Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blessed

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are looking forward to an amazing New Year. 

We had a terrific Christmas. It has truly been a holiday to remember at our house.
We are so lucky that we got to spend our holiday surrounded by family.

On Christmas, I just kept thinking,

"We are so blessed."

I know that there are many people less fortunate than us this holiday season and I am just so thankful for the abundance of blessings bestowed upon us this holiday.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for being so kind to us!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December Traditions

Mom's Christmas Tree
Hi everyone! Sorry it has been so long since my last post, but as you can all imagine December is a busy month for us. After a day of helping guests, back up cashiering, and making sure the pajamas and sweaters are fully stocked, all I want to do is come home and relax.

Despite the craziness of working retail during the holiday season, there are a few things that I make it a point to do in December:

1) Decorate a Christmas tree while listening to my favorite Christmas album, 
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.


Last Saturday we decorated Mom's tree one last time (see the picture of the beautiful tree above). 
I couldn't decorate that tree without John Denver and The Muppets.
We have listened to this album while decorating the tree since 1981. 
It lightened the mood and kept me from crying my eyes out.

and

2) Make candy with Grandma Black.

First we start with making fudge after Thanksgiving. 
We let the fudge ripen for a few weeks. About a week before Christmas we turn Grandma's kitchen into a candy factory.

We roll the fudge into bite-size balls.


Melt chocolate for dipping.


Then we get our hands messy and dip our chocolates.
There is nothing like the feeling of warm, melted chocolate between your fingers.

The end result are these yummy chocolates that we get to enjoy through Christmas and New Year's.


I hope you are all enjoying your own holiday traditions during this week before Christmas.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kicking Off The Holiday Season



On Saturday I went with Dayna, Dad, and Trinity to put up this little tree at Mom's grave.
 We thought that it turned out pretty cute.  
It was a nice way to kick off the holiday season.

So far we have stuck with the long standing traditions this holiday season.  

The first phase of candy making has been completed, 
but I have to do one more batch of fudge this week because we have been eating it at my house.
 It so good that we can't resist a piece every now and then.

I have been listening to Christmas music in my car. 
One of these days I need to break out The Forgotten Carols.

I started watching Christmas movies. So far I have watched Elf and It's A Wonderful Life.
True holiday classics if you ask me.

The tree decorating started with the little tree.
In a few weeks we will put the big tree up at Dad's house and 
James and I will put up our skinny tree in the condo.

Now if it would just snow!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

30 Days of Thankful: Day 30

I did pretty good with 30 Days Of Thankful during the first half of the month, but as things got busy at work 30 Days Of Thankful got put aside.

I want to share one more thankful with you all.

I am  thankful that Heavenly Father gave me the chance to serve my mom to the end of her life.
I am so grateful that we were able to help her endure well as she prepared to leave this earth..

I am thankful for all of the support that we had from ward members, friends, family, and hospice care.
The task of ensuring a cancer patient endures well to the end takes a community of caregivers.
I had forgotten that people in this world are good and Mom's community of caregivers reminded me of that.

Henry B. Eyring gave this talk during General Relief Society Meeting in September. Just like the talks I shared from April's General Conference, I felt like this one was just for me. It provided me with much needed comfort and perspective:

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 15

I am thankful for my Grandma and Grandpa Black. 

I love them.

They are more than my grandparents, they are dear kindred spirits to me. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Remembering Meagan




Dear Meagan,

Seven years ago my mom called to tell me that you were gone.
 That was the worst Black Friday ever. 
We have missed you everyday since you left. 

Do you remember the last afternoon we spent together?
We watched Boy Meets World and Charmed
I made you a bowl of cereal for lunch.
If I would have known that would be our goodbye I would have stayed longer.

I just wanted to tell you thank you for helping us take care of our mom when she was sick. 
We know you, Alex, and others from our family were there helping us from the other side of the veil..
It may seem strange to thank you this way, but I have to believe that if I put these words out in the universe that they will find there way to you. 

