My Thoughts

An Angel Cat–Really?

In September 2008, my third marriage ended and my ex-husband kept our pet, a wolf hybrid named Kita that we raised from a pup. I have had a pet for most of my adult life, and these precious animals have fed my soul. After the split, I bought and moved into a townhouse, and by February of 2009, I was ready for a pet.

The women I worked with suggested getting a cat instead of a dog because I traveled often. They assured me that I could leave a cat easily and I wouldn’t have worry about a kennel. I had not had a inside cat since a tabby kitten when I was young and at home.

When I was growing up, we did have lots of cats running around my small country town because my half-brother and two half-sisters routinely brought a stray to us every time they visited. At one time, Dad counted 35 cats running around town he feared we had a hand in bringing there, but they were all outside cats.

Enough said, I was ready. At that time, I worked at the district office for Albuquerque Public Schools as support staff for teachers. We were housed at the Montgomery Complex and did workshops and training there.

I stayed late on a evening in early February for a training I was facilitating, and as I left my office, I heard a cat meowing outside in the bushes. It was a strange cry that I later became very familiar with–a Siamese cry! I made note of it but didn’t think anything more about it.

The next day I had just finished a training across town, and my phone rang with an anxious call from one of my co-workers, “Your cat is here!” She was a cat-owner and lover and had been the strongest voice urging me to get a cat instead of a dog.

“Where are you? Can you come back to the office NOW?” she queried.

I had just finished my presentation, so I agreed to return immediately. She took me outside through the door to my office, and there stood a skittish feline eating the food my co-worker had provided. This distressed cat kept one eye on me and one on his exit route. My friend informed me, “He’s a silver-tip Siamese,” and we oohed and aahed over him.

“Take him home with you tonight! Don’t you want to?” my friend urged me.

“I’m not taking it home tonight! I have to think about it!” I resisted. Needless to say, I went home that night and dreamed of cats all night, so with assistance from my cat expert friend, I bought a litter box and food and took him home the next day.

I named him “Jesse,” a name I was almost given. After going over Jesse with a fine-tooth comb, I realized how gorgeous he was–a silver-tip Siamese but skinny. I was sure he was someone’s pet, so on Saturday, I took him to VetCo and they wanded him to see if he had a chip. He did! They called the owners and the owners called me, giving me full possession of Jesse–I was now a cat owner.

His first big mess shocked me. I was conditioning my Dad’s leather chaps and had them spread out on the living room floor. In my absence for a few short minutes, he peed on Dad’s precious chaps. I was devastated and put them up in a safe place. There was a lot I learned about being a cat owner!

That was ten years ago. Jesse is sixteen years old now and suffers from feline diabetes, so he needs insulin twice a day. He travels with me monthly to Branson and loves to go once he realizes he’s not going to the vet.

My husband, Lin, is not a cat person at all, but he compromised when we married. I think he has grown to like Jesse–they have a morning ritual of a meow-fest. Jesse responds to Lin anytime he’s around, and they go and forth meowing at each other.

Jesse and I also share a morning ritual. I write and read every morning in our library, and he snuggles up close to me–a great way to start the day. In fact, if I don’t go immediately to the library in the morning, he scolds me and goes ahead of me.

For our first three years together, Jesse wasn’t a lap kitty, but in 2012, I had shoulder surgery. He must have sensed my pain because he crawled up into my lap then, and now it has become a nightly ritual if we’re sitting on the loveseat in front of the TV. In fact, Jesse often moves to the arm of the loveseat in anticipation of us joining him.

Jesse on one of his favorite perches!

As Jesse’s aged, I’ve marveled at his resiliency. When he was diagnosed in 2016 with diabetes, he was so sick and had lost from twenty pounds (big, fat cat) to 13 pounds. The disease caused a sad limp and he couldn’t jump anymore. He couldn’t go upstairs to the loft to join me when I worked on my computer. We worked hard to get him back on his feet, and he has stayed steady at 16 pounds now.

Today, I use his ability to go up the stairs as a gauge to his health–it’s a good barometer.

What a joy he has been to me! My Mom said early on, “He’s an angel sent from God! He’s so much company for you.” I agree with her–angels come in different forms and I’m convinced he’s one.

Christmas · family · Life Lessons · Mom · My Thoughts

Why Knit?

A skein of colorful yarn, two needles and a knitting pattern–life is good! Yes, I’ve been a knitter since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I saw a friend knitting and was mesmerized, so I asked my 4-H leader to teach me and the rest is history!

My Mom and maternal grandmother both crocheted, but I fell in love with knitting. I’ve made a variety of items. I started with slippers, and I remember the pride I felt with the first pair I made. Then my whole family wanted a pair!

I graduated to sweaters, ponchos, vests, socks, afghans, dish rags, dresses, and Christmas stockings. It was my habit to knit when I was watching TV growing up, and I have continued this habit. I loved giving a knitted gift to a family member or friend because spent the whole time I was knitting thinking about that person. I filled it up with good vibes!

Often, my Dad would tease me, saying the sofa bounced with the rhythm of my knitting needles. He used to chide me when I ripped out a huge chunk that had taken hours to complete, thinking I was a perfectionist. In reality, with an intricate knitting pattern, a mistake threw the whole design off, so I had no choice but to rip. This taught me ripping was a part of the process.

When I was in high school, I knitted my dream sweater for my last 4-H project. The project required more than one color and carrying the different colored yarn on the underside of the garment. I made my Dad a sweater with a Hereford bull on the back and his brand on the front. It was the most ambitious project I’d ever done. When I finished his, Mom wanted me.

My Dad’s Sweater

After high school, my life had gotten complicated—I was off to college and busy with my fun-filled college life, so I played a trick on Mom. The first Christmas, I gave her the back and two fronts because that’s all I had completed. The next Christmas, I gave her the sleeves. We enjoyed the craziness of that, and she loved it when I finished it and wore it proudly.

I took an evening class for advance knitting at Trinidad State Junior College and learned some amazing skills that took my knitting to a new level.

I took a break from knitting for several years after I was diagnosed with arthritis in all three thumb joints of both hands. The doctor put me in hand splints to save the joints, but they limited anything I did with my hands. I gave up on them and returned to knitting, and I have had less thumb pain now than then. The movement has helped my arthritic hands, not hurt them!

In 2013 after my Mom died, I returned to the hobby I love and made dish rags, a simple lovely pattern I could make without thinking. The rhythmic motion of the needles soothed my broken heart, and I ended up making more than 40 dish rags in the year after she died. I know it had a meditative quality for me with the repetition. It quieted in my mind and soothed my soul, and family and friends benefited from work.

Last year I had three family and friends having babies, so I made each one a baby afghan. Then for Christmas, I made them each a Christmas stocking with his name knitted into the stocking.

Recently I heard something that confirmed my belief that knitting has healing qualities. I listen to Dr. Bob Martin’s radio show driving to church each Sunday. On this one Sunday, he listed 10 ways to reduce stress and knitting was on the list. I chuckled as I heard him laud the hobby that had been a part of my life for over 50 years—what confirmation for me!

“According to new research by Knit For Peace, knitting could actually improve your health. The U.K. nonprofit organization published findings on the benefits of knitting based on extensive past research, as well as their own — and there are quite a few reasons to start stitching.
 
Health benefits were both physical and mental, and included lower blood pressure, reduced depression and anxiety, delayed onset of dementia. Knitting was deemed as relaxing as yoga, the researchers noted.”


https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/knitting-health-benefits_a_23385911/

One of the three sweaters I have knitted & I will use this pattern next!

My next project will be a rainbow-colored sweater made out of lamb’s wool and a fashionable pattern I’ve already made three times. I’ve had the yarn for a few years, and I’m anxious to get started!

After that—I bought several skeins of beige Aran yarn in Ireland at the Irish Store in Blarney two years ago, so I will be making an Aran sweater with all of its complexity! I love the history I found about the Aran sweater.

“From its origins, the Aran sweater has been intimately linked to clans and their identities. The many combinations of stitches seen on the garment are not incidental, far from it. They can impart vast amounts of information to those who know how to interpret them. Aran sweaters were, and remain, a reflection of the lives of the knitters, and their families. On the Aran islands, sweater patterns were zealously guarded, kept within the same clan throughout generations. These Aran sweaters were often used to help identify bodies of fishermen washed up on the beach following an accident at sea. An official register of these historic patterns has been compiled, and can be seen in the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands.”


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

“As a craft, the Aran Sweater continues to fascinate audiences around the world. A finished Aran sweater contains approximately 100,000 carefully constructed stitches, and can take the knitter up to sixty days to complete. It can contain any combination of stitches, depending on the particular clan pattern being followed. Many of the stitches used in the Aran Sweater are reflective of Celtic Art, and comparisons have been drawn between the stitches and patterns found at Neolithic burial sites such as Newgrange in Co. Meath.
Each stitch carries its own unique meaning, a historic legacy from the lives of the Island community many years ago. The Cable Stitch is a depiction of the fisherman’s ropes, and represents a wish for a fruitful day at sea. The Diamond Stitch reflects the small fields of the islands. These diamonds are sometimes filled with Irish moss stitch, depicting the seaweed that was used to fertilise the barren fields and produce a good harvest. Hence the diamond stitch is a wish for success and wealth. The Zig Zag Stitch, a half diamond, is often used in the Aran Sweaters, and popularly represents the twisting cliff paths on the islands. The Tree of Life is one of the original stitches, and is unique to the earliest examples of the Aran knitwear. It again reflects the importance of the clan, and is an expression of a desire for clan unity, with long-lived parents and strong children.


https://www.aransweatermarket.com/history-of-aran-sweaters

I will finish my lamb’s wool sweater first. I have admired the Aran patterns for years but never attempted to make one because I knew it was a complicated pattern to knit. So, as you can see, the Aran sweater will take me a while to make, but I look forward to the day when I get to wear my two new creations!

