Christmas · Christmas · My Thoughts

My Hair Was on Fire!

My childhood holiday experience included activities at our Community Church. Here’s a poem from my book, A Tumbleweed Landed, recognizing the place that church had in my life.

Branson Community Church

The Branson Community Church
small and quaint.
 
People that touched my life
Maynard Bowen,
Walt Graham
Ministers of God, who took the time for me.
The Loudens
The Gilstraps
The Smiths
The Warners
The Cummins
Mabel Survant
Mrs. Jamieson
 
Sunday School teachers
and family friends who let me sit with them,
singing my songs out loud
when I couldn’t even read.
Beautiful old hymns and singing.
They loved me, taught me,
and encouraged me.
A safe place to be on Sunday morning,
and a nice place to meet God.
 
Youth group on Sunday night
games and talking about God
Youth group picnic and campouts at the Gilstraps
and the annual Christmas programs.
 
One year, at the Christmas program
I was an angel
with the other young girls.
Donned in our white robes, wings, and haloes,
we walked in a straight line
carrying lit candles.
The girl behind me got too close
and caught my hair on fire!
Our teacher quickly handled the situation, and
I wasn’t burned.
The program went on.
 
Copyright©2014, Larada Horner-Miller

NEW Christmas ChapbookA Colorado Country ChristmasFull color paperback chapbook or digital version. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft to purchase: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

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

~I HAVE OVER 200 PRE-ORDERS FOR THE MARSHALL FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY!  You, too, can pre-order this amazing story? You can select which paper format or e-book format you would like. Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways!  https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

family · Holidays · My Thoughts

Memorial Day or Decoration Day?

            As a child, we went to the cemetery in Des Moines, New Mexico and met my Mom’s parents on Decoration Day many times. The adults decorated the graves of family members, and we raced around dodging headstones and graves playing with friends. Many families brought picnic lunches and this allowed more play time for the children and more visiting time for the adults. This trip to a familiar cemetery meant the beginning of summer because school was over, and we headed to Amarillo, Texas to spend a week with my grandparents.

            Fast forward to my adult life. I watched my Mom and Dad religiously decorate family graves in Trinidad, Colorado and back to Des Moines. It was a family tradition, and their commitment to caring for deceased family members and their graves spoke deeply to me.

            When my Mom died six years ago, my cousin said she’d take care of the graves in Des Moines and I would do the ones in Trinidad, so faithfully I followed my family’s tradition for the last five years. I decorated my parents’ grave, my grandparents’ grave, and my Aunt’s all in Trinidad. I also decorated my sister-in-law’s in the beautiful quaint cemetery outside of my hometown of Branson, Colorado.

            This year I failed. I have been sick for the last three months and haven’t visited Colorado yet to decorate the graves. I will, but it will be late. This made me think about this tradition, its importance and the history behind it.

            What is Memorial Day anyway?

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

This is what I remember as Decoration Day! But it changed.

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2019 occurs on Monday, May 27. 

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

            I celebrate both of these commemorations: my family and friends that have passed and anyone in the military who has given their life so we can keep our democracy safe and sound.

Some of the soldiers I have known who have passed:

  • Uncle Tanky Doherty
  • Marshall Flippo
  • Leroy Ellis
  • Excel Smith
  • Donald Berg
  • Fred Buhr
Mom and Dad’s Headstone

Those major family and friends I have lost over my 65 years:

  • Harold and Elva Horner – Dad and Mom
  • Laurence and Pearle Horner – paternal grandparents
  • Virgil and Tresia Dickerson – maternal grandparents
  • Hughie and Willa Urbanoski – Uncle and Aunt
  • Gay and Helen Waldroup – Uncle and Aunt
  • Fred Horner – Half-brother
  • Jason Talley – nephew
  • Reu and Helen Waldroup – parents’ best friends
  • Millard Warner – Dad’s best friend
  • Millie Sheldon – childhood babysitter
  • Kathi Raver – best girlfriend in the square dance world
  • Lela Kaye Horner – sister-in-law
  • Candy Vargas – lifelong best friend
  • Gene and Carol Champion – square dance friends
  • Joel Walton – Square Dance Friend

Whew! That’s a lot of losses! I just heard today if you grieve many losses, that means you’ve loved a lot! What a comforting thought!