Thank you for teaching us:
 that enduring to the end means doing everything that you can as long as you can.
that cancer doesn't define who you are or your life.
and
that spirits have special features.

I miss you, your laugh, the mischievous twinkle in your eyes, and your sense-of-humor.
I love that every time I go through family pictures I find a new picture of you that no one has seen before. Sometimes pictures like this:


(Meagan is the blonde on the right side making the funny face.)

Oh and for the record, Newsies is still the best!!!

When I hear this song I always think of you:


Meagan Thompson Robbins
 3/9/1982 - 11/25/2005

You can learn more about my cousin Meagan's battle with cancer here.




Tuesday, November 20, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 14

I am thankful for chicken nachos from Costa Vida, Diet Coke, and good dinner company in the break room on a closing night at Target.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 13


Today I am thankful for my job. 

There is never a dull moment at Target. There is always something to do and always something going on. We have fun and there are moments of hilariousness (not sure that is a real word, but oh well) that I would never get to experience anywhere else, like last month when a little boy came up to me and asked, 
"Is this jacket made of real leopard?" Oh the things kids say while shopping. After answering the little boy with, "No we don't use real leopard fur," I laughed so hard that I teared up.

I transferred to the store in American Fork a little over a year ago and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do that. When my mom got sick it was a blessing that I was so close to home when my family needed me. Most days I get to play with clothes, which I love. I get to work with a great group of people and it has been so fun to see all of the people that I know in the area when they come in to shop. 


30 Days Of Thankful: Day 12


I am thankful for the veterans that I have had the privilege of knowing.

One veteran that I always think about on Veterans Day and Memorial Day is Ken Turner.

When I first met Ken I was a little afraid of him. At first glance, he was a washed up, grouchy, old man.
One could tell by his appearance that he didn't have a lot of money. He wore old clothes, always a dirty tan and brown plaid jacket, and drove around town in an old Ford Ranger.

Ken would come into the Round-Up Chevron many times a day for a cup of coffee. He would sit quietly in the last booth towards the northwest corner of the building, most of the time alone. Every now and then someone would recognize him and sit down to have a visit with him.
When I worked at the Chevron I became friends with Ken. We had good conversations on quiet Sunday mornings when there were no other customers around.

One Sunday Ken came in a little earlier than usual for his second cup of coffee.  I told him that I noticed he was early and asked if everything was okay. He told me that he had been to church and that during sacrament meeting the Bishop had stood at the pulpit and said, "Brothers and Sisters many of you don't know this but we have a hero in our midst. Brother Turner  fought in World War II and has the medals to prove it. I would like to invite him to come up and share his experiences with us." Ken then recalled how he stood up, but instead of walking toward the pulpit he walked right out the door. He then walked out to his truck, started the old truck up, and drove to the Chevron.

Ken told me that he didn't want to talk about the war and definitely didn't want to speak publicly about his war experiences. He did tell me that he served in the Army  and about his box of metals that he kept on a shelf in his house. A few days later he brought his box of metals in. He told us what each one was and where he was when he earned them. Then he got to the last one. It was a metal for the highest military honor the British gave out at the time. Winston Churchill himself had presented Ken with this one.
We were truly in the midst of a hero.

The man that I had watched for months, sitting in the corner invisible to all of us around him, was a hero.
He had proudly served his country, bravely defended others' freedoms, and he didn't want or expect any recognition for what he had done. The way he saw it he had just done what he had to do in the situation, what any other person would have done placed in that situation.

I was there on Memorial Day 2000 when the Veteran's Memorial was dedicated at the Lehi City Cemetery
As we stood waiting for the ceremony to begin I saw a familiar red Ford Ranger pull in to the cemetery. Through the crowd I watched  Ken Turner get out of his truck and find a place in the back of the crowd where no one would notice him. He would dodge the recognition himself, but he was still there to pay tribute to all the other members of the community who had risked their lives as he had done.  At the end of the ceremony I looked back to find him and he was gone.