Are you a knitter? What have you made? How do you feel when you knit?

Check out my NEW and IMPROVED web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% off of When Will Papa Get Home? — digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

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

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

Marshall Flippo – a Navy Man!

“How’s the Flippo book going?” I’m asked regularly by curious friends. I appreciate the interest from many. Writing the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo is the project of a life time. I have completed the Prologue and Chapter One, Flippo’s childhood, but this carefree time of his life was cut short because World War II was raging in 1944 and many Americans’ patriotic focus gave them no option but to join up.

“During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.


https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/d-day

Flippo is one of the best-known callers in the world, so, do you think you know him? Do you know that Marshall enlisted in the Navy? At what age?

A Young 17 Year-Old Marshall Flippo

On his 17th birthday, Marshall Flippo enlisted into the Navy with his parents’ consent—17 years old! That sounds so young today!

As discussions about Flippo’s choice of which branch of the service to join filled the Flippo home, Marshall wanted to join the Marines because his buddy, Hub Evans, had enlisted and returned in his dress uniform which dazzled the young Flippo. His Dad encouraged him not to join the Marines, so somehow, he ended up in the Navy.

After this discussion, Flippo recalled that his parents accepted readily his patriotic desires because his older sister, Helen, had enlisted before him and they were used to it!

He was inducted into the Navy in Dallas after an enjoyable train ride with a bunch of recruits from Abilene, then the train went back through his hometown, so Flippo said good-bye to his parents once again, bound for San Diego for boot camp.

Flippo went unnoticed in boot camp, so at the end of it, his superior commented that he must have done a good job because he didn’t know Flippo—I guess the rowdy ones are the only recruits he dealt with during that time.

A Young Marshall Flippo Cleaning a Colander

Flippo volunteered to go to “Amphib” training on Coronado island across from San Diego—he had no idea what that meant, but he volunteered anyway. His fate was set for the end of the war. He ended up on the USS Lander, a destroyer tender,  where he was a baker and spent two years. We do have a couple pictures of him on the USS Lander: cleaning a colander and on deck.

USS Lander

His wartime stories are unique through the eyes of a 17-year-old. He ended up at Iwo Jima at the end of the big battle there. Then on he went to Okinawa. From there, he had a surprise voyage to China crossed the equator, experiencing the initiation of a “Pollywog.”

A Young Marshall Flippo on the Ship

After decommissioning the USS Lander, Flippo landed on USS Piedmont, then the USS Wiltsie and finally the USS Dixie. The Piedmont, Wiltsie and Dixie were all after the war. All four of these ships were destroyer tenders:

A destroyer tender, or destroyer depot ship in (American) British English, is an auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to a flotilla of destroyers or other small warships. The use of this class has faded from its peak in the first half of the 20th century as the roles of small combatants have evolved (in conjunction with technological advances in propulsion reliability and efficiency).


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destroyer_tender

USS Dixie

He played baseball on the USS Wiltsie and was selected as one of two baseball players from the Wiltsie to transfer to the USS Dixie to play baseball in Des Pac, Destroyers of the Pacific team. He returned to San Diego on the USS Dixie and played baseball at David Field.

Flippo spent four years in the Navy, two years in the South Pacific at the end of the war and two playing baseball for Des Pac.

Flippo had a Navy book he referenced often—it chronicles the year 1945 and the USS Lander. I’m so sick I didn’t read it before Flippo passed away, because I’d loved to question him about the specifics detailed in the book. He refrained from describing some specific events because he thought we’d go over the book together. My regrets for sure!

This is just a short summary of Flippo’s Navy experience. I hope I’ve whet your appetite! His stories are rich and wonderful! I have more than 10,000 words from our interviews about his Naval experience, so there’s more!

Check out my NEW and IMPROVED web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% off of When Will Papa Get Home? — digital & paper copies. Visit my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft, to purchase my books.

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

Dancing · family · Hospice · Marshall Flippo · Mom · My Thoughts · Ranching · Retirement · Travel

What Does My Retirement Look Like?

Here’s the stereotype of what retirement looks like for many: an aged couple rocking chairs on the porch, relaxed, watching the world go by–no hustle, no bustle! Lots of people are retired and retiring, thanks to the Baby Boomers.

About 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, and they account for about one in five people in the United States.

https://www.nasi.org/learn/socialsecurity/who-gets

I’m 65 years old, retired and busier than ever, and I don’t fit that stereotype and many of you don’t either! I retired in 2013, so this is my sixth year of doing exactly what I want to when I want—that’s the luxury of retirement. I’ve always been a busy person and feared that I was a workaholic! I have to be busy. This goes back to my childhood. I started knitting when I was 10 years old and started the habit of knitting and watching TV. To this day, I have a hard time just sitting and watching TV—my hands have to be doing something.

Today my life is full and rich! My husband and my normal weekly dance schedule looks like this:

  • Wednesday – Round Dancing & Plus Dancing
  • Thursday – Advanced Dancing
  • Friday – Mainstream & Plus

Then, we usually attend an out-of-town square and round dance festival once a month that begins Friday night and ends Sunday at noon—lots of dancing! The dancing and friendships across the country feeds my soul!

When I’m home, I do Zumba two mornings a week. I love the movement to high energy Latin music–it feels like dancing to me!

I also am chairperson for two square and round dance festivals in Albuquerque:

  • Duke City Singles & Doubles Spring Fling in May
  • Hot August Nights in August

These festivals keep me busy hiring new callers and cuers for future events and planning the upcoming event. I’m so lucky to work with two great committees that make the work fun and effortless!

I attend Hope in the Desert Episcopal church and recovery meetings regularly when I’m home.

After my Mom died in 2013, my brother and I inherited our family ranch, so I visit our ranch and our small ranching community, Branson, once a month to check on things. I love staying connected to that part of my life and my dear friends there.

For the first couple years of retirement, I was busy as the Executor of Mom’s will, and probate kept me hopping.

In 2013, I volunteered to be treasurer of our square dance club, Duke City Singles and Doubles. Now that may not sound like too daunting a task for you, but I’m a “Word Person,” not a “Numbers Person.” I did it because my husband volunteered to be President and I knew his time would be dedicated to the club, so I might as well join him. The first financial statement took me eight hours to resolve, but the last one was about an hour, so I grew as a “Numbers Person.” I did that for four years and helped revived the club and grow it.

Since 2014, I’ve self-published four books and three cookbooks:

  • 2014 – This Tumbleweed Landed
  • 2015 – When Will Papa Get Home?
  • 2016 – Let Me Tell You a Story
  • 2017 – A Time To Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir
  • 2014- 2016 – From Grannie’s Kitchen: Volume 1, 2, & 3

I had two really positive experiences with hospice: when my best friend, Kathi Raver died in 2009, and when my Mom died. I knew that I would become a hospice volunteer, but I had to get some time and space from Mom’s death before I could handle it.

Last year, I started volunteering for Presbyterian Hospice, so I see a client once a week and have learned so much about the mission and importance of Hospice. My client is suffering from Alzheimer’s so it’s a roller-coaster ride of mood swings and communication issues, but what an education! My client’s daughter and husband so appreciate my time with her, and I love it. I’ve become part of their family.

I’ve also been a part of the committee that puts on the Branson-Trinchera Reunion every June in Branson. This is a celebration of the small country school I attended.

My husband and I love to travel, and we’ve done several cruises and trips in my retirement. My favorite was to England and Ireland two years ago for three weeks. What an adventure we had! (You can read about it here in my blog!) We have another cruise scheduled for this summer to the British Isle—back to England and Ireland and our first time to Scotland and Wales.

My current writing project has taken over my life! I’m writing the authorized biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo, and I’m stressing out because I want to release it in September. As a self-published author, I’ve set up a timeline of production. Now I have to focus long hours to complete the writing by the end of April, to send it to a professional editor in May, to move the edited copy to a publication software and format it in June and July (our cruise is in July) and to order copies in August ready for distribution in September—WHEW!!!!

Someone said to me a couple weeks ago, “You’re not retired—you have two jobs: your books and your ranch. So, as you can see, I’m busy; I could never spend my days in front of a TV watching mindless TV. I may be retired; I may be 65, but I have energy and enthusiasm for life.

So, you may wonder why I’ve listed all I do in my retirement. I think many people have a skewed view of retirement. Yes, we anticipate the end of the grind—the 40 hours a week demands on our life and now the panacea at the end of the rainbow. I know many do retire and choose a much less active life than I have, but I wanted you to see the possibilities in retirement. You get to choose and the choices are limitless!

Curious about my books? Check out my web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

50% Discount through the end of February – A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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

My Thoughts · Ranching

Is a Windmill Important to a Rancher?

Windmills dot the southwest landscape. Their massive structure stands sentinel on the plains where I grew up. Dad and Granddad often spent hours fixing them, but I really had no idea of their value. How important are windmills to ranchers anyway?

My brother and I own a ranch in southeastern Colorado, and we have four windmills on the ranch. Three are operative, but last week in a furious wind storm, our main windmill in our summer pasture broke—the fan broke off and was hanging on the platform by the blades. It felt ominous for sure. With our raging drought, this windmill is a vital water source for part of the herd of cattle on the ranch.


