Christianity · My Thoughts · Recovery · Spirituality

My Spiritual Father: A Priest and a Friend!

Father dancing with little girl - Spiritual Father

My spiritual father? Does that sound strange? I would say it’s a man who contributes to the growth and nurturing of my spirit, someone who touched my life deeply. As I thought about Father’s Day this week, I knew I’d already written about my dad and other key men in my life. So, I wanted to share about my spiritual father!

I met Fr. Tom Weston, a recovering Jesuit priest, thirty years ago. Here it is Father’s Day 2022 and I want to honor his work in my life. He contributed to my spiritual growth over the last thirty years in a variety of ways. I attended many retreats in Albuquerque after the Mesilla retreat identified below. After hearing him the first time, I have bought eleven recorded cassette tapes then CDs of his teachings. Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, Fr. Tom offered monthly Zoom retreats since April 2020 (or that’s when I started).

My First Experience

In the spring of 1993, I attended my first Serenity Retreat for recovery. A new friend in the program invited me to go with her to Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla, New Mexico, outside of Las Cruces for the weekend. She had raved about Fr. Tom often, and I needed a shot in the arm. I had been dealing with some heavy-duty stuff.

So, we took off at noon—both of us taught our morning classes and away we went. From the first talk on Friday night, I saw Fr. Tom’s amazing talents. He had me laughing one minute and crying the next, then laughing again. He provided a refreshing picture of recovery and Christianity that I needed.

On the drive down, my friend forewarned me Fr. Tom held ten-minute private counseling sessions on Saturday and sign up early because he filled up quickly. She knew the woes I had been going through and felt I needed an extra boost, so I signed up.

When my time came on his packed Saturday schedule, Fr. Tom suggested we walk around the pecan orchard next to the retreat house. I shared my current trauma that had my life topsy-turvy.

Calmly, he said, “I have no experience with your issue, but how about finding a tree here to connect with and something might come up.”

So, I followed his instructions and parked myself under near a tree with my journal. Immediately, memories flooded my mind, and I knew Fr. Tom had known my God and the trees would help me. This became a pivotal point in a deep healing for me.

Fr. Tom Grew to become My Spiritual Father

From then on, I became a follower of Fr. Tom, attending multiple retreats at the Dominican Sisters Retreat House in the South Valley and then off of Coors Boulevard in Albuquerque. Every retreat, I signed up for the one-on-one time with Fr. Tom, keeping him updated with my current life, and I loved the connection we made.

Over the years, listening to his teachings, Fr. Tom expanded my belief in my God from a punishing, judgmental white guy sitting in robes on the clouds to a peaceful, accepting personal God I could talk to and have a personal relationship with. And he did this through a variety of instruments: through an inclusive Mass on Sunday at the retreats and reading part of the Mass in Hebrew to connect me to our Jewish roots, through Rumi’s delightful and resounding poetry, through simple Buddhist reminders to stay present, through Fr. Anthony de Mello’s humor and stories and through Mary Oliver’s nature-focused poetry and especially her blue iris poem about prayer, “Praying.” With each retreat, I looked forward to his literary references peppered throughout the weekend.

Once, while listening to one of Fr. Tom’s recorded retreats, on one of my hundreds of four-hour trips north to Colorado to visit my folks or my southern trip to return home, he shared a very risky prayer. Immediately, I pulled over and jotted it down, shivered at its possibilities and put it away for many years. I felt if I prayed that prayer, the world would turn upside down.

Then he shared it again recently on one of his monthly Zoom retreats, and I embraced its truth and now pray it daily. Here it is:

Father Robert Egan’s Come Holy Spirit (Pentecost) Prayer

  • Come, Holy Spirit! We pray
  • Rattle our cages
  • Break into our locked houses
  • Water our parched land
  • Undo our bends and twistedness
  • Awaken our hearts
  • Help us overflow with kindness and
  • Give us unending joy.
Marked up Bible - Spiritual Father

Fr. Tom gave me the freedom to open my heart up to a larger God than I had ever known before and, with that, I have returned to my Christian faith and my religion of choice with a deeper acceptance and renewal.

In conclusion, your spiritual father may be the father that raised you. Mine wasn’t. My dad had little interest in spiritual matters. My spiritual father came many years later in life, in God’s time, and I am so grateful.

Do you have a spiritual father? Was it your dad? If not, who was he? How did he affect your life?

Fr. Tom’s website: https://www.innerlightproductions.net/fr-tom-weston


~NEW INTERVIEW on Chat & Spin Radio, Friday, June 24 at 1:00 PM. Join us for a lively discussion of my books!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

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

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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~What happened to you in 2020-2021 during the coronavirus pandemic? Do you care? Are you on a spiritual path? Do you want to heal from the horrible effects of the pandemic of 2020? 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

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?