 A few years ago I heard that Ken died. This spring I was happy to see him counted as the hero that he is on the Honor Wall at the Lehi City Cemetery.







Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 11

I am thankful for my Uncle Ric and his example.

He was always doing things to help out his family and friends. Even as he was facing cancer he was serving others. He served in his LDS ward's bishopric and babysat his cute little grandchildren. When bad things happened I never saw him turn away from the Lord, instead he whole-heartily embraced the gospel and learned all that he could about it.

I saw my Uncle Ric with his family at the store in October 2010. He was happy to see me and gave me a great big hug. At the time I thought it was weird, I hadn't quite converted to the "our family hugs" mentality that we have now. Uncle Ric died a few weeks later. I am thankful that he gave me that great big hug now. I like to think of it as our "goodbye for now" moment.

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 10

I am thankful for Alex. My youngest cousin. My little hero.

She was the first one who had to be brave and strong. A little girl who had to fight big, bad brain tumors.

I went to see her about a few weeks before she died. At that point she could no longer walk or verbally communicate. I held her little hand while we looked at pictures of her on the beach that were taken on a trip to Texas for cancer treatment.

At some point during our visit she started stroking my arm and continued to do so until we got ready to leave. I have often reflected on that moment and thought that it was her way of letting me know that she was glad to see me. Sometimes I wonder if Alex wasn't comforting me during that time, trying to let me know that she was going to be okay.

No matter her intentions I learned a great deal from her in those moments. Something in my soul was awakened. I am still not sure that in this mortal state that I truly comprehend what my spirit learned. The best way I can describe it was I learned that compassion wasn't just  making a donation to a humanitarian aid organization or choosing an ornament from The Giving Tree at the mall. I learned that in its most powerful moments compassion is sitting next to someone and holding their hand, giving them simply a little bit of your time and all of yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 9


Today I am thankful that we woke up to this:


Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

It's funny that I found so much pleasure in this today. I hate things that make me cold & wet. It was exciting to see snow this morning though. It made me think of all things warm & cozy; hot chocolate, fuzzy socks, and cable knit sweaters. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

30 Days of Thankful: Day 8

Today I am thankful for a day off.

A day to sleep in, relax, and hang out with James.

I love it!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

30 Days of Thankful: Day 6 & 7



I didn't post yesterday. After work I came home to watch the Election Day coverage with James. We watched the results come in state by state on CNN and stayed up to hear Romney's concession speech, President Obama's victory speech, and then watched the local coverage as Jim Matheson won the 4th district congressional race. It was exciting to watch this historic night unfold.

That being said, yesterday I was thought about how thankful I am for modern communication technology. From our very own homes we are able to get up to the minute information about what is going on in our world at any given time. That is so incredibly cool. 

Today I am thankful to be an American. 
 I know we as a nation have our problems right now, but I also know that America is at its best when everyday, average Americans come together to solve the problems of the day.

Looking at my social media feeds this morning I can't believe how negative a lot of people are about the results. According to my Facebook friends the world is ending today.

I don't share their same feelings of doom and gloom.. 

I don't believe that one man will determine America's future, even if it is the man that we elected as our leader. I believe that we can all drive the change that will shape the future of this country. 
Our quest for a better America may not take us to Washington D.C., but we can all make a difference in our homes and in our communities. I believe that America is only as strong as its citizens, and I know we are strong. So to those of you who find yourselves negative, hopeless, and depressed, chin up. 

Now roll up your sleeves, we all have some work to do.

Monday, November 5, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 5

I
 Today I am most thankful for my comfortable bed.
After a long day of putting together and filling cardboard Christmas trees 
I can't wait to climb under my covers and rest my weary body.
I can hear my bed, it is calling me now.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 4

Today I am thankful for quiet Sundays I get to spend with James and our family.

Today we sat on the couch reading our books with the TV turned to football for background noise. 
We have a little reading competition going on at our house.
 James is four books ahead of me, I will never catch up at this point.

Jimmy called from New York. He is doing well and has to return to work tomorrow.