Most windmills used in the Great Plains were of self-governing design. This means that they automatically turned to face changing wind directions and automatically controlled their own speeds of operation to avoid destruction from centrifugal force during high winds. 


http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.ii.062

I’ve seen this happen–facing one direction, then another; however, the wind storm that broke this windmill must have been a mighty one then!

Within a couple days, the windmill fixit man came from Folsom, New Mexico, and I had the treat of my life. My brother and I witnessed the crew of three fix the windmill.

We stood to the side, wrapped up in our coats and hoodies with a cold breeze cooling the February morning. Every phase of the work fascinated me. I grabbed my iPhone and captured as many pictures as I could.

They had a boom on their truck to lift the broken fan off of the tower. This magical operation took three men: one agile small guy up on the platform standing below the fan who hooked a chain around the fan, two men on the ground with one running the boom and the other ready to handle the fan as it came down.

The Agile Man Up on the Platform

Here’s a diagram of the parts of a windmill:

Then the work began. The young man on top took off the broken piece that the fan attached to, dropped it down unceremoniously, and they hoisted a new one up to him. The two men on the ground fixed any break to the fan, using lots of oil and elbow grease. After the two below fixed the fan, they sent it up the tower with the boom, and attached it to the new piece.

The Boom That Made the Fix Much Easier

Then they pulled out the sucker rod and the pipe it goes through. They measured the depth of the water, and the results were really sad to us. We’ve experienced a horrible drought the last couple years. We’ve received sufficient water to grow grass, but not enough to fill reservoirs and not enough deep water for the aquifer to fill the wells. A couple years ago, this well measure 17 feet deep; now it is 8.5!

Look at the size of the fan!

My brother had witnessed windmill repair as a youngster, so this was not new to him. I stepped in closer to see the work. While they had the working parts apart, the young man offered to show me the workings of the guts of the mill and how a windmill works—I had no ideas.

The Inner Workings of a Windmill

We also wanted to see how many gallons the well pumped a minute, but there’s a strange quirk with this well—it’s not straight down, so the pump they tried to put down the pipe wouldn’t go.

I’ve always had an unusual attraction to windmills and taken lots of pictures. To me, a windmill silhouetted in a sunset makes a beautiful, peaceful photograph. For us on the plains and high desert, we depend on the successful operation of a windmill. We have no rivers or live water on our ranch—a windmill provides that much needed water for the livestock. My respect for these giant wonders has grown in leaps and bounds and the maintenance of them.

Have you ever been attracted to photograph a windmill? Have you ever wonder about how they work?

Here’s how a windmill works:

  1. The wind turns the fan at the top of the windmill.
  2. The fan turns a set of gears called the motor.
  3. The motor pulls a pump rod up and down.
  4. The pump rod operates a piston in a cylinder pump located in the well.  This piston contains one o more valves.
  5. As the piston descends, its valve opens to allow the piston to pass through a water column held in check by another, lower valve.
  6. When the piston ascends again, the piston valve closes to prevent the water from flowing backward as the piston pulls the column up the pipe.
  7. At the same time, the lower valve opens to allow water to enter the pump and fill the vacuum created by the upward motion of the piston.  This is the new water column.
  8. The cycle repeats over and over again, working the water up the pipe until it overflows into a tank. https://homesteadontherange.com/2013/08/27/the-old-fashioned-windmill/

If you’d like a visual of how a windmill works, go to https://web.archive.org/web/20121028095740/http://www.aermotorwindmill.com/how-a-windmill-works.html

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

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

Are You A Pantser, Plotter or Plantser?

When you write are you pantser, plotter or plantser? If you don’t know what that means, here it is:

Simply put, a plotter is someone who plans out their novel before they write it. A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people, like me, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they’re in a little of both.”


https://thewritepractice.com/plotters-pantsers/

Normally, I’m a pantser and the story evolves as I’m writing, but I had to be super-organized with this book, so I wrote this outline.  I didn’t write it before interviewing Flippo; I wrote it after we talked and I saw the topics surface, so I guess I’m a plantser!

Here’s the outline for the book I’m writing. It’s organic and changes as I work with the material. The power of the outline is that it gives me direction and an organizational structure to follow—it will fun to see how it finally turns out!

Title: Just Another Square Dance Caller

Subtitle: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

  1. TO THE READER
  2. Prologues
    1. Larada’s
    1. Marshall’s – Blue Star Records, Kirkwood & Neeca
  3. Joke
  4. Callers That Have Passed You Who Helped Flippo

CHILDHOOD  & YOUNG ADULTHOOD SECTION

  1. Childhood & Family
  2. Volunteered for the Navy & War Years
  3. Baseball in the Navy
  4. Early Marriage & Life with Neeca

SQUARE DANCE LIFE SECTION

  1. Square Dance Life
    1. Abilene’s Where It Started
    1. Blue Star Changed Everything
    1. Kirkwood Changed More
      1. John’s birth
    1. Yearly Tours of the United States
      1. Came out of Kirkwood & Neeca organizing – From & to Kirkwood
        1. North
        1. East
        1. South
        1. Home – Christmas
        1. North
        1. West
    1. Yearly Festivals
      1. Asilomar – ahead of and before CALLERLAB
      1. Permian Basin Festival
      1. WASCA
      1. Chula Vista Resort
      1. Others that I will add
    1. CALLERLAB
    1. International Trips & Cruises
      1. Japan – numerous times
      1. Spain
      1. Germany
      1. Caribbean
      1. Hawaii
      1. See Album
    1. Special Weekends
      1. Alaska – 2 events
    1. Recording Companies & Life
      1. Blue Star
      1. Chaparral
      1. Others
    1. Choreography
    1. Tucson Years
  1. End Of An Amazing Career
    1. Celebrations
      1. Chaparral Boys Labor Day, 2016
      1. Farewell to the Road
        1. Abilene, Texas – Wagon Wheel
      1. Houston
      1. Albuquerque
        1. Last contract with ASDC – big celebration
        1. Last NM contract – State Festival – 2016
          1. Agreed for me to write this book
      1. Green Valley, AZ – December 31, 2017
        1. I’m Leaving Here a Better Man
    1. Asilomar Once More
    1. Last CALLERLAB
  • Stories From Callers & Friends About Flippo
  • Stories from Flippo About Callers That Helped Him
  • Letters & Notes from Callers & Dancers
  • Awards
    • Sets In Order Hall of Fame
    • Milestone
    • Texas Hall of Fame
    • Lifetime Achievement
  • Epilogue – Flippo’s Memorial Service

THE BACK MATTER

  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Photo Album
  3. Appendices
    1. Appendix A – Chronology of Marshall Flippo’s Life
    1. Appendix B – Recordings
    1. Appendix C – Awards
    1. Appendix D — Reference Books
    1. Appendix E – Glossary of Square Dance Terms
    1. Appendix  F – URL’s of Videos and Audio of Flippo
  4. Copyright Permissions
  5. Endnotes – Any footnotes when I quote a book or web site
  6. Larada’s Reflections – I’m writing this as we talk. I think it will be throughout the book.
  7. About the Author

Flippo and I went over this outline the last time we talked, but he was struggling at that time, so I’m not sure it’s complete. If you’re a Flippo expert, am I missing anything? Let me know.

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

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · Writing

11 Secrets to Transcribe Audio to Text

In today’s modern world of technology, you’d think that transcribing an audio file into text would be a cinch, a no-brainer. The computer would do all the work for you, and you’d sit back and sip on a cool drink and relax—not so! Transcribing audio to text is quite squirrely at best. I just finished transcribing 37 interviews—well over 40 hours of conversation with Marshall Flippo for his biography. Some one hour interviews took over seven hours to transcribe because of various issues. I’d like to share my frustrations, my pain and my process.

I have arthritis in my thumbs and right index finger so the transcription became a painful chore. I had lots of suggestions from welling mean friends along the way to help me, and I tried them all:

  • Have it professionally transcribed
    • I searched out several sites on the Internet where it could be done technically.
    • I hired a professional transcriber.
  • Google Docs has an audio to text capability, so I ran a couple interviews through it.
  • Microsoft Word has an audio to text capability. Again, I ran a couple interviews through it.
  • My voice came out loud and clear on the audio and worked perfectly on Google Docs & Microsoft Word, so I listened to Flippo then repeated back to these two programs—time consuming for sure.

I tried all of these obvious solutions, but Flippo’s soft spoken Texas drawl was impossible for a professional or a machine to understand. So, in the end, I transcribed over 258,000 words when I finished.

Now I feel like I know what I’m doing, and I’d like to share it with you.

What did I learn in the process?

