Annual Updates

Christmas 2013, Mathematics Edition

Well! Fancy meeting you here!

Did you think the Neals fell off the edge of the planet? That we haven’t had many adventures?

Oh, my dear one–we’ve had more adventures than I care to even think about over the last year! But think about them I will so I can share a yearly update with you.

You may be wondering why this post is entitled “The Mathematics Edition.” That is because it has been a year of additions and subtractions.

Christopher has been in good health, with the occasional up and down throughout the year. For this we are eternally grateful. In December of last year we moved from North Hills, the church we had been attending since moving to California in 2007 and started attending Potter’s Wheel Assembly in Chino Hills. It is interesting how God moves. North Hills was conveniently close to home, while Potter’s Wheel is about 30 miles one-way from the house. But everything happens for a reason. We miss the relationships we found at North Hills, but the move was necessary. As to be expected, Christopher is very involved with the worship ministry among other things and in his role as an Elder there has been doing trainings. He also did a mock-up of a new logo for the church and is finalizing it as we speak. He is so very talented!

Khalil graduated from high school this past spring and was blessed to be accepted as a client of the Inland Regional Center. California is the only state (or one of very few states) that has a system in place that provides support for individuals with various types of disabilities (specifically cerebral palsy and autism; I think there is one more category but it escapes me at the moment…). We had been trying to get services for Khalil since early in our migration to San Bernardino but had not been successful; just prior to his 18th birthday we had a breakthrough and he started the interview process. By July, he had had the initial interview, a physical exam, and a full psychological evaluation; he was eventually accepted. He now has support services for the rest of his life should he choose to remain a client. His case manager worked with him and he is now employed at a supported work location called VIP here in San Bernardino. He gets picked up and dropped off each day and has a growing sense of financial freedom. If you have an account on I-Heart Radio, you might find him there; one of his big purchases (after some fly threads for work and church) was a laptop!

Andree’ started blogging in earnest last fall; she started on a WordPress-hosted space and branched out to her own self-hosted space this summer. You can find her daily ramblings at One Starving Activist. She also managed to write a novella in April during what is called Camp NaNoWriMo; National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) happens every November, but for those who can’t (or prefer) not to write an entire book in the month of November have the option to do so in April or July. The idea is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There is a whole community and it is great fun–if you have a desire to write like Andree’ does! The novella (a book of no less than 17,500 words) is entitled Adventures in Cargo City and can be found at Amazon in both print and ebook form. This November, she wrote a book of short stories that was over 50,000 words! It is entitled From Reality’s Edge, Volume One and can be read one chapter at a time over at JukePop Serials. She would certainly appreciate you stopping by to read it; sign up for a free JukePop account, where you can save your favorite books (including this one!) to a bookshelf. And be sure to +vote each chapter as you read it! In her usual techie fashion, Andree’ has also created subdomains from her blog (this new Neal Family Adventures being one of them!), and offers writing prompts. It is called The Scribe’s Cave. She does all this writing in her free time, of which she has an over-abundance of since her employment contract with Azusa Pacific University ended on June 30.

There have also been additions and subtractions in the realm of the four-legged members of the family. Missy the cat vanished one day, so now there are two: PJ and Tigger. All of the Neals were heartbroken when it was discovered that Pi had a brain tumor and had to be put to sleep. While no one has recovered from the shock (he was just over two years old and in the end was suffering terrible from seizures), Sputnik has taken it the hardest. When it became evident that Pi might not have too much longer, Christopher and Andree’ went puppy-hunting; Sputnik would not survive on her own and so they wanted to have a new companion who would at least have some time to get to know Pi also and hopefully benefit from his big heart, gentle demeanor, and great spirit. Enter Woola, a shepherd mix (or so they were told).

On couch from left, Pi and Woola; Pi was gone about a week after this photo was taken. Sputnik, on the floor, is still not the same.

On couch from left, Pi and Woola; Pi was gone about a week after this photo was taken. Sputnik, on the floor, is still not the same.

Woola is a great edition, but no one can take Pi’s place.

Well, that’s about all from the Neals. We pray that you have a wonderful, fantastic, stupendous, and incredible holiday and look forward to what the Lord has in store for all of us in 2014!