Later we went to the Riverton to have a quiet Sunday dinner with Randy, Dina, and GrandDad.
Good food and company as always.

I love my Sundays off.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 3

It's no secret to any of you that I love music. I have loved it for as long as I can remember. 

I truly believe that everyone's life has a soundtrack. 

Sometimes a good song can take you back to a specific moment of your life.
Every time I here "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" I am three years old riding in my Dad's black Chevy pickup singing along with the radio.
 A good song can fill you with hopes and dreams, comfort you when it feels as if your heart is breaking, and turn the everyday mundane into a celebration.

That being said,
 today I am thankful for the music of Brad Paisley. 
Over the past three or four years his music has truly been the soundtrack to my life. 
I have been lucky enough to see Brad in concert twice. The last time with my family just a few weeks before Mom was diagnosed.

 "When I Get Where I'm Going" has been a part of my life ever since Grandpa Neel died eight years ago. Every time I hear it I think of him, Alex, Meagan, and Uncle Ric. My mom even quoted it during a discussion we had at some point during her last week of life, 
"Don't cry for me down here."

 I love Brad's "Welcome To The Future" that he wrote after experiencing Election Day in Times Square four years ago. I have listened to it over and over again No song defines our time better.

 "Waitin' On A Woman" reminds me of my sweet Grandma and Grandpa Black. 

"Then" was released around the time we got married. Just two crazy kids looking forward to our future together, looking forward to the day when we can say to each other, "...and I thought I loved you then."

Yesterday I couldn't get Brad's new single "Southern Comfort Zone" out of my head, it's still stuck in my head this morning and I love it!


Friday, November 2, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 2


Today I am thankful for the right to vote.

I stood in line for 2 1/2 hours today to participate in our country's democratic process. I almost left. Then I remembered the women who fought long and hard for the right to vote. They didn't wait for just a few hours, they waited for years.
Today I feel blessed that because of their efforts my voice matters in our democratic process.


The 2 1/2 hour line that I stood in to vote. Is it just me, or is the lady in the yellow scarf posing for me?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Days Of Thankful: Day 1

November is not my favorite month of the year.
 To be honest, it always makes me a little sad when November comes.
It has been over the past nine years that two of my cousins and my uncle have passed away after their own courageous battles with cancer.

So this year I am going to try something positive. 
I need to count my blessings because I can't let myself dwell on cancer and the people that it has taken.
Especially this year where feelings of loss and grief are still fresh after losing my mom six months ago.
 In an effort to do this I am bringing the positive with a gratitude journal here on the blog for the month of November. 

30 Days of Thankful starts now!


Day 1

Today I am thankful that my younger brother, Jimmy is safe after hunkering down in his Brooklyn, NY apartment during the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. I am thankful that communications technology has not failed us and we have been able to communicate with each other over the past few days. We have been able to check on him and he has been able to update us on his situation. It just feels good to know that your loved ones are safe and have what they need. 

The Graphic above is from one of my favorite scrapping ladies, Cathy Zielske. She has a great printable gratitude journal available right now and some other freebies to go along with it. 
You can find it here:



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween



HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

I am working tonight, but I was able to celebrate Halloween at The Annual Neel Family Pumpkin Carve. 
We have been carving pumpkins every year for as long as I can remember. We have to credit Grandma Joyce for buying us our first pumpkin carving kit and patterns in the 90s. She upped our game and we have spent hours carving pumpkins every year ever since. Not everyone makes it every year, but we always do it. 
Thanks Dad and Dayna, for the food and big beautiful pumpkin. 
I can't think of a better way to celebrate!


The mess.

The results.

The Angry Birds.

The test.

Have a fun and safe night everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Conference: Protect The Children

I wanted to share some of my favorite messages from October's LDS General Conference over the next few weeks. These are the talks that resonated with me. Talks that I have gone back to since they were broadcast in order to gain greater understanding and spiritual insight.