  1. BACK UP OF AUDIOS: At the end of each interview, IMMEDIATELY, I exported the interview to DropBox. I also backed up my Marshall Flippo folder on DropBox and my laptop on a thumbdrive on a weekly basis. Lastly, I have asbackup program on my laptop that makes backups throughout the day.
  2. I bought Voice Recorder for an iPad. (FREE; Don’t remember what the upgrade price is) http://www.tapmedia.co.uk/voicerecorder-support.htm
    1. It would do a cursory transcription of the first 10 minutes. I used that on interviews from caller friends who told me stories about Flippo, but again it wouldn’t work on his soft voice.
  3. I bought ExpressScribe software for a Mac. ($40) https://www.nch.com.au/scribe/index.html
    1. ExpressScribe plays the audio and has a simple word processor to type the transcription in, all in one app.
    2. Whenever I stopped the audio, it rewound a few seconds to make it easy to find where I was.
    3. In the midst of this project, I had eye surgery on my right eye, so I had trouble seeing font size 10 in the word processor in ExpressScribe, so I learned to magnify the window on my Mac which was an easy fix: Hold down 2 Keys: Fn & Control and using 2 fingers on the track pad, move it up to zoom in and move down to zoom out.
  4. Any time I stopped transcribing, I copied and pasted text from ExpressScribe into Scrivener’s.
    1. In Scrivener’s, I created “Comments” on anything I didn’t understand in the transcription to return to later.
  5. When I finished each transcription, I exported the notes into a file in DropBox.
  6. Watch your laughter, responses and talking over the speaker. We truly had an ongoing conversation over the 37 hours. Flippo told a story; I laughed. I responded to his humor and his stories, but in my enthusiasm, I guffawed right over his next statement. Or we talked over each other. His words being the most important and the softest disappeared with mine being secondary and the loudest. Think about your laughter, responses and habitual talking habits beforehand to control them during the interview.
  7. Add Nuances—Whenever Flippo giggled, I put (Giggles), so when I was writing the biography later I would make sure to add is giggles and laughter to the story. He sang some of his responses, so I noted that. Be sure and note anything you hear in the transcription that you will want to add to the book later. Listen to his cadence, his pronunciation—his personality in voice and make note of it in the transcription.
  8. Hard to Understand Sections—Most of my audio was great, but there were times I had trouble understanding Flippo.
    1. Rewound and slowed the audio play down to 75% or increased it to 105%. Often this helped.
    2. In my transcription documents, I timestamped any spots that are hard to understand so I could easily return.
  9. Each time I stopped transcribing, I marked where we stopped in my notes of that interview with a timestamp.
  10. Organize your interviews beforehand by themes or topics.
    1. A friend told me before I started that Flippo would try to hijack the interviews, and he did quite often.  I didn’t organize all the interviews with a theme, and after transcribing, I realized I had made my job harder in the next step of putting the interviews into chapters.
    2. Granted the organic fluidity of conversation was important, and he told lots of stories he wouldn’t have if I’d been super-rigid about this, but some organization would have helped in the long run.
  11. BIG PLUS—I realized early into the transcribing process that it was to my advantage to hear Flippo’s voice again, go over the details again and submerge myself in his voice and personality in a different way. When I was recording him, I took notes and focused on capturing as much on paper as I could. In transcribing, I had the luxury of listening to him, his voice, and the nuances and made note of them in a different ways.
Flippo and me at CALLERLAB 2018 in Albuquerque

The work is done—whew! I love the interaction Flippo and I enjoyed in the interviews. The transcription, by far, has been the hardest part of this project. Now, I’m ready to actually write the book which is exciting and rewarding.

I hope my suggestions help you in transcribing any interviews you do.

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

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book versions–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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

My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

What Happened at Hummingbird Hoedown This Year?

This Year’s Flyer

I created a schedule for my blog posts back in late November for 2019, and this Sunday’s topic is Hummingbird Hoedown, an annual square and round dance festival in Sierra Vista, Arizona with caller, Jerry Story. We weren’t able to attend this year because of my husband, Lin’s hip problem.

For the last couple days, I have vacillated back and forth on whether to write about an event I didn’t attend. I decided I would because I know what happens there–great challenging dancing with a fun-loving committee and dancers. It’s an unusual festival that has gained momentum over the years.

Hummingbird Hoedown is a weekend festival the last weekend in January: a dance Friday night, workshop all day Saturday and a dance Saturday night–sounds like a lot of dancing to the non-dancer but this is the usual format for weekend square and round dance festival.

It began five years ago. Harue and Slappy (Bryan) Swift started it with Jerry Story with a new format in mind: round dance party for one hour before the dance and then only one round during the evening dance, mostly mainstream dancing with a two minutes, two seconds break between tips. That program translated into an aerobic evening of dancing, attracting high energy dancers.

Immediately it was a success and has continued growing with this year’s record number of seventeen squares! Lin and I attended the first three festivals but weren’t able to go last year and sorrowfully this year.

The schedule has morphed over the five years, and this year’s alternated mainstream, plus, mainstream and two rounds during the evening.

Another innovative addition started at Hummingbird Hoedown by Lisa Wahl. During the round dance workshop on Saturday afternoon, Lisa taught a rhythm not a whole dance and was able to teach more moves per rhythm that way. During the evening’s dance, Lisa cued the moves taught instead of a song and many people participated. This has continued throughout the years.

Bob and Lin Van Atta have cued the rounds for the last couple years and make the rounds enjoyable for all!

The Hummingbird Hoedown’s lively committee has fun door prizes and schedules dinner out Saturday night at one of the Mexican restaurants in Sierra Vista, providing time to sit and talk and get acquainted. I love this special time to sit with dancer friends and talk about our lives.

Jerry Story, the featured caller, puts you through the drill the whole weekend. Jerry is the master of making mainstream dancing a challenge. Then during the workshops on Saturday, he teaches the dancers all the key items to dancing that are important to him–his emphasis helps dancers improve their dancing.

The weekend is fun-filled, and the committee welcomes you with open arms. Jerry makes the squares entertaining and challenging. After a tip at this dance, you run to the bathroom or grab a drink– you can’t do both, and you rush back on the floor for another tip full of great choreography and singing. It doesn’t get better than this!

Lin and I WILL be there next year ready to dance the weekend away with good friends, a great caller and lots of dancing!

Want to see what happened at Hummingbird Hoedown this year? Go to the Thunder Mountain Twirlers Facebook page for pictures: 5th Annual Hummingbird Hoedown

Have you ever attended Hummingbird Hoedown? What was your opinion of it? Share it here.

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

50% Discount of A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir–both paperback and e-book version–at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft.

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

Goals · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Time Flies! What Happened to January?

Here it is January 30 and where did the month go? Have you accomplished all you hoped for these past thirty days?

When I look at January on the calendar, I annually feel like cleaning out disheveled drawers, closets and file cabinets. I want to clear the clutter on my desk and get the year off to a good start.

I want to get tax preparation finished before it becomes a burden that haunts me in the wee hours. I yearn for organization, structure and clarity.

The sad news is life gets in the way, and here it is January 30, and very little of those desires have been achieved.

I have done a few things that I feel great about:

  • I did the tax preparation for our ranch.
  • I started my personal and business tax preparation.
  • I set an appointment to do a living will (that’s been on my To Do List for years!).
  • I created a weekly organizational sheet that has directed me on daily and weekly goals for my personal and writing life.

Last year, I would get a brainstorm and create a reminder on my iPad app to do some brilliant action for my book business. So often then, they went undone because I just clicked the alert off when it appeared, got distracted and didn’t do it.

With my weekly organizational sheet, I have check boxes for key areas and have more accountability right in front of me. To really use it effectively, on Saturday I review what I did the past week and notice what I didn’t do, and prioritize that for the next week.

I’m a checklist-type person. I’ve used several checklists to organize my current writing project, the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, world-famous square dance caller. I have 37 recorded interviews, 4 steno-note pads full of notes from the interviews, 100’s of pictures, and 6 photo albums/scrapbooks to keep track. Checklists have helped me organize and cross-reference all the support material for specific chapters in the book.

Facing this part of my life, the key words are MINDFULNESS & ORGANIZATION! Routinely I get busy with what is at hand instead of being mindful for the day and have specific activities to do. Being retired plays into that, too. It seems I used to get so much more accomplished when I was working and had to manage my free time. My organizational sheet helps me with that, especially when I start the day with a review of what’s pending for the day.

My husband is very organized; his desk is free of clutter. I’m organized in an unorganized fashion with clutter everywhere, so here’s a goal for me for the month of February:

A DESK THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS!

Yes, January puts me in the mindset of clearing out and starting fresh–the newness of a new year. Here’s to your new year and your new ways of being mindful and organized.

Are you organized? Do you have clutter? How do you deal with it? Let me know!

Two days left for 25% discount of all my digital books at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

Visit my web site and see what’s new: https://www.laradasbooks.com

Albuquerque · My Thoughts

The Albuquerque Mystique–what is it?

I moved to Albuquerque in 1991; I’ve lived in the area for twenty-eight years ago and am still smitten with the mystique of this lovely high desert city. I wonder about the Albuquerque mystique. I tried to write prose to express my feelings but this calls for a poem.

The mystery about Albuquerque escapes me.

           I try to pin it down.

It’s the setting—the Sandia’s, the desert, the river.

            No, it’s the people.

It’s the offerings of the community,

            No, it’s the people.

It’s so much, so large, so elusive.

The watermelon red sunset over the Sandia Mountains.

            Spanish name for watermelon

                        named for the color splashed over the

                                    mountains at dusk.

Our spiritual Native ancestors who walked this land before us

            instilling their heart and soul into the very earth.

The ancient Petroglyphs stand sentinel to the west

            and Mount Taylor in the far distance west.

The gorgeous Sandia’s corral the residents on the east.

The Rio Grande weaves a thread through the scenic valley.

Sandia Pueblo borders the north,

and Isleta Pueblo hems in the south.

Albuquerque—surrounded, unique and mystique!

The people play a major role in its charm.

            As a child, I visited Albuquerque often because my aunt and uncle

             lived here.

                        Visits to the mall and the Thanksgiving Day parade downtown

                                    echoed through my soul as I contemplated re-locating

                                    here.

When I had the opportunity to move, I took it

quickly.

My first exposure as a working adult won my heart.

The faculty, parents and students of Washington middle school,

“La Washa” for those of us who love that south valley school,

welcomed me with open arms.

The connections there ran deep

fun collaborative projects that welded the staff together.

