Dancing · My Thoughts · square dance

Two Weekends of Dancing: Tired Feet!

Tired Feet - Two weekends

Two weekends of dancing: I love it. Today my feet hurt and my lips curl into a smile, remembering the fun we had at USA West Square Dance Convention and Hi Country Weekend. Both offered lots of dancing and both differed, but rewarded us in a variety of ways.

First of the Two Weekend Dance Events: USA West, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From July 26-29, 2023, 450 dancers came from all over the USA and other countries to enjoy USA West. This square and round dance festival began in 1997 in Denver, Colorado. It occurs anytime the National Square Dance Convention is east of the Mississippi. Since 1997, it has been held every year except three years—one year was for COVID.

This year, Albuquerque’s own Randy and Lorraine Pratt organized this event and did a great job.

During the convention, I sold my books and had a significant response. While selling them, I rekindled relationships with many dancers I hadn’t seen in years. What a splendid chance to see friend/dancers!

During USA West, the day began at 10:00 AM and ended at 10:00 PM, with After Parties that lasted until 11:00 PM or later. You can see that many square and round dancers love to party!

Each of the four evenings, we danced the night away to the possibility of 38 callers and 21 cuers from all over the country and Canada. We followed one caller we love around from hall to hall. That’s the option you have at a big event like this.

Often, we found our favorite high energy dancers and danced a fun square.

Also, we thoroughly enjoyed several exhibition groups that performed:

  • California Heritage Dancers
  • River City Riders
  • High Country Dancers
  • The Colorado Dancers

A couple of these groups highlighted the history of square dancing. One group, the River City Riders, had a fun presentation, with the dancers appearing to be horseback.

After so much dancing, we ended the weekend with tired feet and happy hearts! We thoroughly enjoyed the first of the two weekend dance events. USA West was a smashing success, yet we wanted more!

Second of the Two Weekend Dance Events: Hi Country Weekend, Pueblo, Colorado

At the USA West Trail-In dance on Wednesday, the Hi Country Weekend organizers asked if we planned to attend their dance coming up. They regularly attend our festival, Hot August Nights, and one said, “You know, we support you regularly.”

So, on August 3, 2023, Thursday afternoon, Lin and I headed north with a detour to Branson, Colorado, to spend a night there and saw my brother. That evening, we put a window air conditioner in my house in Branson. Afterwards Lin and I visited our 94-year-old friend who always is a joy to see.

Then, on Friday, August 4, we drove to Trinidad and met my brother for lunch and shopped around Trinidad. Afterwards, away we went to Pueblo for Hi Country Weekend for the weekend. Each evening had a different theme: Hawaiian Friday night and Cowboy on Saturday.

Each evening started with thirty minutes of round dancing, then thirty minutes of Plus dancing. The rest of the evening they had SSD (Social Square Dancing) dancing, with Plus dancing and rounds sprinkled throughout. So see—the focus was SSD dancing.

I really enjoyed their unique vision for a festival with the focus on SSD dancing. SSD is a relatively new program that focuses on the most popular fifty Mainstream calls. An entire weekend dedicated to a beginner level of dancing! Never once during the weekend was I bored as an experienced dancer. How about that! Other event planners should take note!

Unlike USA West, this event had two featured callers: Joe Saltel and Mike Hogan and a cuer: Peter and Chama Gomez. What a talented staff! The callers mixed up the SSD program so well, I never felt bored. This part of Colorado has several new SSD dancers that had a blast at their first festival.

Friday night we attended the “After Party” in one of the committee’s hotel room, overflowing with food and drinks and dancers. One tradition of this group is a “Bed Picture.” They get as many people as possible onto the bed in one of their hotel rooms for a selfie and they post the picture on Facebook. Their record is 24 people, but we only got 17! I always laugh as we jam as many people as possible on a hotel bed.

On Saturday morning, we took part in a challenging Plus workshop and then headed out to get gas and wash the car. We returned to the dance hall for a delicious barbecue lunch. Peter and Chama had a great workshop on Saturday afternoon, focusing on lower level round dances and then a jive workshop. We thoroughly enjoyed Peter’s excellent cuing and his hilarious sense of humor all weekend.

What a wonderful group of dancers come from southern Colorado—so warm and welcoming. Plus, high energy who thoroughly enjoy dancing and each other.  

The second festival of our two weekend spree has left me exhausted and satisfied!


Two weekends of amazing dancing! Two weekends in a row—fantastic for those of us who love to dance! Each satisfied my dance needs, and each made my heart smile! In two weeks, we host our dance festival, Hot August Nights, in Albuquerque! So, yes, more dancing, more laughter and more friends in our near future!

Do you square dance? Dance of any kind? Do you dance this often, two weekends in a row?

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Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme - Two weekends
Vacation with my book and heal!

Listen to my twenty-three minute interview on Masterfesto Media Podcast with Isabel Elias about my book Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/6uRX60sDFWbejTg7rZAiLn

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo meme - Two weekends
Find some shade with a cold drink & enjoy Flippo!

Get your free 50-minute audio recording of Flippo! Click here for easy access!