I grew up in an environment where children were important. As a kid I didn't realize that I was one lucky little girl. The adults in my life always made me feel important, respected, and loved.  They also made sure that I was safe and that my needs were met. I am grateful to my parents, grandparents, and other adults who made sure that I had a great childhood.

We have all seen too many stories on the evening news that focus on the horrible things that adults have done to children. That is why I loved this message from Elder Oaks which reminds us all that children are important.

Protect The Children
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks -





Sunday, October 21, 2012

Football Love.

Every Saturday at our house the TV is turned to one channel, and that channel is college football. 

The morning usually starts with a little ESPN. But then come to think of it, every morning starts with a little ESPN in this house. When the games start James often goes between each channel in an effort to see all of the college football that he can. In his own words, he loves college football! Lucky for him, I like football too. 

There is one thing better than watching all of these games on TV, and that is being there in person.

 It doesn't matter who you cheer for, there is nothing better than spending a Saturday afternoon at a college football stadium. 

On September 8th we went to the BYU v. Weber State game at Lavell Edwards Stadium. 
I decided to take my camera along. It was a beautiful day for a game.


Photos from the game Instagrammed.


I Don't Instagram alot, but it is a fun app to play with. If you want to follow me on Instragram my username is VeonaD.









Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jimmy

Today is my little brother's birthday!

Happy Birthday Jimmy!!!


This is the earliest photo that I can find of you. I think it is when you came home from the hospital. 

I remember when you were born...

Grandma Black came to stay with us late one night. When I woke up the next morning to get ready for school she told me that Mom had the baby and that I had a new little brother. I couldn't wait to get out of school knowing that I would get to come to the hospital to meet you. I remember Dad lifting us up so that we could see you through the window in the nursery.

We were so excited to have a baby brother!!!

I know that as the big sisters Dayna and I have tortured you through the years. I hope that you know that I only tortured you because I love you. You are smart, independent, and strong. I am so proud of what you have accomplished and can't wait to see what you will do next. 

Love,
Your Big Sister

Sunday, October 7, 2012

To The Man I Love.

Dear James,

It feels like it was just yesterday that we were at the Salt Lake Temple, becoming husband & wife, sealed together for time and all eternity.

That was a good day.

In a few short years we have seen and done things that I didn't even dare to imagine for myself.

We explored the streets of Paris together and you were my tour guide through places so beautiful that I still dream about them (Rodin, Versailles, and the Van Gogh room at Musee D'orsay).

We went to Hawaii where we were so excited to be there that we nearly drove all the way around the island of Oahu on our first day there (I know the island isn't that big so it wasn't hard to do, but still we may have gone a little overboard).

Remember our view of the strip from our room at the Wynn in Las Vegas?

We have been to many concerts, shows, movies, and sporting events.
So many great moments and we are still standing at the beginning of our journey.
,
Over the past year we have gone through some hard times. Lost people that we loved.
 It has been during these times that I have been able to appreciate the man that you are even more.

You are everything that I ever wanted and everything that I never knew that I needed.

I can't wait to see what is next for us. I love you to the moon and back for ever and ever.


Happy Anniversary!!!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Today

They put this up today... 


I think that she really would have liked the Manti Temple on the front. 
I hope that she would appreciate that we put her piano on it.

It is crazy, but there are times when Mom's death doesn't feel real.

I still expect her to greet when I walk into the house I grew up in. 
Keep waiting for her to come out from the bedrooms or climb up the stairs to say hi.

Some days it feels like it was just a bad dream and then something reminds me that it did happen, that it was all real.

Despite my sadness and grief I know that she lives, I know that she is close, and I know that I will see her again someday.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Project Life: Or As I LIke To Call It, My Experiment With Digital Scrapbooking.

A few months ago I decided to try something new...

Digital Scrapbooking.

Here are some of my first creations:
Please ignore the typos. = )
I am learning that I need to edit everything at least three times before I print it, post it, or tweet it.













