse’s age: he was six years old when I found him.

When I first got Jesse, he was not a “lap” cat. He kept his distance but seemed to appreciate our shared home. I quickly adjusted to having a cat, and I realized leaving him was far easier than a dog. When my Mom and I went on an extended trip to California in 2010, a colleague’s son watched him. I called home every few days and talked to him through the answering machine. Mom thought I was whacked, but I knew he’d recognize my voice and not be so lonely.

In 2012, I had shoulder surgery and Jesse instinctually knew I needed extra care and often sat in my lap. Now we both enjoy our nightly ritual.

Jesse absolutely loves Lin and responds to him with a big meow anytime Lin comes into a room. A couple years ago, Lin and Jesse started a morning ritual: meowing back and forth like they actually understood each other. I laughed at the connection they have made.

I’ve had Jesse now for eleven years, so he’s eighteen. In human years, he is 88 years old, a very Senior cat. 

In 2016, Jesse got really sick, and I found out he had feline diabetes. At first, we managed the diabetes with special food, but that didn’t work. So, we added insulin and have increased the doses over the years. I now give him shots twice a day.

Now my husband and I laugh about Jesse being senile. He sleeps most of the day, searches for that shaft of sunlight to warm his aching bones, and meows often for food or just to let us know he is still kicking. Another part of being a senior cat, Jesse can’t hear very well anymore, which surprised us because he used to have amazing hearing.

Jesse loves to join us nightly on the arm of the loveseat. First, he perches there, then he moves to my lap to spend the rest of the evening. I love his rhythmic purr, a wiggle up closer and a contented sleep—total unconditional love!

Finally,

I celebrate the unconditional love my pets have given me over the years and thank God for his furry angels!

Are you a pet person? Which do you have, a dog or a cat? Why?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

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Friends · My Thoughts

Two Team-Teachers: Thank God for Them!

Denim Christmas Shirts We Had Alike! Team-teachers
Denim Christmas Shirts We Had Alike!

Team-Teaching

In 1991, I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico from Raton, New Mexico and started two lifelong relationships with two team-teachers, Rhonda Sandoval and Rebecca Betzen. We grew beyond colleagues to friends. Here’s why I’m thankful for them in my life.

First, I started team-teaching with Rhonda for sixth graders at Washington middle school. She taught math, science and social studies. I taught language arts, literature and Spanish.

Rhonda taught me so much about classroom management. She had a B.S. in Sociology and had worked with tough kids before, so her strict but fair discipline kept our students well behaved. Her famous “Honest Man” speech showed me how to get students to be honest first and then value of honesty.

Next, a couple of years later, we added Rebecca to our team, so we split the teaching areas with her. Rebecca student taught with Rhonda and, but the three of us worked together. When she finished her student teaching, we enjoyed her so much, we wanted her to join our team, so our principal hired her. Rebecca’s positive attitude was infectious!

We did interdisciplinary units where we worked on projects for an extended period that addressed all the content areas. We had a Future City unit and a Native American Unit the students loved. In fact, they enjoyed these projects so much we had to kick them out of the classroom to go to lunch. Our teaching techniques complimented and supported each other, and our students thrived!

For Halloween, we put on a play with vampires and more vampires. We had it translated into Spanish, so each class did the play in both languages. Rhonda designed the sets, and Rebecca and I rehearsed the lines. Early Halloween morning, the three of us arrived at the school to do the makeup for all the kids. How they enjoyed it! Team work—that’s what they both taught me! Life is better done as a team.

Socially

We partied at Rhonda or Rebecca’s houses often. For many Christmases, Mom and I would attend a party at Rhonda’s house and her parents would be there too!

The End of Our Team-Teaching

I left the team first in about 2000, then we ended up back together later in our careers for a couple years, working together, which was a dream come true. Rhonda had become a principal and hired Rebecca and me to work at her school. It never felt strange to work for Rhonda because of the type of person she is.

Throughout the years we have been apart, we scheduled regular time to meet, eat, and talk endlessly about our lives. We have gone through the deaths of a couple of Rhonda’s dogs. As the years unfolded, we watched Rebecca’s four daughters grow up, graduate, and move on with life. We celebrated Rebecca’s granddaughters when they arrived. We mourned the death of Rebecca’s family members. Rhonda has been with me for three of my four marriages; Rebecca for two.

In 1993, I got deathly sick and ended up in the hospital for the first time in my life. Rhonda was my first visitor and was so helpful through the whole horrible ordeal.

I lost both of my parents during our friendship, and when Mom got sick in 2013, Rhonda visited her in the hospital twice. When she died in 2013, Rhonda and Rebecca drove to Trinidad, Colorado, for her funeral. That’s the friends they are.

When Lin and I married in 2011, they stood up with me and celebrated our wedding day.