Friends · My Thoughts · square dance

Kathi Raver: Another Woman to Celebrate

Kathi Raver comes to mind as another woman to celebrate during National Women’s History Month, focusing on the women in my history. I end this celebratory month for women with her and her powerful place in my life.

We met in 1995 when she started square dancing with Duke City Singles in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she became my best girlfriend in the square dance world. We were quite a pair—me five feet three and she a stately five eleven!

One similarity we shared was teaching: I taught my entire career in the middle school. Kathi taught in the middle school and high school. She was a P. E. instructor and coached volleyball and basketball.

Another similarity we both shared: hard-headed and opinionated. Interestingly, these lively traits caused only one disagreement between us.

Katherine (Kathi) Raver was born in Hobbs, New Mexico on May 22, 1950 and had two brothers.

For many years, as an adult, Kathi lived in the South Valley of Albuquerque and enjoyed a large garden. In 1997, her brother built her dream house in the east mountains. She fell in love with the mountains.

When I met Kathi, she had two big dogs and one lap dog, Babe. For many years, she spent the summers in Alaska at an active gold mine. I loved to hear her tales from that faraway place.

Kathi struggled with melanoma twenty years before I met her, went into remission, but it came back when I knew her. I so respected her for how she dealt with its reoccurrence. She continued working and daily gave herself shots. She lost her hair and kept smiling.

Because of her leadership skills, she soon became president of Duke City Singles and chaired the Fling, our spring square and round dance festival. We worked on the Fling for several years together. What a duo we were working on it! Many of the favors she gave us on the committee as a personal thank you were items she had made.

Kathi thanking me on stage for helping with the Single Fling!
Kathi thanking me on stage for helping with the Single Fling!

In 2003, we hosted DAR (Dance-A-Rama) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was partially her idea! Kathi, Wanda & Cecelia, three friends, went to Oklahoma City in 2000 for their first DAR, the national singles square dance festival. When they got home, Kathi said to me, “We want to host one here, but you have to chair it.” So, I did it. After our successful event, Kathi and I promised each other we would go into the same nursing home in our twilight years and reminisce about DAR, 03 and all the fun! Sadly, that didn’t happen!

One of my favorite memories of Kathi happened at the Dance-A-Rama we hosted. She hated practical jokes, but I loved them. One of our callers, Mike Bramlett, had started a silly string war the first day of our festival.

Kathi relaxing at DAR03! Not feeling great!
Kathi relaxing at DAR03! Not feeling great!

I encouraged Kathi to join me in spraying him with the silly string while he called. What we did: ran by him and pretended to spray him a couple times, then we unloaded two cans on him. Her musical laughter still rings in my ears. Her contagious laughter always filled the air when she was tickled. And you need to know she was doing chemotherapy then and didn’t feel well when this craziness happened.

Many women pride themselves in having a unique square dance outfit that no one else has. Whenever we were at a festival, Kathi and I looked for look-alike outfits from the vendors—me in the small section and her in the large. When she passed away, we had thirteen outfits alike. What fun we had when we found one in both of our sizes that we both liked. For years, we did an outfit check before a dance weekend to see what we would wear each night.

Kathi and me in poodle skirts she made for our theme dance at the Spring Fling
Kathi and me in poodle skirts she made for our theme dance at the Spring Fling

Also, 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.

One year, we went to the TASSD (Texas Area Single Square Dance) festival in Amarillo. Our new club caller, Art Tangen, was one of the callers. We decorated our petty pants on the backside with, “I heart Art!” So, when he called Saturday night in the big hall, we went up in front of the crowd and flipped up our dresses so he could see our devotion. Unknown to Kathi or me, someone took a picture and her bottom appeared in the TASSD newsletter the next month.

When Kathi and I were in a square together, the fun began! We loved to have fun, making noise and enjoying ourselves. She called it, “hooting and hollering.” One of our favorite activities was “touch a quarter,” a call we added some physical contact to, and it became the focus of many of squares we were in.

Kathi measuring an inseam for the 50/50 drawing
Kathi measuring an inseam for the 50/50 drawing

Kathi loved to do the 50/50 pot and measure the inseam of guys to decide how many tickets they received for a set price and kidded with them–it added a lot of fun to any event! Remember, this was a single club and single event!

Me with Kathi and Lin at the Spring Fling
Me with Kathi and Lin at the Spring Fling

Kathi met Lin Miller, a square dancer, in 2003 at Festigal, a square and round dance festival in Gallup, New Mexico, and her single life ended. In 2005, I witnessed Lin asking her to marry him on stage at Festigal. He shocked her and the crowd, but what a beautiful moment. They married August 2005 in Alaska at the gold camp.

We traveled a lot together to Norfolk, Nebraska, to a dance festival to promote DAR 2003. She drove her Tahoe full of women. How she concentrated with all the chatter and laughter is beyond me! Another year, Kathi and I flew to Omaha, Nebraska and spent the night in my ex’s van at a casino, then on to Norfolk the next day. Then another year after DAR 2003, I went with Lin and her to Norfolk, driving all night, laughing at her antics with her GPS.

My ex and I spent many late nights playing cards with Lin and Kathi after dancing at Duke City Singles. We traveled to many festivals and danced together.