For my digital creations I use:
Photoshop Elements 10
 Templates and the digital Clementine kit from Becky Higgins' Project Life
Patriotic Picnic Collection by Lori Whitlock
Hello Summer Collection by Echo Park
All-Star Collection by Echo Park
and
Wanted Collection by Cosmo Cricket

You can learn more about Becky Higgins' Project Life products at beckyhiggins.com.
You can learn more about digital scrapbooking and find all of the digital scrapbooking products that I use at jessicasprague.com.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Early Anniversary Gift

Yesterday some packages arrived. 

With our anniversary coming up I decided not to even look at the labels on the boxes in order to be surprised when our anniversary is here.

Tonight James pulled one of my presents out early. This sweatshirt. 


Hilarious! Where does he come up with this stuff?

I can't help loving that man of mine!

A lot of people have asked me where James got my hoodie. 
It was from Zazzle.com.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dayna


Today is my little sister's birthday. 

Happy Birthday Dayna!!!! 

Here we are on the day you came home from the hospital. I sat in the car while Dad went into the hospital to get you and Mom. Mom always told me that she remembered seeing only the top of my head with my eyes peeking out of the back window of the Plymouth Duster waiting for you all to come out. We got home, I wanted Kool-Aid and then we took these pictures (I thought that my Kool-Aid 'stache was so funny).
 I had little sister and my life would never be the same.

I wouldn't trade you for anything though. I will never forget our back-to-school fashion shows, our moments of brilliant choreography (and thinking about it just now, I realize that we danced everywhere we could), or our knock-down, drag-out fights. 

We have had quite the adventures you and I. I hope that we have many more.

I love you sister!!!

I hope you have an amazing birthday and that all of your dreams come true!!!

Marcie

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Advice: Everyone Is Free To Wear Sunscreen

I am having a hard time writing the rest of cancer story. I am not sure how to put Mom's last weeks of life into words just yet. So I write about other things.

Recently one of our Target team members left Target to pursue a bigger dream. This girl started working at Target when she was in high school. I like to think of the high schoolers as growing up at Target so when one of them decides it is time to spread their wings I get nostalgic. I get nostalgic for a time and a place when  I was younger, fearless, and ready to conquer the world.
(I get nostalgic a lot lately.) 

We had a going away dinner for our Sarah and one of the girls said that they felt like they should say something inspirational. What advice do you give to a small town girl fearlessly heading out into the world to pursue her big city dreams?

 "Everyone is Free to Wear Sunscreen" was mentioned.

 I hadn't thought about it for at least ten years and then there I was later that night watching it on YouTube over and over again. 

Watching this at 34 years old. Different things stood out. Some advice included I felt like I needed to be reminded of, there was other advice that made me think "so true." Some of the advice made me laugh, some of it made me cry. Needless to say I was inspired all over again by the advice that Dayna and I listened to over and over again in 1999.



My favorites quotes from "Everyone Is Free To Wear Sunscreen":

Do something everyday that scares you.

Sing.

Don't waste your time with jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long. And in the end it is only with yourself.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you will ever own.

Dance.

Get to know your parents you never know when they will be gone for good.

The older you get the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.






Wednesday, September 12, 2012

James' Birthday Celebration


Last week we celebrated James' birthday. We started our grand celebration with the presentation of his gift (a Dallas Cowboys football helmet signed by one of his favorite players) and dinner at Market Street Grill in South Jordan. If you are ever at the Market Street Grill you must try their clam chowder. It is amazing! 

On Friday we celebrated with a dinner party at the Wyatt's. My in-laws Randy & Dina are amazing dinner party hosts. I am lucky to have them to help me with these birthday celebrations. Our menu consisted of steak, grilled shrimp, corn on the cob, and potato salad. Randy & Dina do such a great job with the food everything tasted so good. While Randy helped me serve the cake Dayna asked him if he had been a chef. His response, "No, but I get around." I think that Randy & Dina could give Martha Stewart a run for her money.

For dessert we had homemade ice cream and this yummy football themed cake from Dippidee in American Fork. It was a key lime flavored cake with raspberry creme filling. It was so delicious! Dippidee has the funnest flavors. I must go back there soon for a cupcake. They are to die for!!! 



