Saturday, December 29, 2007

Where did the time go?

Today is my baby brother's birthday...he turned 48! A little background... I was born on January 4, 1959 and he followed on December 29th 1959...yes... we were born the same year. My sister was a little over two when I was born... and my mom was one tired lady.

When I called my brother this morning to sing to him (and I do that even though we are old) it really brought home the fact that I will turn 49 next week. How can it be that I am nearly 50 years old?

It seems just like yesterday that I graduated. Wasn't it just yesterday that I gave birth to Chandra, our oldest daughter? I remember how tiny she was...and how scared I was to be a mom...she recently turned 28!

Next came Rachel, who is now 23 and then Carly, who is 16. The years seem to have hurried past, with graduations and weddings coming all too soon.

Carly is now a sophomore in HS and Michael will begin Kindergarten next year. While we have only had Michael home for a year, the time has gone far too quickly. Time continues to march on.

Yet, in my mind... I am still young (even if my body often begs to differ!!!) I don't see myself as nearly 50, but I know that I am (as my brother was so eager to remind me this morning!)

The older I get, the faster time seems to fly, and I am learning to enjoy each day, taking it for what it is, a gift. I try not to worry about what tomorrow will bring, or what yesterday held, today will be gone soon enough.

So, as I set about beginning this last year in my 40's, I am going to work towards embracing my 50's with excitement. Over the hill???? No way! This will be no downward spiral... just the ride of a lifetime!

Friday, December 21, 2007

What was your favorite Christmas gift?????

With the busy holiday weekend at hand, this will probably be my last post until Tuesday. With that in mind, I would love to get some chit-chat happening!

In the early 60's (yes, that was a LONG time ago) I received a gift that I have never forgotten. This gift was so cool... it was a doll, which was nearly as tall as I was. The best part, you could make her walk (not nearly as cool as the way they do it today, but hey, it was the 60's !!!!) As you can see from the picture I was really lovin' on that doll, and that is my great-grandmother, Violetta, in the background, lovingly referred to as Granny.

I remember that my grandfather tried to offer me a gift or two of his in exchange for my doll, but I would have none of it! On Christmas eve we always gathered at my grandparent's home, along with our great-grandma's and great-aunt and uncle. My grandparent's tree was silver and had a colored revolving light and my grandmother, whom we called Mae, always made rice krispie treats. I would stand next to her and watch the marshmallows melt, then she would pour the completed treats into a pan and set them out on the porch to cool. The TV was always on so that we could track Santa's progress towards Pekin. Isn't it amazing that while many details of my life have grown dim, there are still times that stand out as vividly as if they happened yesterday?!

As an adult, I would have to say that my favorite Christmas gift was given to me in 1998. Mickey gave me an engagement ring on Christmas morning and asked me to marry him, with the girls on hand to give their consent. How cool is that?????

So come on readers... give... what was YOUR favorite gift and/or holiday memory??????

Merry Christmas from The Neal Family!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Tradition

One of my fondest Christmas memories revolves around food (go figure!). I can remember baking Christmas cookies each year, and how much fun my sister and I had (my brother???? His job was to eat the cookies!)

I can remember my mom saying, "How come this recipe says we will get 4 dozen cookies and we never do?" Well... because we loved to eat the dough! My sister, brother and I definitely ate more dough raw than we actually baked!

Somewhere over the years I ended up with the original recipe book that holds the recipe we used. I have made a tradition with my own kids of baking cookies for Santa, one that I have continued to this day. Last night was "cookie night" at the Neal's.

This year, Chandra and family were unable to make it down, but she has already called and gotten the original recipe so that she and the kids can make cookies for Santa. I know that the tradition will continue there as well.

This was Michael's second year to bake cookies. Surprisingly, I believe he actually remember doing this last year. Rachel and Emma arrived and I prepared the dough. While it chilled we ate dinner, and then the party began. As Rachel prepared the table, I dug out the cutters and when I called Michael in he said, "Yay.... cookies!" Isn't he just so cute??? And so smart?????!!!!!

I gave each of the kids a ball of dough, and they set about creating their cookies. I would roll out Michael's dough and he would decide which cutter to use, generally taking his time on the decision. Before long he had flour on his face so I ran to get the camera. Coming back up the stairs I heard the girls rolling with laughter. Having eaten some of the dough, he decided to lick his hand, which was covered with flour. The result was hilarious!

When we were finished, Rachel and Emma packed up their cookies to take home. Carly and Michael each picked out a cookie for Santa's plate, which I placed in the freezer. The rest of the cookies are decorated and set out to enjoy.

I have to tell you that traditions are so important. They give our children something to hang on to, something to remember. If you haven't established any Christmas traditions, it isn't too late. And it can be so simple... just bake a few cookies. And hey, if you need a recipe, just give me a call, I'll be happy to share. And the main ingredient??? Easy... it's love... plenty of love!

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 6, 2007

In Harmony

If you know me, this will come as no surprise. I love to sing! Now, I know I am not the greatest person you will ever hear perform, but I love to sing because I know that I am singing to my Savior.

My favorite part of singing is blending the harmony parts. I sing alto (or tenor when needed!) and I love to mix and mingle, getting the parts just right. I believe that when we sing in harmony, there is more enjoyment for the listener. The more harmony, the more levels of entertainment there are to be enjoyed.

With that in mind, I have a prayer for our church and the church as a whole... I pray that we can learn to harmonize. I believe that no one voice should be heard above the others. Each voice, special and unique as it is, should learn to blend in harmony with the voices around it so the listener (Our Heavenly Father) will be pleased and will gain the most enjoyment possible from the song that he hears.

So, like Charlie Brown, it is time that we learn the true meaning of Christmas... Christ was born for ALL of us, not a select few. Christ died for ALL of us, not a select few. The gift he gave is for ALL of us... accepting the gift isn't the last is the first step. The rest... well it's all about harmony and learning to sing for our audience of One.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A member of the club

I must confess... until today I had never made an eBay purchase! That's right... I have a paper which I create on the computer, I have a blog, I have two emails (one business, one personal) and I play scrabble via email, but I had never made a purchase through eBay.

I am amazed by the amount of items that are for sale there. Can't say what I was looking for (Christmas time, you know?!) but when I did a search I came up with a huge number... then I refined my search and still came up with a huge number. I did a sort and was able to find just what I was looking for at a price I thought to be reasonable. (Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't... who really know?!) I set up a PayPal account and off I went... all from the comfort of my desk. And it isn't like I was shopping alone... hundreds of thousands of people do it every day, so I am sure someone made a purchase at just the same time as I did!

After I completed my transaction (pondering whether I should go and celebrate with a nice, warm cup of spiced cider) I wondered how we managed to get any of our shopping done before the computer was invented! Then I began to think back to my shopping trips as a child/young adult. I remember the local stores we went to, and the fact that your parents were often known by the shop keepers. I remember the thrill of looking at each item, touching it as if the very act would somehow make it your own. I remember the excitement that would build as I anticipated what I might receive. And later... I remember the thrill of the hunt... wanting to purchase the perfect gift for someone I loved.

Yes, things have changed, and yes, I have ended up conforming to that change....but I think that the old way will always be my favorite way. Now.... about that hot cider........