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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Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

It’s Been a Year Since We Lost Flippo!

            Monday, November 4 will be a year since Marshall Flippo died! When he passed away, I was in shock. I wasn’t ready for our conversations to end. I knew he was in the hospital and not doing well, but he had bounced back before. I had endless questions to ask: to clarify, to expand and to enrich the forty interviews we did.

            We had talked weekly for over a year—40 hours of laughter, memories and stories. I felt honored and privileged for Flip to share his intimate life details with me. Yes, several of the stories will not be published in his biography, but I laughed at his bawdy humor and deep joy for living.

           I wasn’t ready for our weekly dates to end–for the end of “us”!

            An interesting situation transpired around his death. His life-long friend, Frank Lane, died on October 31, 2018—just four days before Flip. Flippo’s son suggested Flip might have died of a broken heart.

            Yes, Flippo’s health was failing—three times in the hospital in three months with pneumonia–and his 91-year-old body wore out, but I wonder about that possibility. . .

“Being the last person standing” was something my husband, Lin, questioned Flip about and here he was. Frank and Flippo were the last of the “original 11” who formed CALLERLAB. After Frank’s death, Flippo truly was the last man standing of his peers.

            The one person Flippo referenced the most in his stories and recounting his calling life next to Neeca, his ex-wife, was Frank Lane.

            Flippo said, “I worked with Frank Lane two weekends a year for 36 years. I got to know him pretty well.” In reality, they worked together more often than that!

Frank and Flippo worked together at Asilomar’s week event for 35 years. Frank and Flip were two of the original members that started CALLERLAB and were active throughout their careers with this organization. Frank owned the Dance Ranch outside of Estes Park, Colorado and Flip was a regular there every year in July for decades. Flippo and Frank worked together at Kirkwood Lodge for decades. There they worked together, and they played together water skiing.

            Bob Osgood started an interview series called DIALOG in Sets in Order magazine in February 1968 and stated, “This month we inaugurate a new series of dialogues directed to those people who have a desire to call square dances.”

Bob Osgood, Sets in Order (February 1968): 12.       

In 1968, Flippo and Frank teamed up with Arnie Kronenberger and did two interviews on “How Does One Go About Learning to Call?”, answering different questions in each interview about this gigantic topic.

            In 1969, this duo teamed up with Bob Page, longtime friend who Flip called with at Asilomar’s weekend event yearly for many years, to do two DIALOG interviews titled “Leadership In Square Dancing” and “Building
Dancer Reaction.” Both Frank and Flip were respected leaders in the square dance world.

Here’s an ad for a dance they did together!

They started out calling about the same time and their paths crisscrossed over the United States where they teamed up at numerous festivals and events for decades.

The stories Flip told on Frank were priceless centering on the fun they had golfing and Flippo pulling tricks on Frank. Flippo created enduring relationships with people that lasted his lifetime and did things to nurture those relationships like regular phones and visits. In mid-2018, when we spoke of Frank last, I wanted to call him to get his side of some of Flippo’s stories.

         Flip readily shared Frank’s phone number with me and said, “Well, he’s pretty bad off, so. . .. Sometimes Barbara answers, so. . .. Let it ring a good while. I don’t know whether he’s got answering (machine) or not. The last time I talked to him, Barbara picked up pretty quick, about three rings. I don’t know.”

         I did call, and Barbara answered the phone, telling me that Frank couldn’t talk on the phone because of his hearing, so I never had the opportunity to get his side. I also missed a prime opportunity to see the Lane’s in personal during the summer of 2018 when Lin and I went to Loveland, Colorado to visit a friend—Estes Park is just one hour from Loveland, but I wasn’t thinking!

         All of this talk about this pair reminds me of one of Flippo’s favorite Frank Lane stories. Here’s a partial exposure of Flippo’s side of the story, “I probably told you that Asilomar was my favorite, favorite weekend and week to go to, right? Frank Lane and I were doing the week, and he was, of course, the leader.”

         With a chuckle, Flip added, “He was a born leader. At that time, there’s a thing come out called a Barge Thru. If you said, ‘Barge Thru,’ it’s kinda like square through four and then Trade By. So, at that time, you said, ‘Barge Thru,’ then you sung the words of the song as they were doing the Barge Thru. Jerry Haag had a call, I don’t have an idee what the name of this call was, but he had a call out at that time that had Barge Thru in it.”

         “Star Thru came out at the same Nationals as Snaparoo in one hall. At the same time, somebody was calling, I think it was Les Gotcher, and he called it Star Thru in the other room. I think it might have been Red Warrick, introduced it as Snaparoo. So thar became a good big ole debate about that, and finally we all decided we’d stick with Star Thru.”