Bridal  party - team-teachers
Front Row: Rhonda-third from the left; Rebecca-second from the right

Finally,

Yes, we worked together—team-teachers, but because of these two women and how we related, we became enduring friends I know I can count on for anything. We may not talk for a few months, but when we get together, we pick up right where we left off! In fact, we have our annual Christmas get-together already scheduled.

Thank you, Rhonda and Rebecca for your constant support and love over the years!

Do you have friends from work that are close to you? How do you keep close?


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

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Friends · My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

Part 2: Two Special Friends Continued!

Kathi twirling - Part 2
Kathi Twirling

Part 2 of my series on two special friends continues today. I met Kathi Raver at Duke City Singles square dance club in 1997, excited to have a younger woman to relate to—she was a teacher, too! She immediately jumped in and took part in the club’s leadership.

Kathi stood nearly six-foot-tall and I’m 5 feet 3 inches, so we were like Mutt and Jeff for sure, but we loved to dress alike with our square dance clothes. When she died, we had about thirteen outfits alike.

One year to promote the Fling, we went to TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dancers) in Amarillo, Texas—Art Tangen, our club caller, was calling. So, we decorated our petty pants on our backside with, “I (a heart) Art!” Then we mooned him when he was calling, showing him our petti pants and our support. Someone took a picture of Kathi’s bottom, and they featured her on the TASSD newsletter the next month.

I had been the chairperson for the New Mexico Singles Fling for several years, and she became my co-chair, then chaired it for several years. I stayed onboard the committee then and did the publicity for her. We had so much fun on that committee, producing major successful event, one right after the other.

For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night. Kathi made several of my square dance outfits when she was chairing the Fling. She always felt that it helped me out because she liked to sew and I did the computer stuff for us for the Fling.

In 2000, she and two other women square dancers from Albuquerque went to Oklahoma City for Dance-A-Rama, the national single square dance festival. They came home and convinced me to chair the Dance-A-Rama in Albuquerque in 2003.

To promote Dance-A-Rama, 2003, the committee traveled to Richmond, Virginia, Norfolk, Nebraska and Dallas, Texas. Those travel trips top the list of my memories with Kathi. We had a blast doing it, and again, we had a major success. After DAR, 03, we promised each other we would go into the same nursing home and remember DAR, 03 and all of our fun antics over the years.

During this time, Kathi’s melanoma came back with a vengeance after being in remission for twenty years. It broke my heart to watch my spirited, fun-loving friend slow down as she dealt with this horrible disease. She continued working and daily gave herself shots as needed.

In 2004, Kathi met Lin Miller, and immediately they connected. In 2005, I treasure the memory of being present at Festigal, an annual square dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico where they met, when Lin asked her to marry him. Her face said absolute shock.

We hung out together with my ex-husband. We danced all over the Southwest together. When we were home, we danced at Duke City Singles on Friday night, then afterwards played cards until the wee hours of the morning.

Kathi’s the one responsible for my red hair. At a dance in Norfolk, Nebraska, in 2007, we went out to have breakfast. She saw a woman standing in line in front of us. Casually, she whispered in my ear, “Go ask her what color she uses. You’d look great with red hair.”

So, I did. The women chuckled, “Hot Tamale.” I came home and colored it and loved it. I returned to my natural color after a year, but in 2013 I went back to “Hot Tamale” and have had it red ever since. Every time I color it, I think of her.

During the years, we traveled together a lot. In 2008, we went to Branson, Missouri with two other couples. We cried at the Roy Rogers Museum during the show with Roy’s grandson.

In 2008, my ex and I broke up, and Kathi and Lin took me under their wing. Kathi went house hunting with me and her sister-in-law was a realtor. She would tell her sister-in-law, “Larada can’t afford this place.”

When I moved into my new townhouse, Kathi helped me find it. After getting instructions from her brother on how to do it, she hooked up my gas dryer. She climbed behind the dryer with barely enough room to get around in. She did it to save me $85.

In thinking about relationships, Kathi had a brisk attitude about them: give your mourning time of six months, then get on with life. She had a hard time watching me deal with my recent divorce—she wanted me to move on.

Her cancer came back with a vengeance again, and she kept beating it, but she couldn’t for the last time. Her powerful spirit still shown through, though. When the ambulance drove her to the hospice in Albuquerque, they went to the wrong hospital, and she had to direct them to the right one! Leave it to Kathi.

Kathi died on November 25, 2009, eleven years ago today. I felt privileged to be by her side when she died. My heart felt shattered as I stood by her bed and witnessed her last breath after our fourteen years relationship. What a privilege to be there!

Her spirit lives on around me today—because Lin, her husband, and I ended up together and married. We live in her house she built. Some might be uneasy about this. I have never had an issue because I remembered her strong directive when my ex and I broke up—take six months and get on with life.