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Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 Animal Chronicles, Annual Updates No Comments

Christmas, 2012

Well, it’s here. Christmas. And we have tons to be thankful for.

We still have our health.

Over the last year we have added two dogs to our happy yet uniquely bizarre band of misfit toys.

We have had our share of heartbreaks too.

Friends have moved farther along the Path, waiting for us with Jesus in the Clearing.

There are still too many hungry babies and grown folks around, and we try our best to lend a helping hand and share at least a kind word.

Too many people across the country continue to carry hate for others. And have no qualms about sharing it.

There is too much superficiality.

But, despite it all, we know that there is something great about each breath we take, about each day we have the opportunity to see the mountains behind our home, about the sun and wind and rain that touches our faces as we cast our eyes skyward.

We are thankful for each of you, whose Paths have crossed ours at any point in the last year. We send our love, laughs, and well-wishes.

Have a blessed holiday season and may it be filled with awe, wonder, thankfulness, and joy.

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Tuesday, December 25th, 2012 Annual Updates No Comments

Christmas, 2011

Yep. It’s been oh, a century or so since we’ve had updates here. Life has mysteriously continued to thrive on the planet, despite the fact that we’ve been generally absent from the blogosphere. Funny.

It’s Christmas 2011 and time for that end-of-year update. We managed to slip back East for a couple minutes this summer; go figure we’d land in Philly during the heatwave. I don’t think I’ve ever dropped that much sweat in my entire life, but I digress. It was great seeing family and we stayed with my mom, who was probably glad this strange troupe of California bulls-in-a-chinashop left her home relatively intact at our departure. She lives a quiet existence and we took over her livingroom (Khalil slept there) and her extra bedroom, plus our electronic stuff was in the corner of her dining room and we asked for a decently-sized area in her freezer so we could bring back the usual accompaniment of goodies that are not sold west of the Mississippi. Speaking of frozen goodies, remind me to tell you of how we set the TSA in a fit at Philly Airport with a frozen log of pork roll…We saw a bunch of Sistrunks and a few Berrys, not to mention a handful of Salem-ites to whom we claim no formal familial affiliation (y’all who were at the park for music–you know who you are…). We participated in a good old-fashioned car chase too; it happened on our way to Salem through Bridgeton and it’s too good of a tale to put in writing, so the next time you visit San Bernardino be sure to ask one of us to tell you about it.

As the roses continue to bloom in our yard, the kids are getting older and we are getting…I don’t know what we’re getting. Forgetful, perhaps?

Speaking of getting, we are still working our way up to getting a dog. Photos will be posted once a suitable animal is found (and to be clear, suitable means he or she won’t kill or be killed by the three feline people who already co-habitate at the Neal abode).

As far as follow-up stories, Christopher is still working with KCAA radio. Khalil is going to be 17 in March and I am counting down the days to his 18th birthday. I’m still at Azusa Pacific University but am working on the Azusa campus this year instead of at the Center as I’ve done since 2007. Learning continues for us all, but no new degrees in the house this year.

That about sums it up for now.  Be well and enjoy life. We find that it gets shorter every day, so you better get your jollies while you can and leave misery somewhere else. It’s tough sometimes, but all we can do is try, right? Until next time, we’ll leave the light on for ya.

 

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 Annual Updates No Comments

Neal Family Update 2009!

Okay, so it wasn’t quite as soon as I had hoped, but here it is. Some of you may receive this by postal mail as well since we wanted to make sure we covered all bases 🙂

Since many of you can’t be in Southern California we thought to send a map of where we are. The little house right above the 15 connection to the 215 (to the right of the San Bernardino National Forest) is approximately our location. If you drive across the country like we did, you will ultimately end up either on the 10 freeway (southernmost route) or from Rt. 40 West will end up on the 15 freeway. As you see, we are very near the intersection of the 15 and 215 freeways in the northwestern San Bernardino region. Come visit us!

For those of you who were not aware, we bought a home in fall of 2008. While the leased house at 3010 Muir Mountain was lovely, it was far too large for the three of us. We are now comfortably situated at 6435 Churchill Street, San Bernardino CA 92407. Be sure to update your address book with the new address!