         Frank Lane said, ‘That’s ruining all your Star figures when you call it Star Thru.”

         Flip added, “And he was absolutely 100% correct. It hurt a lot of our Star figures. And so, he stayed with Snaparoo. He’d tell people at the dance, ‘Now when I say Snaparoo, it’s the same as a Star Thru. Don’t let it bother you.’”

         The story continued with lots of bantering back and forth about Flippo’s favorite call, Barge Thru, and Frank’s renaming of a call, Snaparoo.  This exchange had a hilarious ending (find it in Flippo’s biography, Just Another Square Dance Caller, In the CALLERLAB chapter). You can see how they interacted!

Melton Luttrell, Tom Miller and Marshall Flippo at CALLERLAB, 2018

         During his lifetime, Flippo loved people—many people over the past two years have repeated this phase to me as being one of his sterling characteristics. He created relationships that lasted a lifetime—Melton Luttrell was one of his best friend for six+ decades. Whenever he mentioned Frank Lane, he had a deep love for this man and he always had a laugh to accompany that name.

         So, did Flippo die of broken heart that day a year ago thinking about life here without his dear friend? Who knows?

         I ponder the possibility of them reading this blog post. Are they still arguing good-heartedly about Snaparoo and Barge Thru? I doubt it! I believe they’re calling one heck of square dance festival to our dance friends gone from this earth who are enjoying those two callers once again!

         And yes, I was not ready to lose this man—who was?

         Here’s a recording of Flippo sharing a part of the Snaparool/Barge Thru debate—enjoy!

Flippo’s side of the Snaparoo/Barge Thru Debate!

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

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family · Grief · My Thoughts

Aunt Willie Almost Made 99!

Can you imagine living to be 98–a few short weeks of being 99? Think about all the changes you’d see in nine decades.

Me, AW, Jan & Mom Branson
Larada, Jan & Mom Standing & Aunt Willie Sitting

On October 12, 2018, my dear Aunt Willie Urbanoski passed away at 4:20 am at 98 years old. She wanted to make 100 but her God had different ideas. Over the last few years, we referred to her as “The Ever Ready Bunny” because she had been on the brink of death several times and came back to us full of vim and vigor, but when I got the text this time from my cousin, something inside of me shuttered–it didn’t feel the same.

As a child, my brother, Harold couldn’t pronounce Aunt Willie, so he called her “Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck. That was her name my whole childhood.

At twelve, I spent a week with her and Uncle Hughie fishing and then on to Albuquerque. She toured me around town to all the sights. I’m sure my love for Albuquerque began on this visit.

The Urbanoski’s attended very major event in my life and my brother’s–graduations,  marriages and more. When I was princess representing Branson High School at the Trinidad State Junior College Tournament, they came and supported me–always they were there for us.

Aunt Willie’s delicious humor kept us laughing right up to our last visit on Sunday, October 7, 2018. I had the habit of talking to Mom every Sunday night on my drive to a meeting, so when Mom died, I asked Aunt Willie if I could call her; she agreed with a twinkle in her eyes.

We anticipated our weekly phone date. We’d catch up on our lives and seasonally, we talked about the success or failure of the Denver Bronco’s. Aunt Willie loved Peyton Manning and wanted the offensive line to protect him more. Other times we’d talk about the dancers on Dancing with the Stars and moan and groan if our couple got kicked off. She loved to hear about Lin and my travels and dancing adventures. She also loved to talk about her three granddaughters and two great grandsons.

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She was my Mom’s older sister by nine years. She had no trouble telling my Mom that she had it made in their family until Mom arrived–Aunt Willie was the only grandchild until then. All my life, they had a close relationship, but I loved to watch these two sisters together, especially later in life after they were widowed–they lived about 20 miles apart for several years and spent as much time together as possible. I marveled at their mutual support during this part of their lives.

Aunt Willie had a special love affair with my husband, Lin. It started the moment they met with lots of flirting and carrying on and lasted even until our last phone call with lighthearted bantering going back and forth between them.

Her life was full and rich–she grew up in northeastern New Mexico in a small community, Des Moines, which she loved. For many years, she organized a yearly reunion for classmates.

She married the love of her life, Hugh Urbanoski and they raised the joy of their lives, Janet, in Albuquerque, NM. Aunt Willie worked and retired from payroll office at Sandia Base. As soon as they could after retirement, Uncle Hughie and Aunt Willie moved to Folsom, NM to be close to their daughter and her family.

For the last few years, I visited Aunt Willie monthly in Pueblo, CO and asked lots of questions because I enjoyed hearing her retell her stories–how she met Uncle Hughie, how she played basketball in school and was accused of drinking alcohol once, how much she enjoyed being a waitress in Raton, NM and so much more.