How do you celebrate Decoration Day/Memorial Day? What are your traditions? Make it more than just another day off. How can you make it memorable? Please share your ideas in the Comments!


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Would you like to join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Interesting posts about Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/

Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? Go here to order the version you want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42

Christmas · Memoirs · My Thoughts

My Hair on Fire! Oh, my God!

As a child, the Branson Community church played a big part of my life. As I remember, it was the people who loved and nurtured me that I associate with that quaint little church.

Each December, the Christmas program at the church was a big deal for our small ranching community–we anticipated it as a major part of our holiday festivities. We put on pageants, songs and plays.

For one of the productions, I was an angel–I felt heavenly for sure. Being an angel can be dangerous! Here’s what happened–safety wasn’t the focus back in the 50’s.

Historic photo of Branson Community Church


Branson Community Church


The Branson Community Church
small and quaint.
 
People that touched my life
Maynard Bowen,
Walt Graham
Ministers of God, who took the time for me.
The Loudens
The Gilstraps
The Smiths
The Warners
The Cummins
Mabel Survant
Mrs. Jamieson
 
Sunday School teachers
and family friends who let me sit with them,
singing my songs out loud
when I couldn’t even read.

Beautiful old hymns and singing.
They loved me, taught me,
and encouraged me.
A safe place to be on Sunday morning,
and a nice place to meet God.
 
Youth group on Sunday night
games and talking about God
Youth group picnic and campouts at the Gilstraps
and the annual Christmas programs.
 
One year, at the Christmas program
I was an angel
with the other young girls.
Donned in our white robes, wings, and haloes,
we walked in a straight line
carrying lit candles.
The girl behind me got too close
and caught my hair on fire!
Our teacher quickly handled the situation, and
I wasn’t burned.
The program went on.
 

Did you participate as a child in Christmas programs at your church? Any exciting happenings? Let me know.

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Merry Christmas! Free downloads of individual stories & poems at my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

What are Your Christmas Traditions?

In my country childhood, we had many Christmas traditions: the fun and adventure of cutting down a tree from our ranch, hilarious Christmas programs at the church and school, and fun-filled Christmas caroling around our small town. Our family dominated this holiday’s focus.

My dad’s parents lived in the same town, so most Christmas Eve’s were spent at their house with family. See what a traditional Christmas Eve looked like at the Horner’s house!

Santa & Reindeer Graphic

Christmas at the Horner’s

It was a big affair,
     especially when Granddad got all
     sixteen grandchildren together.
That meant a holiday house full.

Each year, my Christmas outfit was always special.
One year
     a white dress with a gathered skirt,
     trimmed in red,
     made by Mom.

Grandma, decked out in her festive apron,
      worried over the meal.
She made the best mashed potatoes,
     smothered in butter.
Granddad’s job came after dinner.

The table was set on the porch so
     we could all fit,
          a long line of smiles and laughter.

For those of us who knew the tradition,
     anticipation set in.
We tried to hurry the process,
     with no success.

Finally after a leisurely cup of coffee and a cigarette,
     Granddad would disappear to the front door.

His shout rang through the whole house!
     It had begun.

“I just saw Santa Claus fly over. Come quick.”

We’d race to the front door,
     and
he would race to the back door.

“No, no he’s out here now. Come this way.”

We’d race to the back door.
This would go on for
     what seemed like eternity,
     and I never did see Santa, a reindeer,
          or his sleigh.
               I was always a second too late!
But this also meant that it was time
     to open our gifts that had mysteriously spilled out from
          under the Christmas tree.

A traditional Christmas with the Horner’s meant
     cousins,
     aunts and uncles,
     sometimes great aunts
          from Tulsa, Oklahoma,
     good food,
     lots of laughter,
and
     traditions that filled my heart with joy and
          family connection!

Copyright © 2014 Larada Horner-Miller
from This Tumbleweed Landed


What was your favorite Christmas tradition? I’d love to hear from you.

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family · Grief · My Thoughts · poetry

How Do You Mourn the Loss of A Loved One?

Program

Grief is a topic that many people turn their backs on–I challenge you to answer the question because I will!

My Aunt Willie Urbanoski died on Friday, October 12, 2018, and because of family circumstances, we didn’t have her memorial service until yesterday, November 10. We did have a private family burial on Thursday, October 18, 2018.