As far as other updates, Andreé finished her degree and walked in graduation this year; she is officially Dr. Andreé Robinson-Neal now. She continues to write and has a book chapter in press as well as about three different book ideas brewing. She has been volunteering with a number of local organizations in between her work at Azusa Pacific University.

Christopher has of course been playing music (with the church first and foremost and with some local people occasionally—he wants to get out there more and has been making connections) and continues his volunteerism with various organizations, including the American Cancer Society; he and the family have participated in the Cancer Walk for the past two years and will continue to do so as long as God allows.

In case you don’t recognize the young man pictured above, that’s Khalil, who began his freshman year at Cajon High School this fall. He is 14 years old now! For those of you who either do not have teenagers yet or whose children are past the teen years, remember him in your prayers—it is not easy being a teenager and Khalil has his challenges. We are however prayerful regarding his success!

And for those who keep asking, a move back to southern NJ is not on our itinerary. We are looking at a visit in the not-too-distant future, since Andreé needs to do some research in that area for one of her projects. However, when we are blessed with our recreational bus and begin our drive around the nation, we’ll be sure to look you up. Just keep us updated with your current address and we may show up on your block.

Blessings to you and yours this Christmas season! If you would like to keep up with us on a more regular basis, look for Christopher and/or Andreé on Facebook. Andreé is also on Twitter (http://twitter.com/arobinsonneal). You can also find her at http://arneal.wordpress.com, where she does periodic updates on her writing. As before, family and other updates can be followed on this site, http://nealtrek.wordpress.com.

May you be blessed with peace, comfort, and all the good things the Lord has in store for you and your family this coming year!

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 Annual Updates 5 Comments

Still working on it…

So the plan was to have the annual update posted and mailed early this year. We’re still working on it, but I’ve gotten one step closer: I bought stamps yesterday! Now that’s a strong start if ever I’ve heard…

Sunday, November 29th, 2009 Annual Updates No Comments

It’s the most wonderful time…

So here we are again, nearing the holiday season. We’ve been meaning to update our Annual Updates for at least a week or two in hopes to get our Christmas update out, well, before Christmas.

The main reason we have for an early update is that we’ve moved since last year and want to make sure those who want to send us postal mail won’t have it bounced back because of the change in address.

Look for the update to appear here as well. Hopefully it will be soon.

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 Annual Updates No Comments

Time is the answer…

This thing all things devours–

birds, beasts, trees:

Gnaws iron, bites steel:

grinds hard stones to meal.

Slays king, ruins town,

and beats high mountain down!

So, this quote from The Hobbit, a soliloquy from gollum when he tested Bilbo in the cave, comes to mind on the day I send my child off to his first day in high school.

Time is the answer, since it doesn’t stop or wait.

It was just a few short moments ago that I got the word from my doctor (and a little test strip) that I was pregnant.

It was just a few short moments ago that I was in a panic because my water had broken many weeks too soon.

It was just a few short moments ago that I got a ticket for parking in a disabled space at Burger King on the day I was bringing my preemie home from the hospital (the ticket got dismissed, by the way).

It was just a few short moments ago that I found out my child had been categorized as Autistic.

It was just a few short moments ago that I was taking my son out of a kindergarten prep program because they couldn’t deal with the fact that he wasn’t potty trained yet.

It was just a few short moments ago that I said good-bye to him at the doors of his kindergarten school.

It was just a few short moments ago that I cried while sitting at a table of school administrators and staff, telling them that my son would no longer and never be a student in that particular district again, and that I would one day sit on the school board that governed his new school (and I did get a seat on that board).

It was just a few short moments ago that my boy entered junior high.

It was just over a month ago that he graduated from junior high.

And today he starts high school.

Wow.


Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 Annual Updates 1 Comment

The Neal Family, Christmas 2008

Hello!

You might be wondering what in the world happened to the Neal’s, since for many it has been a year since you heard from us.

Did they fall into a California chasm?

Did they become beach (or ski) bums?

Nothing so exciting, I am afraid. The Neal bunch is doing quite well, thank God, after a year of trials and some level of success as well.