Lin and I had a very interesting confirmation about our relationship from a mutual friend of ours and Kathi after she died. We’re all on the committee of an annual dance, Hot August Nights. Kathi and this friend were talking in the kitchen. Kathi had been battling her last round of cancer. She watched me on the dance and told our friend, “I hope Lin and Larada get together if something happens to me. They would make each other happy.” That was August; she died in November!

So every day I get to thank Kathi for so much! The memories, the fun, the craziness an her beautiful house! And she gave me Lin!

Part 2 features Kathi; Part 1 featured Candy. I’m so fortunate to have had two friends like these two women, and I carry them with me each day.

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Do you ever buy clothes alike? Have you ever been present with a friend dying? What did you take away from it?


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

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

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family · Friends · My Thoughts

Two Special Friends I’ve Lost: Part 1

Three friends -one with umbrella. Two Special Friends

Two special friends came to mind today as I pondered who to write about in all my friends I have across the United States. These two precious ladies came up: Candy McMillan Vargas and Kathi Raver Miller. Both have died from cancer, but their influence in my life lingers years after their deaths. They both helped me soar and succeed in ways I never imagined! Kathi died in 2009, and Candy died in 2011. Here’s how Candy touched me so deeply, and tomorrow I will tell Kathi and my story!

Candy McMillan Vargas

Candy was born on July 8, 1952, and my brother, Harold (Bub) was born May 25, 1952. Our mothers enjoyed being young pregnant women together, telling hilarious stories about getting their car stuck in the mud with their enormous bellies. Candy’s dad and my dad were best friends. So, we grew up together.

For many years, Candy and I were the only girls in Branson, Colorado, a small ranching town. So, I remember my early playtime with her—donning our mom’s dresses, hats, and shoes. Then we threw purses over our shoulders. Those female items transported us to be Ethel and Lucy for sure.

So much of my childhood memories center on Candy and her family. They owned the grocery store in Branson, so we visited often. Also, back then, people visited each other’s houses in the evening.

Candy moved away about the time she was twelve, but we didn’t lose contact. One morning she arrived at our doorstep at 6:00 AM, having just jumped off the train to come and see us. We felt like she was family.

We ended up going to Trinidad State Junior College together her last year, then she moved to Pueblo, Colorado. Candy was maid-of-honor at my first and second wedding. I think I exhausted her out for the next couple.

She married Michael Vargas in Pueblo, and I was her matron-of-honor. Then they moved to Denver, just a few short blocks from where we lived. I celebrated with her and Michael when their children, Sonia and Shane, were born.

When I graduated in 1986 from Colorado State University, Mom and Dad hosted a major shindig at a bar I frequented often, and Candy catered the delicious meal. She also partied like a crazy lady with me to celebrate my big day.

Candy listened to all my woes about my first husband and our marriage. After our divorce and my graduation from Fort Collins, Colorado, I lived with her and Michael for six months to get established in Denver. She always came to my rescue.

When I moved to Raton, New Mexico, she continued having me cut her hair every six weeks and lined up enough friends to get perms and cuts to make my trip profitable. (I was a beautician for 14 years before becoming a teacher.).

In 2005, when Lela, my sister-in-law died, we had the funeral and burial in Branson. Candy brought a tent to set up out in the backyard because of the hot July weather and helped Mom and I handle the meal after the service.

Mom and I with our Team Candy t-shirts on. Two Special Friends
Mom and I with our Team Candy t-shirts on.

Diagnosed with kidney cancer, a group of her friends bought these “Team Candy” t-shirts to support her. She loved the idea.

Candy died September 13, 2011, and I had been experiencing some strange health episodes. The night she died, I had one of the worst ones yet. Needing to call 911, I went to the hospital. They found nothing identifiably wrong, but my doctor strongly suggested I not go to her funeral on September 19. So, I didn’t, but I took the day off from work and had a private ceremony I prepared at home by myself. That broke my heart not to honor her by attending! I will always regret not saying goodbye formally to her and her family I love so much.

Larada & Candy, Cripple Creek for Larada's birthday. Two special friends
Larada & Candy, Cripple Creek for Larada’s birthday

Candy’s hilarious sense-of-humor, her delicious home-cooked meals and her deep friendship remind me daily of my dear friend. I still see her sparkling eyes and hear her contagious laughter and know that I am a better person for having known her and loved by her. Thank you, Candy, for everything you did.

Do you have a best friend? Have you thanked him or her lately?

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.


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

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! 40% off of select Individual books, 40% off of select bundles and 50% off of digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Dancing · family · My Thoughts

My Family—How I Appreciate You!