In 2008, Kathi, Lin, my ex’s daughter-in-law, and I went on a square dance cruise to Alaska. It was our first cruise, so we were all excited. Kathi and I enjoyed grabbing a hot dog off of the kids’ buffet every time we went through the cafeteria. When we selected excursions, Kathi specifically wanted to do the zipline, which became our favorite excursion.

I became a redhead because of Kathi. In 2007, we stood in line for breakfast at a restaurant in Norfolk, Nebraska. Kathi tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out a fiery red head a few people ahead of us.

“Go ask her what color she uses. You would look great in that color!” So I did! The color’s name: Hot Tamale! I dyed my hair as soon as we got home but went back to my original color after a few months. After my Mom died in 2013, I dyed it that color and have been a redhead ever since—all because of Kathi.

When I divorced my ex in 2008, Kathi went house hunting with me, helping me find a beautiful townhouse ten minutes from the dance hall. When I moved in, she hooked up my gas dryer. Her brother instructed her on how to do it. She climbed behind the dryer–her tall frame barely fitting there—to save me $85!

My heart shattered on November 25, 2009, the day Kathi died. I stood by her bed with Lin, her sister-in-law and other close girlfriends, and witnessed her last breath. Mom and I had visited her a couple of days before at her house. Her death came so quickly.

Here, fourteen years later, I see Kathi every day. Why? Because Lin and I married in 2011 and live in her house! In 2009, Kathi’s cancer returned repeatedly. At a dance festival we started in August, she told a friend of ours, “When I’m gone, I hope Lin and Larada get together. They would make each other happy!” Did she know her time here was ending? Was she prophetic?

Square dancing intertwined our lives together for fourteen years: teachers, dancers, game players and friends. My life will never be the same because of Kathi Raver!

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All available at my website: laradasbooks.com or Amazon.com

~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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme
Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a chapter!

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet? Vist my website: laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo
Grab an apple and your iPhone and be ready to laugh and cry at the smae time!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been three years. History and humor go hand-in-hand! Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

Albuquerque · haiku · My Thoughts

ABQ Zoo & Haikus—I’m Concerned!

We visited the ABQ zoo on Thursday, July 14, 2022, an all-day affair. We left home before about 8:45 am and arrived there before 9:00 am. Here’s what we saw, and I wrote more haikus but took mostly pictures.

Map of Albuquerque Zoo
Map of Albuquerque Zoo

It felt so good to be back near my beloved Washington middle school, La Washa, where I taught for eight and one-half years. When I taught there, we visited the zoo annually with our students because it was within walking distance. However, it has grown so much; I felt lost most of the day.

During our visit, I found a common theme for the haikus I wrote fed by repeated signs at animal cages of species being endangered. There are seven levels of endangered species. The Red List has seven levels of conservation: least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, and extinct. https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/endangered-species

7 Levels of endangered species

So, in viewing all these precious animals and the thought of losing them for future generations, I ended up writing about the crisis we face with endangered species:

My Haikus

Wild animals

In our ABQ zoo park

Making me aware!

Many are at risk.

Mankind’s disloyalty to

God’s priceless creatures.

Endangered species

Way too many in the zoo

Please stop the killing!

So, I’ve chosen today to do a photo collection of the animals we enjoyed so much.

Finally, I’ll end with a video that’s deceiving. As we left the lions earlier in the day, a volunteer told us to come back about 4:30 pm because they roar every day. Throughout the day, we heard people say you could hear the lion’s roar all over the zoo. How exciting! So we extended our time there and returned.

Sadly to say, in this visit, we didn’t see the polar bears. Lin kept saying, “Where can they be hiding the polar bears?”

I said, “In the freezer!” With it being a hot day over 90 degrees, they may have been somewhere cool. We also missed the penguin exhibit by just a few minutes. We plan to start our next visit with these two favorites.

I had my iPad all set up to videotape this notable event. At 4:30 pm, we settled ourselves at the lion’s habitat with several people who we had passed on the information. As if on a schedule, the male lion stirred—his massive mane flowing. Lin commented he did not know a lion’s mane was so massive.

Then a door opened on the wall inside the habitat. First, the female lion entered, then the male followed, so I thought we missed it. But immediately the roaring began, so I videotaped it, but the video shows the platform where I thought they would be. You know—like The Lion King!

As we walked through this beautiful park, the Albuquerque’s zoo, nestled among old stately Cottonwood trees, has an allure to it—a tranquil place to enjoy a day.

Stately cottonwood tree at the Albuquerque zoo

Finally, we enjoyed our visit and plan another one in a month. I hate the stark truth of the demise of so many of our animals around the globe. Have you ever thought about this growing concern? Hopefully, you have now.

Now what to do?

~WATCH MY NEW INTERVIEW on Chat & Spin Radio, from Friday, June 24, 2022. Join us for a lively description of all 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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~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

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

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~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!


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.


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


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

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.

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!

~$500 Black Friday Giveaway from November 4-26! More details in next week’s post!

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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

Visit my Etsy Shop for Fall Specials:  Larada’s Reading Loft

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