Many Friday afternoon after school

together in a local bar with memorable jokes

that still resonate with just one line remembered.

The staff was so tight the first couple years I worked there,

we had to have two Christmas parties.

One was not enough!

I still socialize with many of the “La Washa” staff member.

Other schools

Other faculties

            Other colleagues

                        continued deep connections.

Many cultures live side-by-side here,

celebrating their own heritage and each other’s.

Strong Spanish/Hispanic and Native American populations,

Caucasians, Blacks, Greek, Asians and Vietnamese, too.

The mixture gives me a strong respect for all ethnicities.

My recovery community saved my life

            and continues to each day.

My church community, Hope in the Desert Episcopal Church,

and its people loved and accepted me during a down time in my life.

A magnificent view of the Sandia’s out the window over the alter

each Sunday calms my spirit.

Fr. Dan’s soft-spoken words encourage me.

Today my focus is my square dance community.

 A tight-knit bunch that loves to dance and have fun.

A beautiful dance hall on the north side of town

probably the best in the country.

A lively group of people, an activity, and a place that finds my soul.

Add the Albuquerque weather to the mix and the mystery.

Mild winters and summers

Our snow accumulation is normally slight

The summer weather only goes over 100 degrees a few days,

otherwise, balmy, beautiful weather for most of the year.

Summers and fall are the best.

Often, I sit outside in the night time

listen to the serenades of the cicadas

loud and boisterous yet so soothing.

The desert moon’s light magnifies the stars strewn

across a black canopy of night.

And there’s so much more!

The University of New Mexico

The Balloon Fiesta

The Gathering of Nations

The Greek Festival

Old Town

Yes, I believe Albuquerque has a mystique about it!

For years before I moved here, I listened to

Jim Glasser sing about “The Lights of Albuquerque.”

Every time I heard it,

            My heart leapt,

                        My spirit soared.

                                    It has always had a mystique for me!

Have you ever been to Albuquerque? Share your comments. Check out my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com Until January 31, 2019, 25% Discount on Digital copies of my books at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft
My Thoughts

How Do You Start Your Day?

When we are home, my husband, Lin, and I start most days off with Cribbage games over breakfast. The winner for the day is the best of three games or two if someone gets skunked because a skunk is worth two games. I kept track of our games last year like a tournament, and Lin won the year. For Christmas, I made him a 2018 Cribbage Champion t-shirt as a prank gift.

It’s such a fun, peaceful way to start the day. We laugh and carry on as the games progress. We whine about our cards, our luck and losing. We laugh about the strange combination of cards we get. Lin often says the S word first (Skunk) as we watch the movement of the pegs around the board. We talk about our current plans and future plans and the dreams we have. We connect!

Lin has played and loved this game since the 70’s. He taught me how to play when we got married seven years ago, and I have gotten better each year. For a couple of years, we stayed in Pagosa Springs, Colorado for the month of July with a couple and moved around town to different coffee shops and cafes, playing Double Cribbage. People would stop, stare and ask what we were playing. Many responded, “My grandparents play that game.”

I was still teaching at the time we were playing in Pagosa Springs with our friends and often told them that they should teach Cribbage in school to help students learn math—what better way to learn counting than playing a fun game.

Lin often wisely shares one of his favorite Cribbage lines as we near the end of the game, “I like your position,” or “I like my position.” Then he explains his rationale for the comment on how many moves it will take to win. It’s usually the best-case scenario. We’ve had lots of laughter over that comment when it backfired.

To me this morning ritual is a sacred space of love, laughter and communication—a nice way to connect and begin our day.

Well, our daily ritual this morning took a surprise twist! It was a red-letter day for sure. We’ve both said for years that we didn’t care which one of us got a perfect score, but we just wanted one of us to get it. The score for a perfect hand in Cribbage is 29, and neither one of us had ever seen it.

On the first hand today of the first game, Lin got it! He had 3 fives and a jack of diamonds in his hand. Then when we turned over the card we share, it was a five of diamonds, matching the jack of diamonds in his hand. Yahoooooo! 29 points!

Lin’s enthusiasm was priceless. In a way, he was speechless which is hard to imagine if you know him–he couldn’t believe it. I photographed his perfect Cribbage hand and put it on Facebook for all to see.

And he went ahead and won that first game, I won the second one, and he won the day on the third game—to boot, he skunked me! A memorable day and time shared.

Have you ever played Cribbage? Let me know if you share this interest of mine.

If you’re interested, you need a Cribbage board and a deck of cards. Here’s the rules for Cribbage: http://cribbagecorner.com/rules

Check out my website and my 4 books and 3 cookbooks: https://www.laradasbooks.com

25% Discount on Digital Copies of my books until January 31 at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft

family · My Thoughts

DNA Testing—Why Do It?

I had toyed with doing the DNA testing on ancestry.com for years, but I didn’t know anyone who had done it, and I couldn’t see a reason to spend the money.

Lin and I with the driver of our bus on the Ring of Kerry Tour in Ireland, July, 2017

My husband, Lin, and I went to England and Ireland in July 2017 for my second cousin’s wedding in England. It was Lin’s dream to go to Ireland because of his Irish heritage, so we added the side trip to Ireland to this trip. I had no connections to Ireland, so I let Lin know before we left that the Irish side trip was for him; however, I enjoyed our trip through Ireland and loved the people.

When we returned home, we had a conversation with Lin’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law about genealogy. They oozed with enthusiasm over having just gotten their results from their DNA testing. As they described their experience, I grabbed my iPad, went to ancestry.com and ordered two DNA kits.

When they arrived, Lin and I did the tests at the same time—we each had to come up with enough spit to fill our individual container. As we continued, the vial seemed to grow bigger and my mouth dried up, but we finally finished it.

We had to wait for about six weeks, but finally, ancestry.com alerted us when the results were ready. I nonchalantly opened the file and deciphered the results. Lin did his at the same time—and mine shocked both of us!

I knew I had a strong English ancestry—my mom had done our genealogy for both sides of the family, and she had records for the Horner’s, my dad’s side, all the way back to our immigration from England.

I thought I had a strong German heritage. My Mom’s maternal grandparents were stow-aways from Germany, so I thought this would be the largest statistic.

No! My largest ethnicity group was England, Wales & Northwestern Europe with 36%, so that surprised me, but the big shock was the second largest group – Ireland & Scotland with 32%.

I shared my findings with Lin wondering what his were. Irish would be his biggest group for sure. His silence screamed his disbelief. I asked again. He hung his head and whispered, “I can’t believe this! You’re 32% Irish; I’m 25!”

My mouth fell open, then a belly laugh hit me hard! I was more Irish than Lin!

We have had lots of laughter about this new find, but I love the information I’ve received. We got our first results in August and then received an update in September—no the testing didn’t change. Ancestry.com came up with new data and refined our information.

There’s lots of new data. Ancestry recently announced that they have more than 10 million people in their DNA database. That large population allowed them to use 16,000 reference samples to develop their new ethnicity estimates (up from 3,000 reference samples from the previous estimates). This has allowed for refinements of the existing estimates, as well as the addition of new regions.”


https://www.legacytree.com/blog/6-things-you-need-to-know-about-ancestrydna-update

My DNA results changed from 36% to 70% England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, and but my Irish went down from 32% to 21%. My initial results cited Europe West (Germanic Europe, France) as 16%. The update lowered it to 9%.

Lin’s update erased any Irish heritage identified in the initial results. His original results listed twelve regions of ethnicity. Then his update did the same as mine. It shortened his list to four areas.; I had three.

I like the warning ancestry.com has, “Your results are up to date! Your DNA doesn’t change, but the science we use to analyze it does. Your results may change over time as the science improves.”

So, our laughter continued as we shared our new results. I playfully shared my newfound Irish heritage with family and friends any time I could.

Ancestry.com also chronicles the immigration of my families to the United States to two areas:

Central North Carolina, Southeast Missouri & Southern Illinois, more specifically the Carolina Piedmont Settlers, and Tennessee & Southern States, more specifically West Tennessee, Western Kentucky & Virginia-North Carolina Piedmont Settlers in 1700’s. Then our families migrated farther west over the years.

Another advantage to doing the DNA testing is I have had several new contacts with family members I didn’t know before.

On the original report, after the top three groups, I had 7% Scandinavia, 4% Iberian Peninsula, 2% Europe South, <1% Melanesia, <1% Europe East, and <1% Middle East, but these minor groups were eliminated with the update. Ancestry.com explains it this way: “More data and new methods of DNA analysis have given us a better picture of which DNA sequences are—or aren’t—associated with specific world regions. This means that some regions may not appear in your new estimate because:

  • a region has been replaced by a smaller region or multiple regions;
  • new data indicates that a region does not belong in your results.”

The updated report isolated my heritage to the three areas identified: England, Wales & Northwestern Europe, Ireland and Scotland and Germanic Europe.

All in all, I enjoyed the DNA testing and results. I look forward to how it might be updated and fine-tuned even more. I also anticipate finding new unknown relatives.

Have you done a DNA testing? If so, what happened?

Take a look at my 4 books and 3 cook books on my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Christianity · Christmas · My Thoughts

Our Names Didn’t Matter; Our Mission Did! An Epiphany Story

“I’m not Jewish, and I’m not going!” I was shocked as the three of us were left seated looking at each other. To me, this has been the biggest event since I joined this auspicious group of seers or astrologers. We love the stars and study them in this group.