Losing her has been really hard. As I viewed her body this last Wednesday, I was reminded again that our bodies are temporary homes for our spirits. She looked peaceful, but that lifeless form wasn’t my Aunt Willie–vibrant and giggly and so affirming of me. I will miss her terribly–Sunday nights won’t be the same.


Death is a part of our lives. How do you handle it? I would love to hear your comments!

Check out my books on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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My Thoughts · square dance

My First CALLERLAB Experience–Through the Eyes of a Dancer

I wrote the following article for the June issue of Square Dance Magazine–enjoy!

Lin & me - Flippo dance

“Why don’t Lin and you ever come to CALLERLAB?” Eric Henerlau asked me four years ago as I drove him to the airport after the Spring Fling festival in Albuquerque, NM.

“I’m not a caller” was my quick response. He explained CALLERLAB wants dancers to attend and would welcome us because we have promoted square dancing locally and nationally and would have ideas to share.

When I heard that CALLERLAB was coming to Albuquerque in 2018, I remembered Eric’s suggestion and made the commitment to attend. The decision was worth it.

As I tentatively stepped in the hallway Sunday night for the Social Hour to kick off CALLERLAB, I felt at home immediately as I scanned the room and realized how many of the callers I knew. Different callers and their wives warmly welcomed me, and not once did I hear, “What are you doing here?”

When Denise Hogan saw me, she rushed over and hugged me, and we reconnected after not seeing each other for a while. Mike joined us shortly and told me that our local club, Duke City Singles and Doubles Square Dance Club, would be mentioned in his keynote address the next morning.

And so he did—we were one of the case studies mentioned. Mike had me stand up and be recognized as being on the board when major changes happened for our club. After his speech, I was shocked; women quizzed me in the bathroom. I just happened to have the postcard we used to promote our lessons with me, and they

took a photo of it. Throughout the week, people stopped me and wanted a quick summary of what we did. We had several old postcards left over, so I gave them away.

I so appreciated that CALLERLAB provided a strand of marketing and promotional seminars because that’s my passion. I also attended a couple of caller seminars, and my respect of what callers do before they go on stage increased 1000%.

I was thrilled with the Marketing Manual created by the Marketing committee and plan to use it this year when we promote our lessons. In fact, we’re having Mike Hogan do a Marketing Seminar in Albuquerque, NM, the Sunday afternoon of Hot August Nights this year.

I thoroughly enjoyed the panel of the Legends and enjoyed the presenters’ stories, but was so sad that Bob Brundage couldn’t attend.

At each one of the marketing and promoting sessions, I gleaned an idea to incorporate into our advertising plan—great strategies from a variety of presenters all over the United States.

One caller workshop I attended was on Sustainable Square Dancing, facilitated by Vernon Jones. For the last five years, I have been involved in promoting our lessons, and it breaks my heart to see how many people we lose each year. We have to make the lesson sequence shorter to retain more dancers. Hearing the success stories from the panel and attendees convinced me that this might be a viable solution.

I’m writing the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo. In my weekly interviews with Flippo, in describing his lessons experience, he said, “We had 10 lessons and then we were square dancers!” Do we need to rethink what we are doing—could

Sustainable Square Dancing be the answer? After the workshop, I was excited with the possibilities.

I had the privilege of meeting Jim Mayo, Elmer Sheffield and Melton Luttrell. Since CALLERLAB, I’ve interviewed Jim Mayo and Melton Luttrell for the Flippo biography. I also had a special time with Flippo to work on his book.

I relished the conversations about square dancing and promoting shared at any meal time. It was rich conversation and an opportunity to network with like-minded people from around the world.

One highlight for me was the banquet Tuesday night. I sat at Mike Hogan’s table and had the pleasure of visiting with Mike and Denise Hogan, Mike Seastrom and Lisa, Andrith Davis and Michael Turley. At this banquet, I witnessed Jim Mayo receive the Lifetime Achievement award—so deserving. Jim and Marshall Flippo are the only two members who have ever received this award!

Tuesday night during the square dance, a couple of young women and a man stood outside in the hall, and they asked me what was going on. They were fascinated by the square dancing—a perfect opportunity for the promoter that I am. We talked, and I encouraged them to go in the hall and watch. I also found out where they lived and assured them that there was square dancing in their area.

The three days were jam packed with activity, but my most noted observation was the fraternity CALLERLAB is for callers—many special relationships that have spanned many years.

I highly recommend CALLERLAB to any dancer.

Lin.Larada Collage


What do you do for fun with your spouse? Where do you go?


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

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For more information about square dance lessons starting Thursday, September 20, 2018, visit Duke City Singles & Doubles Square Dance Club