In August I would ask James what he wanted for his birthday. His first answer was, 
"A crown. A crown that would rival the Queen's." 

I asked him again a week later. He answered, "A sombrero."
He doesn't remember telling me this and says that he must have been half asleep. 
But I will never forget it. It still makes me laugh.

Then on the week before his birthday he wanted a John Deere tractor and for a few days he specifically wanted a John Deere cotton picker. He knew the model number and everything. 

Taking these requests into account his mother made him the crown that he is adorned with in the picture below. They also bought him a bottle of hot sauce with a sombrero on the label. Last but not least, they gave him a remote control John Deere tractor. 

Maybe next year he will be a little more careful with his birthday requests.

I love you, James!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

April 2012 Conference: The Race of Life

It was a quiet Sunday morning. The best time to be on MomWatch. It was on quiet Sunday mornings when you could feel a peace that I can only compare to the peace one feels in the temple. I let Mom sleep through most of the morning knowing that she needed her rest and knowing that it was only when she slept that she was able to forget about the cancer taking over her body. When she woke up I helped her get to the bathroom and then completed the morning medicine regimen. Then I asked, "What should we do now?"

Her answer was that we should turn on conference. It was close to the end of the morning session at this point and I wasn't sure we wouldn't turn it on to find them singing a closing hymn or saying the closing prayer. Instead we heard the words of our prophet, Thomas S. Monson...

"At some period in our mortal mission, there appears the faltering step, the wan smile, the pain of sickness—even the fading of summer, the approach of autumn, the chill of winter, and the experience we call death."

Mom and I looked at each other and then our eyes and ears were glued to the TV. The small bedroom we refer to as the "sick room" was filled with the spirit. It was as if the words of the prophet were spoken directly to us.

Watch Thomas S. Monson's talk here:


and then the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed this:


Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, my Mom's favorite hymn. She sang in church a few years before. As the choir sang we were filled with the spirit testifying to us that God was mindful of our family and was with us in our time of need. We were both crying at this point, our hearts and souls full of the love of an eternal father. I looked at Mom and said, "I think that they just sang that song for you."

Just as I composed myself there was a knock on the front door. It was a young mother from Mom's ward, a .girl that I had grown up with. She had this look on her face like she wasn't quite sure what she was doing knocking at our door and yet at the same time knew that she needed to. She handed me a note for my mom and was gone. This is what the note said:

Dear Sister Neel,
My thoughts were all of you during President Monson's talk today. As well as the last hymn! The very beautiful song you sang in sacrament meeting months ago! The Lord is surely spreaking to you this day! You are a most blessed daughter of God. Thank you for your wonderful example and service. May you find courage, strength, and comfort this day. I LOVE YOU! And hope someday I can follow in your footsteps...t

I have seen this woman since that awkward day at Mom's front door, but I haven't been able to tell her how much her note meant to us that day and what it continues to mean to me. It's priceless.  A third party witness to our experiences of that day.



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

April 2012 Conference: Mountains to Climb

After a day full of school projects, birthday celebrations, and Target I came home to a quiet house and decided to go to lds.org to watch some of the LDS General Conference talks that had been broadcast earlier that day. Almost by accident (but I don't think it was an accident) I found this amazing talk by 
Henry B. Eyring. My family so needed this message when President Eyring presented this talk at the April 2012 conference.  As I listened I had the distinct spiritual impression that the Lord was aware of our families needs and that he was going to help all of us get through this. I know that Heavenly Father always keeps the promises he makes to his children.



As I revisit this talk I realize that there is more for me to learn here. Although the roller-coaster ride from hell is over, the grief has set in.  I like to compare grief to waves. The grief is always there, but at times it feels far away. Other times it comes crashing down on me. I pray that the deep sense of loss will go away. Tonight the answer to my prayers is this:

"That curing does not come automatically through the passage of time, but it does take time.Getting older does not do it alone. It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength."