Thank you latte to my family

My family rates high on my gratitude list, and I’d like to focus on them and how they have supported me over the years. I have an extensive extended family, so I won’t be able to give the credit due to everyone. So, I’m going to focus on my parents and my brother.

My Parents

Dad & Mom's Wedding Picture - my family
Dad & Mom’s Wedding Picture

My parents encouraged me in whatever endeavor I pursued. Throughout my childhood in Branson, they attended church and school programs. They cheered me on as a cheerleader. They celebrated my academic accomplishments when I earned salutatorian of my graduating class. Mom worked hard at school to support my class activities, especially my senior year when she was our room mother and baked many pies for the concession stand for the basketball games. In fact, that’s when I learned to bake pies alongside her.

 When I wanted to become a beautician, Mom and Dad drove the fifty miles to Trinidad every week for me to practice my new skills on her. Then, when my state board tests finally came, Dad and Mom drove to Denver, and she endured the grueling day of being my model.

Later, they had to watch me do some craziness before recovery and still didn’t desert me. When I went to Sexual Trauma treatment in Los Lunas, New Mexico in 1993, they attended Family Week and took part in my healing intimately there.

I so appreciate their love of dancing and remember many times together at either country-western dances or square dances. I loved to dance with Dad, but when they danced together, I watched with amazement and pride. They glided across the floor as one, after dancing together for nearly fifty years. We shared this unique activity together, first with Dad being the square dance caller for our 4-H club. Then my brother and I often traveled to dances with our parents in our high school and college days and for our adult lives as well!

Since I have always lived close to them, we traveled together many summers and enjoyed our adventures. Mom and I always teased Dad about driving long days and not allowing us to soak in the swimming pools because we arrived at the motel after they closed. And he never changed!

As they aged, I had the privilege of being a caregiver for both of them, and I did it with honor, remembering how each of them had taken care of their aging parents.

My Brother

My brother and I, August 2021
My brother and I, August 2021

Next, my brother, Harold, who I call Bub, has been a major player in my life. He’s thirteen months older than me, so Mom and Dad raised us like twins. I loved playing Cowboys and Indians with him, then he would play dolls with me and made me promise not to tell anyone.

We supported each other with our interest areas in school: he played basketball and baseball. I was a cheerleader. During high school, he danced a little.

When we went to college, we both attended Trinidad State Junior College, and I shared his last year there with him. At this point in his life, he had become a dancer and what a dancer he became! We traveled all over southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico, attending dances. Often, we would dress in the same colors. We danced together so much people who didn’t know we were brother and sister thought we were a dating couple.

When Bub married, I fell in love with his wife, Lela and we became close like sisters. The two of them blessed me deeply in a special way. I always wanted children but didn’t have any. They knew how much I wanted children, so they share their two daughters and son with me.

As a father, I watched him care deeply for his children and grandchildren. He truly is the best Dad.

Our hearts broke in 2005 when Lela died from breast cancer. I marveled at how my brother cared for her during her chemotherapy. He drove her and sat with her for every treatment. He took care of her at home with the aid of his youngest daughter, Cheryl, at long as possible.

Today, we co-manage the family ranch we inherited, and it is a pleasure to work with him. We agree on the management of this precious piece of land we love. He lives in Branson now, and when I’m visiting, we love to ride around the ranch and look for wildlife and reminisce.

He’s an ardent supporter of my writing and buys every book as soon as possible. We also share another passion: we’re both lifelong Bronco fans, texting during a game and then talking after a game about what happened.

Finally, my extended family goes out to my grandparents on both sides, aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins. I have a rich heritage, but I wanted to concentrate today on these three people—Mom, Dad and Bub! Thanks for making me the woman I am today!

Here’s the Gratitude Log again if you need it. I shared a couple days ago.

Who in your family is on your gratitude list? Why? Did you let them know?


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

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! Individual books, bundles and digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

Dancing · family · Gratitude · My Thoughts

Lin Miller Tops My Gratitude List

Lin Miller in his kilt
Lin in his kilt

My gratitude list is long, but Lin Miller, my husband, tops it for people in my life. We just celebrated our tenth anniversary, and what a ride it has been!

We come from two full lives: a small town New Jersey boy and a country girl from Colorado. As a boy, he loved to hide in the swamp and watch people walk right past him in his favorite hiding place.

And he’s still a boy at heart! He starts each day with a song and a smile. Often, he and my cat, Jesse, have a “Meow-fest.” They go back and forth and back and forth—what fun!