Yesterday, the service was full of stories, pictures, laughter and tears–a real celebration of a woman who lived to be 98 years old–almost 99 because her birthday was Wednesday, November 7.

A second cousin stationed in England couldn’t attend to service, so her sisters did a live feed to her, so she and her husband could attend virtually–a 21st century way to handle loss.

How do YOU mourn the dead? For family? For friends? We all do it differently. My Mom’s sage advice: do it your way. I have a strong need to attend the memorial, view the body and get closure to the relationship. My best friend, Candy, died in 2012, and I was sick and couldn’t attend her service, and I have regretted it for years–no closure for me.

I wrote my aunt a poem for Christmas, 2012, and a week after my Mom died in March, 2013, Aunt Willie asked me if I would read that poem at her funeral. I said I would, but I’d cry all the way through it. She said she didn’t care because she wouldn’t be there!

So yesterday, I mustered my strength and read it–I got almost to the end before the tears came. Here’s the poem–I hope you enjoy it!

La's Poem & John
Presenting My Poem–Some Humor for Sure

My Aunt Wee Wee

By: Larada Horner-Miller

December 25, 2012

Revised: November 9, 2018

You will always be Aunt Wee Wee!

As a child, Bub couldn’t pronounce “Aunt Willie,” so it came out

“Aunt Wee Wee,” and it stuck.

As I look back through my life,

You have always been there,

Aunt Wee Wee!

When I became an Aunt,

I followed your lead!

I wanted to touch my

nieces and nephews’ lives

the way you touched mine!

I have valued all the wonderful times

we spent together over the years.

You grace so many

of my memories!

As a toddler

I can remember

when I looked into your eyes, I saw a playful sparkle

saying,

“Yeah, Larada,

I love you!”

In my childhood,

at Branson dances,

I remember watching

you and Uncle Hughie dance,

and the fun you had.

I remember 4th of July picnics and fireworks

Bub and I couldn’t wait until you arrived with Black Cats!

You came all the way from Albuquerque!

As a family, we went to Albuquerque.

You shared your beautifully decorated cakes.

We went on shopping sprees to the mall.

Delicious Thanksgiving dinners shared!

Our fishing trips

Our time together at Springer lake

You sat religiously by the lake, pole in hand.

While Uncle Hughie and I set up our poles

and roamed!

My week stay with you in Albuquerque-

A visit to Old Town

The Tram and dinner on the top! I felt like a princess!

As a young adult

You attended all of my major life events:

My 8th grade graduation

Princess at the TSJC tournament

My high school graduation

My TSJC graduation

We’ve continued that

precious relationship into my adulthood.

My weddings

You attended my first 2 weddings.

No one attended the third.

Lin and I knew you were with us in spirit at ours.

As our second anniversary approached, Aunt Willie repeated often,

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?

Yes, Lin and I celebrated our second anniversary

with you in Pueblo— pictures, cake, laughter and love abounded.

I had several special visits while you

were in Logan, UT and now in Pueblo.

Some people I’ve known for a short time

and they only know me one dimensionally.

You have known me forever, and you know the many

sides of me.

You smile, and

you make me smile.

You know all about me,

and you make me feel good

about being me.

You love to laugh and enjoy life.

Often you catch me by surprise

with your witty humor, and we share a belly laugh.

In that laughter

I am no longer 59; You are no longer 93.

We are young again, frolicking on the floor.

My Aunt Wee Wee!

That’s the power you have always had–to make me smile

To make me laugh and

To make me feel good about myself!

What a gift!

I haven’t called you

“Aunt Wee Wee” for years,

but you always will be — my Aunt Wee Wee!

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


How do you mourn the loss of a family member? A friend? I’d love to see your comments. Remember–there’s no right or wrong way to do it!

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Memoirs · Uncategorized

This Tumbleweed Landed

You may not have grown up in Branson, CO during the fifties and sixties, but as you read my poems and stories, see how they resonant with you.  Hopefully they will bring back happy memories from your own childhood.

I had a friend tell me last week after reading my book, that it sounded like his childhood — he grew up in Brooklyn, not southeastern Colorado.  He said we were a tight-knit community when I grew up, just like your community.

So it doesn’t matter where you grew up. Hopefully these poems and stories will hit home for you and give you a respite for a moment.