It looks like I have some work to do.

For those of you who may just come across my blog I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As a member of this organization I believe that apostles and prophets exist today as they did during biblical times. I am thankful that these great men speak to us twice a year to give us guidance and spiritual inspiration.You can learn more about my beliefs at

mormon.org

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Birthday Wishes from 3.31.2012


For Mom's birthday party celebration my sister made these cute little cupcake pages for the kids to decorate. A lot of the grown-ups made one too. Here are some of the birthday messages written to Mom:

Thank you for your example. Love you.
- Linda Bone -

We love you! You are a shining star!
- Carolyn Smith -

I admire your strength and courage and just think you are a wonderful person with amazing spirit.
- Emily Johnson -

I just want you to know how much you mean to me. Thank you for always sharing your love and kindness with me. You are beyond special in my book. I love you.
- Heather Kellogg -

Just want you to know how much I love you and how much you mean to me. I couldn't ask for a better sister...Love you forever and always, no matter what.
- Cyndie -

Aunt Madge,
I may not have ever expressed how much you mean to me, but you have always been my favorite aunt. I love you so much and appreciate the example of integrity, strength, and unconditional love you have always shown by simply being you.I love you.
- Cassie -

Thank you for your great example to our family and ward...we love you.
- The McCoys -

I love you so much!! You are such an inspiration to me!
- Jess Gifford -

I will always remember when you were my singing leader in Primary, and your stories of George W. I will also remember your sweetness. Thanks for everything.
- Anna Nott -

You are my shining star. I love you! Thanks for being there for me. You have been a great friend.
- Becky -

007,
Happy Birthday to the coolest, grooviest, special agent I know! Love ya!
- Todd Chief -

You are wonderful! Love you. You are a great friend.
- Robb -

Dearest Madge,
I loved serving with you. I learned a lot from you and had such a good time. I love your quick smile and cute laugh. Mostly, I just love you.
- Sister Stevenson -

   

Monday, August 6, 2012

Her Birthday 3.31.2012



Mom's birthday was coming. She was too sick to go anywhere and material goods didn't seem to have any value given the situation. We wanted her day to be special, but didn't know what to do. 
Dayna had an idea. She thought that we could get the primary kids to come and sing happy birthday to her. 
At first we wrote the idea off. 

After thinking about it for a few days I decided that I thought that we could do it and we should do it! 
So many people wanted to do something to help. I thought that singing Happy Birthday was something that everyone could participate in.   Instead of inviting just the kids we would invite the entire ward. With the help of Facebook, Bishop Rupp, and other family members we got the word out and just hoped that someone, anyone would show up. 

 We didn't even tell Dad what we were doing. We didn't want to risk the chance of him saying NO. Imagine his surprise when preparations began in his garage a few hours before the party started.

Family members helped blow up balloons and put Dayna's butcher paper signs up on the front lawn. Mom was resting in the sick room and had no idea what was going on just outside the window...


As 1:00pm approached we were getting a little nervous tIhat people weren't going to show up. That is when I looked up 600 West and saw it...

A sea of red
(red, Mom's favorite color). 


The sea of red was the members of my Mom's ward walking to our house. I will never forget looking up that street and seeing all those people. I was moved to tears. Humbled by the support.

The front yard was covered with people. While we waited for family members to get there we had everyone start writing birthday wishes on these cute cupcake papers that Dayna made.


 Dad put Mom in the wheelchair and brought her to the front door. When we opened it and she saw all the people she was thrilled. From the porch she shouted out to her friends from work. She was so excited to see them. We handed out balloons and sang the traditional Happy Birthday to Mom. After we sang everyone wanted to talk to Mom. They formed a little line down the front porch and on to the sidewalk and lawn. If mom was tired or in pain we couldn't tell. She took time to speak with every single person that showed up to help her celebrate her day. She was truly a class act.

Later she said that she loved it and that it was perfect. 

Perfect...for her I hope that it truly was.

It was a day that I will never forget.