Why I Appreciate Lin

Lin proposing to me, Christmas 2010.
Lin Proposing to me Christmas 2010
  1. Lin asked me to marry him on Christmas Day 2010 in front of my mom and Aunt Willie. I will never forget his thoughtfulness of including those two precious women. Amazingly, Mom snapped a picture of him and me when he went down on his knee—shocking!
  2. His outrageous sense of humor amuses me every day. Some days, I wake up a little down and out. His quick wit catches me by surprise and I feel a deep laugh escape, and my world view changes immediately. He sings rhyming ditties he makes up on the spot, so I kid him about being a poet and not knowing it. That’s a joke to him because he doesn’t like poetry.
  3. Lin majored in history at Rutgers University and sees himself as an amateur historian. He’s also a voracious reader. I love history and relish our conversations about historical figures. His hunger for knowledge challenges me to learn more about Stalin, Churchill and other historical figures. As he reads his current book, often he shares the latest tidbit. Lately he’s been reading about Johnny Unitas and filling me in on his life.
  4. If you’re a Facebook friend, you’ve seen Lin’s gorgeous garden. When we first got married, he had three rose plants. Now he has over thirty and so many other flowers! I admire his dedication to gardening with an emphasis on plants that support birds, bees and hummingbirds. The upshot of living with an enthusiastic gardener: every morning, I look out the window to such an array of beautiful colors and plants and the wonder it provides.
  5. I love dancing with Lin. Before we got together, he did some round dancing (cued ballroom dancing). Since he knew how much I loved it, we danced weekly with our round dance instructor, and he improved drastically. He’s a natural, so it came easily to him.
  6. In 2013, Lin volunteered to be president of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles, a failing club with twenty-seven members. Through his daring leadership, he rejuvenated it with fun activities and a commitment to greeting every dancer every Friday night at our dances. When he quit in 2018, the club had grown to 92 members—what a feat!
  7. Lin is a football fanatic—a Philadelphia Eagles fan his whole life. I love football—a Denver Broncos’ fan. He runs a football pool with his best friend that he encouraged me to join, and what a kick we have! We talk football a lot around here. He’s so considerate. There’s one older guy in the pool who has computer trouble, so he calls Lin every week on Wednesday night about 7:00 PM to give Lin his picks. Lin patiently records them for him, visits with him and has a couple of laughs with him.
Collage of Lin and Larada, 10th Anniverary, 2021
Our 10th Anniversary Photo Shoot, 2021

Finally,

In reality, the list could go on! I think you can see how special he is! I truly thank God every day for this man in my life who makes each day an adventure!

Who tops your gratitude list for people in your life? Why?

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

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books! Individual books, bundles and digital copies! These books make the perfect gift for your friends and family.

family · God · Gratitude · My Thoughts · Recovery · Thanksgiving

Try Gratitude—I Challenge You!

Gratitude tuns what we have into enough

Try gratitude! My challenge to you is to be grateful this week—about all the blessings of your life. Thanksgiving always makes me think of gratitude. But do you really know what gratitude is? Have we heard it connected to Thanksgiving so often, it’s lost its meaning?

Positive psychology defines gratitude in a way where scientists can measure its effects, and thus argue that gratitude is more than feeling thankful: it is a deeper appreciation for someone (or something) that produces longer lasting positivity.


https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-appreciation/

Gratitude changes people, attitudes and just about everything it comes into contact with! In recovery, I learned the power of gratitude. I often hear people comment about making a gratitude list. We have a phrase, an Attitude of Gratitude, I’ve heard often. For many, negativity supersedes positivity or gratitude habitually, so the habit has to be changed. And how to do you do that? Practice, practice, practice!

Gratitude Log

So, I created a Gratitude log to chart three things to be grateful for each day this week. Click here to download my Gratitude Log, and start today. It is a Word document, so you can record your list on your computer or tablet. Decide whether to do it in the morning or evening, then commit yourself to that time each day. Maybe put a reminder on your calendar on your phone or tablet.

Email Family Members and/or Friends

To go along with this log, if you are listing people, shoot them off an email. I provide a sample below. If that person doesn’t do email, drop a card in the mail. That would be a shock! Just imagine the double blessing it would be—to get mail from someone other than the ridiculous junk mail vendors and then to open it to a beautiful note about your thankfulness about him/her.

To make it easy for you this week, I know you’re busy, busy—copy this email and send it to people to brighten their holidays.

My Email Example

Dear (Name),

I have deemed this week to be Gratitude Week, and I wanted you to know you are on my list. As I focus on all the good things in my life, I think of you and here’s why:

  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person
  • Add one thing reason you are grateful for this person

Just know I love you dearly and felt like I needed to let you know. (Pass this email on to anyone and bless their day!)

My Gratitude for My Recovery & My God

Gratitude is the best attitude!

So, each day this week for the Ultimate Blog Challenge, I’m going to identify people, places and things I’ve grateful for.