The others filed out in silence, sneering at our idea of seeking out this new King of the Jews and his birth. “Why?” they repeated throughout the meeting. Men of wisdom had studied Judaism and its prophecies, and identified this bright star in the East as a cosmic event. The three of us agreed on its significance and wanted to do a road trip!

That star in the East had haunted me the last few days, luring me in that direction, but we had to talk to the group and see what the consensus was, so I curbed my rash desire to just flee East with no plan nor explanation.

“Well, I guess it’s just us three going then.” Initially, I thought a sizeable group of us would go, but the dissenting majority walked out, leaving the three of us in shock.

We didn’t let their apathy affect our anticipation. We prepared to travel to Jerusalem to talk to Herod, a Roman appointed King of Judea. For sure, he would know what all this meant.

We gathered our travel gear and lined up our camels for the long trek. We talked to our families, warning them that we had no idea when we would return, because the rumor was that a powerful King was born somewhere in the East, and we needed to represent our country there with gifts and the appropriate protocol.

What kind of gifts should we bring? After much discussion about what was suitable for a King of this calibre, we decided on three priceless gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The plan was to leave in the morning, but the bright star in the East kept urging me on. Nervous and anxious, I didn’t sleep much that night, rose early and stood ready to go by my camel when the other two arrived.

We talked little on the trip and kept our eyes glued on the star. It hovered over a specific place, and we knew our mission was ordained.

Arriving in Jerusalem, my heart beat increased. We were close. Our talk with Herod confused me though. Our observation about the birth of a King shocked him, but why should it? He was a Roman appointed King of Judea and knew nothing of the Jewish prophecy. His counsels scurried around and gathered the information we needed. Our wise counsel did not have the specific prophecy–they did.

They told us that it had been predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem in Judea–I knew little about the Jewish religion and wondered why Herod hadn’t noticed the bright star and put two and two together like we did.

We didn’t linger there because the three of us felt an urgency to see this King we had traveled so far to find. The nine kilometer trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem took us two hours, but our pace increased as we neared our destination.

The brilliantly lit star hung over a house of meager means. My camel’s rumbling growl seemed to anticipate something. The other two camels joined in. We dismounted, dusted our cloaks off, and grabbed the gifts we brought.

Joseph met us at the door like he was expecting us. He ushered us into his home. All of a sudden, I felt divine a presence as I saw a young Jewish mother cuddling her new born baby son in her arms. An aura of love surrounded the duo as if the star above had anointed them.

I fell to my knees as I saw His face–I knew deeply that this child held power like I had never experienced. I looked to see where my two friends were and witnessed a miracle. Both had fallen to their knees, too, faces aglow with wonder and mystery.

Solemnly, we presented our three gifts at the feet of Mary. Joseph talked quietly to us, asking where we had come from. He seemed in awed of us, foreigners to his land.

Meekly, I stepped closer and ventured to touch his cheek–sweet and precious. I looked into his open eyes and saw the face of God and knew I’d never be the same. His attraction drew my friends to his side and they, too, wanted to touch him. In her serene manner, Mary nodded her head. They touched his cheek, too, and I saw a visible change in their faces as they witnessed him.

None of us wanted to leave, but I felt we had stayed long enough to be polite–any longer could be considered disrespectful. When we left, we camped near Bethlehem, thinking we’d retrace our steps back to Jerusalem because Herod had requested we report back to him about our find.

We sat around the camp fire, warming ourselves, mulling over our full day. The world had just changed, and we knew we had played a part in it. Finally, the fire burned down, and we snuggled into our bed rolls.

The last thing I remember before falling to sleep is the glow of the embers and the glow in my heart.

During the night, I saw a warning in my dreams–don’t go back to Herod. He’s dangerous and means harm to this new King, so we traveled home by a different route.

We could not get home quick enough. We convened our group and reported our findings. The mild reception concerned me, but I knew that my job on earth was set–God had come to earth through this baby, the King of the Jews, and he had opened the door to the Gentile world through our simple obedience.

You will never hear my name mentioned–it doesn’t matter. What matters is that my two friends and I traveled the distance, witnessed the birth of the Christ child and spread the news to our world!

My religion of choice is the Episcopal church, and we observe the twelve days of Christmas, ending at the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. In our observation, we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to the Christ Child on this day. We believe that the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child opened access to the Gentile world and everyone.

What are you thoughts?

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Goals · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Make New Year’s Goals for 2019

Daily, I read The Language of Getting Go by Melody Beattie. I thought today’s reading was an appropriate way to start 2019″

Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.

Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level.

Goals give our life direction.

What would you like to have happen in your life this year? What would you like to do, to accomplish? What good would you like to attract into your life? What particular areas of growth would you like to have happen to you? What blocks, or character defects, would you like to have removed?

Whaat would you like to attain? Little things and big things? Where would you like to go? What would you like to have happen in friendship and love? What would you like to have happen in your family life?

Remember, we aren’t controlling others with our goals–we are trying to give direction to our life.

What problems would you like to see solved? What decisions would you like to make? What would you like to happen in your career?

What would you like to see happen inside and around you?

Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down–as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose. Then let it go.

Certainly, things happen that are out of your control. Sometimes, these events are pleasant surprises; sometimes, they are of another nature. But they are all part of the chapter that will be this year in our life and will lead us forward in the story.

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Today, I will remember that there is a powerful force motivated by writing down goals. I will do that now, for the year to come, and regularly as needed. I will do it not to control but to do my part in living my life.

The Language of Getting Go by Melody Beattie

Let’s do it now for 2019, OK–write the chapter of my life titled “2019?” Happy New Year and Happy New You!

What are your thoughts?

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Christmas · Christmas · Dancing · My Thoughts

Straddling Two Years

Christmas, 2018 is behind me; New Year’s Eve and 2019 stare me in the face. Straddling two years during this time always makes me pensive. I remember past holidays–the people and the joy and the grief–and anticipate what’s coming with a brand new year!

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has always been special to me. I remember being in high school and staying up ’til after midnight watching Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. Seated on the sofa besides my brother, we laughed and enjoyed the opportunity to stay up late. I felt so grown-up!

As a teacher, I loved being out of school during this time of the year, so again, I stayed up late and enjoyed movies, Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, and the time off!

One year stands out in my memory. I was attending Colorado State University so this was probably 1985. I spent Christmas in Branson, Colorado with my parents and had a great time. I had a month off and decided to spend New Year’s Eve and time afterwards with my brother and his family in northern California.

So, my girlfriend, Eloise, and I rode Amtrak out to California. She had a friend in Oakland, so we were basically going to the same area. We left the Denver Amtrak station about 3:00 pm on December 30. I packed lots of goodies to stay us on this 30+ hour trip to California, and we didn’t get a sleeper.

Eloise and I found our seats, settled in and started this amazing train trek. We decided it was time to explore, so off we went to the Club car, and it was the best place to be going through the beautiful Glenwood Canyon with its massive views. We bought our first beers and returned to our car.

I had brought homemade fudge and goodies, so we nibbled. We read, we drank, we laughed and met our companion travelers in our car. This group wanted to party early, and we did, too.

We slept in our seats that night, stretched out. I wrapped up in an homemade afghan I brought with me. In the middle of the night, we went through Reno, Nevada which looked like a winter wonderland with snow and the beautiful lit decorations out our window. The black world sped by us that night.

New Year’s Eve Day, we woke up in the party car. I rolled over, and I had smashed my fudge in a Ziplock bag during the night. Sheepishly, I shared my goodies with our newfound friends. The drinks began early and continued until we left the train. The camaraderie in our car was festive and celebratory. I got off in Sacramento near to where my brother lived, and Eloise went on to Oakland. My family was waiting for me and ready to continue the party!

Coming from a dancing family, most of my New Year’s Eves have been spent dancing, so dancing was the plan for the night.

It was a memorable New Year’s Eve out dancing with my brother and his wife. She and I dressed up with glitter hair spray in our hair, and the guys at the bar called us the “Glitter Girls.” We danced the night away at a local bar with their favorite band, so we knew a lot of the people there. Many Navy guys on leave came out to celebrate, so I had plenty of dance partners. I flirted; I danced and I enjoyed my brother and sister-in-law.

This memory always comes back this time of year. What does 2019 hold for me? for you?

I’m the eternal optimist and believe 2019 will be great! My newest book will be released in September, 2019 which is the authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, a world-famous square dance caller. I have so much work to do between now and then, but I love this project!

Let me know what you think 2019 holds for you!

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Christmas · My Thoughts

Do You Know Mary? Do You Know Joseph?

A young Jewish girl humbly accepted a visit from God’s angel, Gabriel, and puzzled over his message that she would be the mother of the Messiah. At first, she couldn’t fathom the idea. The Jewish world had been waiting centuries for His coming. She was a teenager and single. What a shock!

Being single, Mary questioned Gabriel about how she could give birth to a child. Patiently Gabriel explained the mystery. Her humble response echoes through the ages, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Her answer was “Yes!”

Mary’s song in response is recorded in Luke 1:46-55 and is a celebration of her commitment to do God’s will–read it out loud and celebrate her obedience.

Imagine what those nine months after an angel’s visit were like. Some sort of marriage happened. Joseph protected Mary during this time, knowing that this child she carried was special. Pregnancy outside of marriage during this time in history was scandalous!

As her time neared, they had to make a rush trip to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth. Caesar Augustus required a census, and Joesph belonged to the house and line of David, so they went to Bethlehem to register Mary.

Nine months pregnant, Mary faced a 160 kilometer trip. Did she walk part of the way and ride a donkey the rest? How long did it take? In today’s world, it’s a three hour trip, but their’s had to take hours, maybe days.