My recovery, which led me back to my God, tops my gratitude list. After many years, I have been given, because of recovery, a life I could never had dreamed of. Because of recovery, I came back to a God of my understanding who blesses every day. I had turned my back on the God of my childhood and young adulthood for many years, but because recovery offered me a God I could work with, it all changed.

Finally,

I often need to add something to a holiday to ground me amid the insanity of our world. Being grateful always centers me once more as I head towards Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

So, can you join me in this challenge and be grateful this week? Email or write someone a note to let them know why you are grateful for them? Try it again next week and the week afterwards? What do you think? Let me know below.


Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

Check out Cyber Week Specials at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, on select books!

Dancing · family · My Thoughts · square dance

“Born Dancing”: More Poems

Dancing at Texas Stampede, Dallas, Texas
Dancing at Texas Stampede, Dallas, Texas
“Born dancing” describes me to the hilt! So, I wanted to share two poems which detail my birth and my love of square dancing. Here I reveal more of myself to you, my passion!

“She Was Born Dancing!”

On June 26, 1953, my folks left

their thirteen-month-old son with Millie,

the family babysitter,

to go to a square dance in Trinidad,

fifty miles away.

Mom danced one tip that night—

She was nine months pregnant

with me.

They left the dance early

feeling something was about to happen.

Early the next morning

Mom had labor pains

that made her stagger across the floor.

It was time!

The fifty-mile trip back to Trinidad

and the hospital

was made in record time.

At 10:30 a.m. I was born.

Dad went downtown to buy cigars

and ran into a fellow dancer

from the previous night.

Dad announced his good news—

a new baby girl!

Remembering Mom at the dance

the night before,

the only comment the stunned friend

had to make was,

“She was born dancing!”

Larada Horner-Miller, This Tumbleweed Landed, (2014): 9.


As an adult, I returned to square dancing in 1994 after an almost twenty-year lapse in dancing. This poem relates why I love to square dance.

Larada in Dance-A-Rama 2003 outfit. Born Dancing

Why We Square Dance—

Why I Dance

May 31, 2015

It’s a Friday night

            Or

                        A Saturday night

A dance night!

The week lasted for eons

            grueling

I had my work face on for five days

            and I kept going.

I finished this week

            Exhausted!

My family needs drained me

I am wilted,

            ready to dissolve into bed!

But it’s my dance night.

            I breathe deeply,

                        I know!

I select my square dance outfit.

            What do I feel like tonight?

                        Red or turquoise

                                    Southwest design or frilly lace?

The familiarity of my weekly routine

            takes over

Systematically, I put on my outfit

            As each layer goes on,

                                    my perspective and energy level changes!

First my hose

            With a deep breath, I release part of my stress

Then my pettipants

                        Oh my, it’s going—another deep breath

            my top and skirt

                        My goodness—a glimmer of hope

            my belt

                        A smile slowly crosses my lips

Next my matching petticoat and shoes

            Yes, I sigh with relief

Finally, my club badge

            To identify who I am—

            A square dancer!

A spray to finish my hair

            a touch of lip gloss

A final look in the mirror

A pirouette and a spin

            crinoline flowing

                        I am complete!

My exhaustion replaced with anticipation!

The drive to the dance hall

            becomes a time tunnel

                        a vacuum

                                    a timeless space

                                                void of the demands of this world

                                                            stress free

                                                                        relaxing

Either soft music in the background

            or

                        a compatible silence

            or

                        a casual conversation

A bridge between the world out there

            with its demands

and the dance world

            with its pleasures!

Friends greet me as I enter the dance hall—my dance family

The music starts

I step onto the dance floor

            and I am free!

                        The carefree child within me

                                    spins round and around

                                                claps her hands

                                                            and

                                                                        Shouts for joy!

                                                                        I am free!

                                                                                    The tip starts,

                                                                        and I am safe

                                                                        to spend two hours

                                                                                    In sheer joy and ecstasy!

I drop the world’s cares and concerns,

            at the door,

                        kicking them out of view!

So if you have problems in your world, join me

            and

                        leave them at the door!

If you are angry or sad

            The magic begins

                        when you show up

                                    and

                                                dress up!

            The music starts

                        and

                        I step onto the dance floor!

And then the real magic takes over!

Cares melt down my shoulders

            and flitter away on a breath

                        giving a lightness to my step

Sorrows cluster together

            and ride away on an angel’s wings.

Music playing

            I am surrounded by dear friends

I step onto the dance floor

            It is a safe place

                        and

                                    I am free!

That’s why I dance!


Born dancing has been my motto for life—many types of dancing but especially square dancing. It truly is my passion.

What is your birth story? What is your passion? Share your comments below.

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

Age · My Thoughts · poetry

A More Recent Belly Poem

Exercise - belly

My belly seems to be my theme for the last couple of days, but today’s poem reaches beyond my belly to the entire process of aging. I’m 68 today and enjoy my thoughts on life and my belly! Apparently, my belly is a favorite topic of mine!

The View Down and The View Up

July 2018

The view down startles me today!

In exercise class,

            sitting on my mat cross-legged, I looked down at my belly.

Recently, I lost fifteen pounds;

            the bulge of my tummy has shrunk!

I love the loss!

            My tummy doesn’t stick out like before.

            The shrinkage is good!

Having just turned sixty-five.

            I see my body changing,

delightful yet sad!

Arthritic hands - belly

Arthritis cripples several fingers

            and my thumbs.

Once I had straight lovely fingers,

            hands I loved to view.

Now I see my mom’s and grandma’s hands

crooked and achy,

            where mine used to be.

I still wear beautiful turquoise rings;

            pain screams through the beauty.

My right knee hints of hurting today.

            I have a brace I keep handy

                        just in case.

            Arthritis too!

Oops! Belly

As I age,

the worst part so far—

                        I pee my pants

                                    when I cough

                                                when I sneeze

                                                            when I laugh too hard.

Thankfully, pads ended years ago

            when my period stopped,

                        and I celebrated.

Now I have returned to pads

            for protection

for safety

for security.

I fear an inexplicable puddle.

                        Will Depends be in my future?

Dance

            exercise

                        Zumba

                                    movement

                                                massage

                                                            keep my body nimble, limber and moving.

Writing

            reading

                        meaty, meaningful conversations

                                                laughter

                                                            friends

                                                                        responsibilities

keep my mind nimble, flexible and alive.

Facing this next phase of life,

            I wonder?

I want to meet and greet

            the elderly woman in me.

I want to accept her limits,

                        to challenge her mindset,

                                    to embrace her idiosyncrasies.

I don’t see me as a feeble ole lady

            wearing nylons rolled up to my knees

                        wobbling, unsure.

I will continue to wear hot pink and leggings

            wobbling with style and grace.

I want to redefine being

            a Senior Citizen.

I have “Hot Tamale” red spiked hair

            instead of gray.

                        I saw the gray and white coming

                                    and opted to hold on to my youth.

And besides,

            I’m a redhead at heart,

                        because of my red-headed father.

I’m young at heart.

I’m trim today,

            because I have to be.

                        Echoes of family genetics

                                    keep me steadfast.

                        My maternal grandmother and her sisters

                                    overweight German stock.

I have a life partner

            that shares my attitudes.

                        We travel and enjoy life.

                                    We laugh. We talk. We dance.

                                                We start many days with a rousing Cribbage game.

He’s older than me

                        and

                                    I watch his wise ways

of handling these changes.

I have dear friends and family who encourage me

            to be the authentic woman God created me to be.

The future is bright.

            The day is calm.

                        Serenity overflows.

I like all of me

            the helpless baby I was,

                        the energetic five-year-old,

                                    the obnoxious thirteen-year-old,

                                                the sixty-five-year-old crone.

I honor each one and their influence on me today.

Yes, years bring wisdom

            patience

                        acceptance

                                    a strong knowing

I’m ready

            for God’s next phase

                        a new uncharted adventure

Looking up - belly

The view up at this glorious world graces my day.

            A verdant green forest of piñon pine

                        A luscious purple mesa lit up at sunset

                                    Cholla cactus in full fuchsia bloom

                                                My fifteen-year-old Siamese cat who struggles

with feline diabetes yet meows his love to me

Summer newness exploding in our garden

                                                                                                with anticipation

                                                                                                            and joy

The view down

            into my body and soul—

                        I like what I see!

The view up

            out of my world

                        reaches to the clouds and back

to my God.

I’m ready!


Finally,

Three years ago, I wrote this poem. Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our dance and travel joys, but physically, not much has changed. I celebrate the idea of being a Baby Boomer with a purpose, and I found that here in the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Thank you! And I continue to wonder about this time of my life!

How has your body changed with aging? What are you doing to combat the changes? What are you doing to accept the changes? Share your thoughts below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

family · My Thoughts · poetry

How I View Myself: Another Poem

Woman looking at herself in a mirror -  view myself

How I view myself has always been shaky. Our society deems a beautiful woman to be slender. I really mean skinny! And I have never been skinny. In fact, as a middle school student, one friend called me “Fat Girl” as a nickname! So, you can imagine I was a little chunky then.

Another factor that has affected my view of myself my whole life—all the woman on my mom’s side of the family had weight issues. And as a young woman, I vowed I would never look that way.

Sadly, during one part of my life, I experience anorexic—I had to cut up food into bite-size pieces to get them into my mouth. What a horrible reaction to what had happened in my life! I’m glad to say that ended with professional help.