Each mounting step jarred this pregnant woman. As she neared Bethlehem, the birth pangs hit. Did her water break before or after they found the manger? As they moved from inn to inn, Joseph realized there was no place to stay–the census had overloaded the small Jewish city. What to do?

Thinking outside the box, he found an empty stable and tied his tired donkey up. Gently, he lifted Mary off of its back and nestled her in a soft bed of hay. The time had arrived. He delivered his child, the Son of God, alone there in their makeshift home.

Mary trusted his judgment and knew that they would be OK. Her screams echoed through the hills. Joseph wiped sweat from her brow, praying for God’s guidance. One last scream and a new sound was added to the quiet night–the cry of a newborn baby.

Joseph wrapped his newborn son in clothe they had brought with them and placed him in the manger. God directed him on how to cut the umbilical cord and tend to Mary’s needs. His heart burst with pride–a son to carry on his business, his own son, but wait! This was God’s son! What did that mean for Joseph and Jesus?

Mary’s eyes focused on the baby, Jesus–her baby. Tears welled up in her eyes as her heart burst with joy! Her baby boy was here! She savored the serenity of the moment. Then the quiet stable changed as the twosome noticed an angel appear. The trumpet blast from the angel announcing the birth of Jesus shattered the silence. The cows and donkey in the stable woke up and joined the chorus of angels in celebrating this birth. Shepherds with their sheep drifted in the door and bowed to the newborn King. They shed tears of joy in the fulfillment of the promise! They moved aside but lingered, as three wise men laid gifts at the feet of this amazing baby. This mixture of Jew and Gentile surprised Mary and Joseph.

Mary and Joseph looked at each other in amazement and smiled–it was true! The message from Gabriel nine months ago was true! They were now the parents of the Son of God!

Copyright ©2018 Larada Horner-Miller

These are my thoughts about a familiar story–have you ever thought about what happened that night so long ago in Bethlehem? I challenge you to do so this Christmas.

Visit my website for information about my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Christmas · My Thoughts

Why a Baby?

A newborn baby coos and breathes a heavy sigh, feeling safe and warm. Mary rolls over and lays her arm across the baby to make sure he’s OK. Joseph stirs because of Mary’s movement–the trio connected deeply after a long trip and the eventful night of birth.

Tranquil animals surround these three in this stable in the little town of Bethlehem. A jersey cow moos softly and adjusts a hind leg that’s cramped. A donkey brays and twitches an ear with lazy eyes closing to rest! Sheep move like shadows around this enclosure, chewing the scattered hay and enjoying the warmth generated by the other animals and humans. The peaceful mixture of sounds in that manger so long ago echo through the centuries.

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A baby – why did God decide to come to earth as a defenseless, dependent baby 2000+ years ago?

The answer is easy:  the allure of a baby is magical, especially a new born. Just watch children and adults alike swarm to uncover a newborn, look into the face of innocence and joy and wonder at another miracle. Yes, a baby attracts most everyone to its side, and that’s what God wanted.

So this Christmas, make sure you take the time to really connect with the baby Jesus in that stable. Look into His eyes, touch His small round hands and marvel that you are staring at the face of God!

Several years ago, I wrote the following short story and it certainly connects at this time of the year–Enjoy!

Quesions-Answers.jpg

I Found My Answer

            She looks so familiar; I’ve seen her before.  She has the answer I know to the question that has been haunting me for months.  All I have to do is get her alone and ask my question, my one big important question.  Any time I get close enough to her to ask, my parents throw their arms up to guard the baby and scream, “Don’t hurt the baby!  Be careful!  She’s fragile.  You could hurt her.”

            You see, she’s new.  They just brought her home from the hospital.  Her name is Ann.  I’m Laurie, her three-year-old sister.  I wasn’t that excited about her when she was in my mom’s tummy, but since I’ve seen her, I know she’s got the answer, if they will ever let me near her, alone!

            I try to outfox them–one time after another I almost get to her–to whisper my question in her ear.  She’s one of those who knows, and I know it.  I recognize her and her spirit.  But their stopping me frustrates me. What am I to do?

            I must get to her before she forgets, like I have.  Or have I?  I have a vague recollection.  Cloudy images float through my mind at times that are a part of the answer, but I know she knows for sure!

            My deep desire for the answer only increases; my tactics change, but nothing seems to work.  They’re set on protecting her from me, and I’m equally set on getting to her for the answer.

            I stand by my mom as she holds her–that beautiful cherub face ready to tell me, but I know I can’t ask this question in front of Mom. She would only get upset because I would need to get real close to Ann.  I have to whisper right in her ear then put my ear up to her mouth to hear her response, because it will be spoken very softly and gently in words no adult can recognize.  I think I still can understand.  I used to be able to hear that.  I’ve seen that face before I know.  I’ve heard some of her sounds and they sound vaguely familiar–other worldly.  I don’t need much time, only minutes, but we need to be alone and quiet!

            I don’t give up, but my plans have changed.  I stop the outright method; I wait and watch for the opportune time, and my patience finally pays off.

            Ann is baptized at one month old, and my parents give a big party, inviting family and friends to show off their new child. This proves to be the distraction I need.

            The guests all “ooh” and “ah” over her and bring me gifts too, so I won’t feel left out.  I’m not worried about gifts or sibling rivalry or stuff like that–I’m on a mission.  My folks think I’m jealous of Ann, that I want to hurt her, but that’s not true at all.  If only I could it explain it to them.

            Mom has lots of delicious food and drink.  They enjoy good light-hearted conversation with family and friends.  For the first time since Ann arrived, my parents relax about me bothering my baby sister. The party atmosphere distracts them, so I’m on the move.

            Startled back to reality, Mom asks my grandma, “Where’s Laurie?”    Everyone starts the search for me, but my time had come a few moments ago when quietly I slipped out of the living room, up the stairs into my baby sister’s room.  She was sleeping, but that’s OK.  I can still talk to her anyway, and she’ll answer.

            I pull a chair over to her crib and crawl up into it, careful not to hurt her.  I lay down next to her and began whispering my question into her ear —

            “Tell me — what does God looks like?  I have been here for three years, and I have almost forgotten.”

            A knowing smile crosses Ann’s lips, and her answer came through her spirit as I heard her response, “He looks like me.”  Yahoo! I knew it!  That’s why she looked so familiar!  Something inside me knew it all along!!  Every time I have seen a baby in the last three years, I’ve gotten the urge to ask that question.  I felt drawn to the newborn, but having a baby in my own home really made the asking easy–after I got passed Mom and Dad.

            That answer quieted my spirit, and I was peaceful at last.  She did reconnect me with my God.  Now I could hold on to this truth for a few more years.

            Little did I know my Aunt Janey was sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room and had heard the whole conversation (my side only because she can’t hear babies.)  My question touched her heart deeply.

            She didn’t move or try to stop me.  I fell asleep next to my sister at peace with the answer, and my parents found me resting there after their mad search–my quest had ended moments earlier.  I had found my answer.

Copyright © 2018 Larada Horner-Miller


What does the face of God look like to you? Let me know!

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

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Christmas · family · Memoirs · My Thoughts

Are Holiday Traditions Important?

I’m a tradition-based holiday person–I love the familiar and the repetitious. As a child, our home-spun traditions centered on our family. We cut our own Christmas tree on our family ranch when we used to have lots of snow, so it was cold and messy but joyful and an adventure. I often had sap all over my hands.

Because we didn’t have a lot of money, presents were few and heartfelt. I wrote letters to Santa and dreamed about my gifts, looked at a Monkey Ward’s catalog and dog-earred pages so I could revisit it often.

I dressed up in my Christmas outfit, and we ate Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparent’s house across town. When we got to the car, often Dad forgot something and went back inside to retrieve it (later I realized that’s when Santa came!).

My grandparent’s house filled quickly with our family and my aunt and uncle’s family. Often our two great aunts from Tulsa, Oklahoma joined us and gave us $2 bills because one of them worked at a bank. The highlight of the evening was Granddad leading a parade of children from the front door to the back after he shouted, “I saw Santa Claus!”

We would return home after eating a savory dinner and opening our presents to see that Santa had visited our home, and I realized my dreams.

Christmas Day was low-keyed and filled with hours of playing with my new toys.

This scenario repeated itself most years, so you can see the deep family traditions I love.

As an adult, the magic of Santa changed, but Christmas continued to be a magical time for me with my new grown-up traditions. From my first husband, I added Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at an Episcopal church to my Christmas traditions, and church became a regular part of my celebration.

After my first husband and I divorced, Dad and Mom joined me in this tradition, and we drove to Trinidad, Colorado each Christmas Eve to the Lutheran church for Midnight Mass–some of our most memorable conversations happened on those late night 50-mile drives home.

As a middle school teacher for twenty-seven years, I put together a wild collection of holiday t-shirts, sweatshirts, pants and jewelry that I started wearing the Monday after Thanksgiving–I’m still adding to this collection today.

I love writing our Christmas letter that features what we’ve done for the year. This is my 30th year of writing this, and I enjoy the process of looking a back and summarizing the activity of the year.

I cherish baking Christmas candy and goodies because it reminds me of Mom and all the fun we had in the kitchen–I use a lot of her delicious recipes. And I love sending Christmas cards–I don’t receive that many anymore, but as I address each card, I’m flooded with memories of each person on my list, and it’s a celebration of my family and friends.