So, in July 2011, Lin and I spent a month with another couple in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, a beautiful resort town with hot springs. Taking a chance, I bought a two-piece bathing suit for the first time in years. At the same time, I read the book, Women, Food and God, by Geneen Roth.

So, this poem was the result. Enjoy!

Belly with a flower in belt - view oneself

Love My Belly—Are You Crazy?

The book titled, Women, Food, and God, told me

            “Love your belly!”

So, I did!

            I thought!

            Off-and-on for a few months

                        randomly,

But what does that really mean?

            I pondered that thought often

In passing a mirror,

            it still bothered me!

I’m 58.  I’m short!  I’m 5′ 3″.

When I gain 2 pounds,

            it shows up first on my belly!

All of my life,

            I struggle; I diet.

            I lose; I gain.

And the solution is

            to love my belly?

Walking through Walmart

            before the 4th of July,

I saw a two-piece bathing suit.

            Red, white and blue

            stripes and stars!

            Outlandish for a 58-year-old!

I remembered

            a cute young gal,

                        slim and trim

                        at Cuchara, Colorado

                                    last 4th of July

            donned in cut-offs and that bathing suit top!

Could I do it?

            Could I wear it?

            Dare I at 58?

I looked back in time

            trying to remember —

                        squeezing the facts out of the past.

When was my last, I wore a

            Two-piece suit?

Ten years ago, and

            husband #2?

Twenty years ago, and

            husband #1?

Guatemala with Lynn,

            my long-time traveling buddy?

Probably twenty years ago!

So,

            I bought it!

It sat in the Walmart bag

            for a couple of weeks.

No time to wear it!

            cautious, timid, but willing!

Then, on another Walmart excursion, I found

            matching red, white and blue trunks for Lin.

I bought them and

            knew

            my Independence Day was coming!

I gave him his gift

            on my arrival

            to Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

            IMMEDIATELY,

                        before I unpacked,

                        before I chickened out.

I showed him mine —

            a matching set

            outlandish!

His response was positive!

            but I still wasn’t sure!

In a couple of days,

            we were off to the spa.

He put his on

            which surprised me.

I couldn’t back out now!

I put mine on —

            Astonished!

I looked fine!

            I looked OK!

            I felt great!

That two-piece suit

            somehow encouraged me

                        to do

            what I had struggled for months

                        to do.

We’re on vacation;

            I’ve gained a few pounds

I know that—

            I will lose them when I get home!

That’s what makes this

Two-piece bathing suit experience

            that much sweeter!

I’m not at my ideal weight.

I love my belly

            exactly as it is today!

Looking at myself naked,

            in the mirror in the spa dressing room,

I thought,

            “I’m not skinny!

            I’m not fat!

            I love my belly!”

Here I am at 58.

            I have realized a deep core lie!

                        I have uncovered a massive

                                    self-delusion!

            All these twenty years,

                        I have looked in the mirror

                                    and

                                                saw

                        too fat, too big,

                                    too old!

And I believed it!

            I believed the lie

                        I had told myself!

That makes me wonder —

            what other lies

                        limitations

                                    have I told myself and believed?

I’m not sure,

            but I’m going hunting

                        to the depth of my soul,

                                    to the mesa rim

                                                of my heart,

                        to the mountain top

                                                of my spirit.

Remembering my red, white and blue two-piece bathing suit,

            I will unearth the truth

                        about me!

It truly is Independence Day!

            I love my belly!


Finally,

Maybe age helped in how I viewed myself! I had realized no one watched me like I thought in my younger days. How I view myself had changed. I no longer worried about what you thought of me. I enjoyed my truly unique personality! What a celebration this day was! Yes, I loved my belly!

Have you had self-image issues—how you view yourself? If so, how did you handle them? If not, do you know someone who does?

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

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

family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

Surprised by My Words: More Poems

Surprirsed

Surprised by wandering through my old sketch book/journal, I found a couple more poems to share. I captured my life in poetry in all its nuances—the sentimental and the grieving heart.

Surprised by a sentimental heart

Vinyl record

Now, I’m That Generation

April 17, 2002

I’m that generation now,

The Oldies Station

I hear “Crystal Blue Persuasion”

And am transported back

            30 years or more!

Could it be—30 years!

An innocent teenager’s heart

Touched by this song,

Then and now

 I wandered down life’s path,

            Lost for so many years,

            Then recently re-found

 And the song has the same power.

            My heart softens

                        I cave in and wish

                                    For all that wasn’t!

I used to watch for all that could be!

 A song evokes that for me,

            Transportation back to the moment.


Surprised by my grieving heart

Ever since Dad died, I thought I hadn’t written a poem about him and his death, but I found this one, a treasure for sure! The memory I describe surprised me—yet I can feel the security I felt in his arms every night as he put me to bed.