The last tradition I will share is one my Mom started in 1988. I was going to codependency treatment on December 22 and wouldn’t be home for Christmas. She put together ten Advent gifts–one to open each day before Christmas, starting on December 15th. I packed the remaining gifts to take with me to treatment but had the shock of my life. They went through my bags, opened each of the unopened gifts, thought a bag of potpourri was marijuana, and confiscated it.  Even though I lost the opportunity to open the remaining Advent gifts, I felt Mom’s presence in a special way that Christmas in those gifts.

We continued that tradition until she died, and I joined in the gift exchange and gave her little nonsensical gifts. We added Aunt Willie and Lin–they enjoyed this tradition.

For me, the various traditions have blessed me deeply and shaped me into the person I am during the holidays. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Are traditions important to you? Share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!

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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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Christmas · family · Gratitude · Memoirs · My Thoughts · Travel

A Christmas Memory–Sad & Precious!

My sick brother cut wood to sell!

It was in the late 1960’s. My Mom, Dad, teenage brother and I arrived in Poway, California for a special Christmas celebration. My brother-in-law had recently been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and the future was bleak. This was only the second time we’d traversed to California for Christmas, and this trip had such a mixture of emotion.

As newlyweds, my sister and her new husband and two stepchildren came to Colorado a couple years before and we had a enjoyable time getting acquainted with my sister’s new family. Being from the city, the children delighted in a trip to our ranch to cut down our Christmas tree, and they enjoyed a truly country Christmas with snow.

My new brother-in-law immediately started picking on me, and we bonded deeply even though he forced me to try cranberries–I had never tried this dish before. With his humor and persistent influence, I grew to love cranberries!

My sister knitted beautiful Christmas presents!

Sunny California appeared gloomy and heavy. The festive atmosphere of Christmas felt tinged with a deep sadness and fear. My sister greeted us warmly, knitting like a crazy woman–she shared with me that all of their gifts this year were knitted.

The man we saw on arrival was a shadow of the man we met a few short years ago. The disease had ravaged his body, and he had lost so much weight, his clothes hung loose and limp on his frame.

But his spirit of love and laughter prevailed. Mom tried her hand at making homemade pie crusts, forgetting the affect of being at sea level on a recipe usually done at 6100 feet above sea level. She clamored about the gooey mess she kept trying to roll out, and my brother-in-law teased unmercifully. As he ducked out of the kitchen with his latest quip, she slung the ball of dough at him, hitting him in the eye–a magnificent bull’s eye. Our laughter filled the kitchen with joy in the ridiculous.

Christmas Eve morning came, and my brother-in-law slipped into our bedroom and whispered his plan for the day to Mom and me, “I’m going to go sell some wood so I can buy my loving wife some Christmas presents. Don’t let her know where I’ve gone. Can you help me wrap the presents when I get home?”

Mom and I both choked back tears, nodding our heads.

The impact of my brother-in-law’s health had destroyed their finances. He hadn’t worked regularly in months; my sister had a good job, but she was so busy and overwhelmed being a caregiver, too. Living in the wooded area of Poway, he did cut wood whenever he could and sell it to make some extra money and to keep active–this was not his nature.

Christmas Eve day went by uneventful except for my sister’s repeated refrain, “Where is my husband? What is he doing?” Her distress weighed on me during the day, but I couldn’t ruin his surprise. She continued to knit on the last project she was trying to finish.

Daylight slowly faded into darkness. Mom and I exchanged worried glances all day–Dad, my sister and brother kept wondering about the where-about’s of my brother-in-law.

Mom and I went to the bedroom to talk about what we should do–it was dark. He had been gone for hours. What if something went wrong? Quietly he opened the door of our bedroom with a couple bags of gifts in hand. He looked exhausted but pleased with himself. 

We wrapped the small collection of gifts–all kitchen utensils for my sister. We placed the gifts under the tree, and my sister was contrite in her reaction to her husband’s day-long absence.

I  knew deep in my heart that this was the most precious exhibition of love and gifting I’d ever seen. His generosity and spirit graced the rest of that holiday.

Forty-some years ago, and it still bring a smile to my heart as I remember his mission of love and the true spirit of Christmas.

Have you had a Christmas like this–sweet and bittersweet at the same time? I’d love to hear your experiences!

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM ME TO YOU! I have posted something from my 3 books. Download a free Christmas story or poem from my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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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 &amp; 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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My Thoughts · Writing

My Memoir Wins Fourth Award

A Time to Grow Up FINAL COVERIndependent Press Awards is proud to announce the 2018 Distinguished Favorites in the Memoir category: A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir. See the listing at the URL below;

http://www.independentpressaward.com/2018distinguishedfavorites

I’m so excited! This is the fourth award this book has earned!

The other three awards are:

~”Official Selection” for 2017 New Apple Book Awards for Excellence in Independent Publishing in the Biography|Autobiography|Memoir category.

~Finalist in 2017 New Mexico-Arizona book awards in 2 categories: Biography (Other) and Ebook Nonfiction.

Have you bought your copy yet? Go to Amazon to get a copy now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0996614427/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1497309604&sr=8-4&keywords=larada+horner-miller

Have you read it? Would love to hear your comments about it!

 

 

 

 

Ireland & England · Travel

Day 20 Train Trip to Cambridge

Our family met at the train station in Bury St. Edmund’s and rode the train to Cambridge–about a 45 minute trip. I loved looking at the lush green countryside as we whizzed by.

IMG_4443 Train Station.JPG
Train Station in Bury St. Edmund’s

On the train ride, we passed by Newmarket, famous for “Newmarket has over fifty horse training stables, two large racetracks, the Rowley Mile and the July Course and one of the most extensive and prestigious horse training grounds in the world.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newmarket,_Suffolk

This was exciting for me to see–a country girl at heart!

After we arrived in Cambridge, a group of us walked to the main part of Cambridge and others rode the bus. Seeing all the beautiful buildings as we walked was awesome. Again as in Oxford, there were bikes everywhere.

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Bikes–The Preferred Means of Transportation

Look at how narrow the streets are!

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Narrow Streets

Cambridge is made up of several colleges, like Oxford.

Here’s Trinity College:

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We continued our walk and saw other colleges along the way. Then part of our group decided go “punting.”

IMG_4524 Our group
Our Group Punting

“A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a pole. A punt should not be confused with a gondola, a shallow draft vessel that is structurally different, and which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punt_(boat)

“The River Cam runs through the heart of Cambridge enabling you to enjoy fantastic views of the world famous Cambridge College ‘Backs’ from the comfort of a traditional Cambridge Punt.”

https://www.visitcambridge.org/things-to-do/punting-bus-and-bike-tours/punting-tours

While the group was punting, Lin, my cousin Meghan and I roamed around Cambridge and had a delicious lunch.

When the group got back together, part of us did a walking tour of Cambridge and saw more of the colleges: King’s College, Corpus Christi College, and Christ’s Church College. We were across the river from Christ’s Church College–what a spectacular view!

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Christ’s Church College

The tour guide told us that Steve Hawkings was often seen around Cambridge, and I would have loved to see him, but we didn’t. We did see Claire College and Trinity College a second time.  We also saw St. John’s College. We ended the tour with the historic Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known as the Round Church, and was built in 1130.

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The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

After a stop at a pub along the way for refreshment and relaxation, we walked back to the train station and made it back to Bury St. Edmund’s safely. What a memorable day in Cambridge!

My web site at https://www.laradasbooks.com

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Have you ever been to Cambridge? If so, what was your experience? I would love to hear about your experience there!

Holidays · My Thoughts · poetry

How Can You Make This Valentine’s Day Special?

For years when I was single, Valentine’s Day was the worst day of the year, magnifying the fact I had no one to share this romantic holiday with—I felt ugly, lonely and alone. I avoided any semblance of celebration of the day, but my Mom always sent me a card and tried to make it special.

Who was Saint Valentine’s anyway? Why all the hoopla?

Officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, St. Valentine is known to be a real person who died around A.D. 270. However, his true identity was questioned as early as A.D. 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who referred to the martyr and his acts as “being known only to God.” One account from the 1400s describes Valentine as a temple priest who was beheaded near Rome by the emperor Claudius II for helping Christian couples wed. A different account claims Valentine was the Bishop of Terni, also martyred by Claudius II on the outskirts of Rome. Because of the similarities of these accounts, it’s thought they may refer to the same person. Enough confusion surrounds the true identity of St. Valentine that the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him in 1969, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.


https://www.history.com/news/6-surprising-facts-about-st-valentine

Who helped create this popular holiday?

The medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer often took liberties with history, placing his poetic characters into fictitious historical contexts that he represented as real. No record exists of romantic celebrations on Valentine’s Day prior to a poem Chaucer wrote around 1375. In his work “Parliament of Foules,” he links a tradition of courtly love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s feast day–an association that didn’t exist until after his poem received widespread attention. The poem refers to February 14 as the day birds (and humans) come together to find a mate. When Chaucer wrote, “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate,” he may have invented the holiday we know today.


https://www.history.com/news/6-surprising-facts-about-st-valentine

Since I have been married to Lin, we have had some fantastic Valentine’s. Tonight, I wrote him a poem, and I did it because I heard Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show this week talk about writing a love letter to your spouse this Valentine’s Day.

Here’s her story about the love letter she wrote to her husband this year. https://www.today.com/news/jenna-bush-hager-shares-touching-love-letter-husband-henry-t148549

I know it’s late—I was traveling today and have been thinking about this for a couple days. You can still do it! So, do it later tonight or tomorrow—write a letter, a poem, a song. Take a chance and in writing, share your heart with your someone special. There’s no better gift in the world than word from the heart.

Let me know what you think about this: have you ever written a poem for your spouse or significant other? If so, how did it go?

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

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