There were a few health challenges for both Christopher and Andree’–reflux, joint issues, and more; Khalil, at 13 (he’ll be 14 in March 09) is the healthiest of us all and complains of nothing. However, we continue to press on and are doing fine. Feeling a bit old some days, but really, we are fine.

As you may know, we rented a home when we first arrived here: Muir Mountain house We found this home the typical way these days–on the Internet. We visited in the spring and a realtor showed it to us; we then applied through the management company and were blessed to be approved. And then the housing thing happened across the country. San Bernardino and Riverside Counties were two of the hardest hit in the US; I went to make our lease payment last summer and heard a gentleman ahead of me asking “What am I to do?” The owner of the house he was renting had not been paying the mortgage, even though he had been making his payment. He had 30 days to move. Needless to say we did not want that to happen to us so we began looking for a home to purchase. Again, we were blessed to find one. Churchill Street We were able to buy this home from its owner (not a foreclosure), so it was ‘move-in’ condition. We officially have been here since 12/15/08, which is another reason why no one has heard from us much; this home is right around the corner from the other one so we didn’t have to hire a big moving company, although we probably should have. The house we rented was 3000 square feet (yes, that’s 1000 square feet for each one of us…cats excluded of course); the one we bought is just below half that size and much more managable. It feels like home, even with the boxes still piled up and waiting to be emptied. In addition to the wonderful views we have from all sides, our house is a half block from where our church is building.

Christopher plays with the praise team at church. I don’t remember whether we shared that we made a denominational switch from Baptist to Assemblies of God? Not that it matters particularly since we are God-worshippers no matter what the denomination…Anyway, our California church family is spectacular–couldn’t ask for a more Spirit-led, fun, loving, and caring group of folks at North Hills. North Hills’ history goes back to 1923, when First Assembly of God was built at 4th and Sierra Way. The most remembered location is at 863 Mountain View Avenue, which was built in 1951. As North Hills transitions out from this home, Celebration Church has established itself there, continuing a well-honored tradition of serving the Lord in this community. There will soon be a new home in the northwestern corner of the city on Belmont Avenue. Of course, with our enjoyment of town history and general fascination with architecture and such, you know this was great for us to know. By the way, the church is briefly featured in a book on San Bernardino, available through Arcadia Publishing.

Speaking of history, Andree’ was appointed to the San Bernardino Historical Commission. The point of the Commission is to help preserve the past of this place that was the home of Mormons who braved the mountains, of our American Native brothers and sisters who have been settled here for centuries, and for the pioneers who came from far-away places. While her schedule has prevented her from attending every meeting, she tries to participate as much as possible when she does go; her participation with Salem Main Street and the National Trust has been helpful. Other than that, her dissertation process has been slow at best, most likely because her passions change with the wind. She continues to write and publish articles, with two due soon. The topics range from diversity in education to autism…Oh, and she is still working full-time for Azusa Pacific University at the Inland Empire Regional Center too.

Khalil is, well, Khalil! He is in 8th grade, for whatever that is worth. Andree’ has become more and more cynical about traditional education which should come as no surprise to anyone who has known her for any amount of time. She has come to understand how alike she and Khalil are and she weeps for his future with the current style of education; despite that, she still does not have the patience (or independent wealth!) to homeschool him. As Christopher says, school is basically an exercise for Khalil–it is something to do, rather than something that affects him in the ways education should. This is mostly due to methodology as well as his way of receiving the world. The family has watched “Autism: The Musical” and from that Andree’ learned how much she and Khalil are similar, with similar eclectic learning styles. Similar, yet quite different. If you have not had the distinct pleasure of experiencing anyone who lives along the Autistic Spectrum, you are probably struggling with that idea. Andree’ is working on an area of research related to this topic that someday will hopefully become a book; she’ll let you know when that happens. In the meantime, she has an article on this topic, and how Khalil helped her understand more about it, that will be published in spring 2009 in Exceptional Parent Magazine.

We still have wildlife: a bunch of fish and three very loving cats–Tigger, PJ, and Missy. We haven’t captured their likeneses lately but will update with them soon.

So you might be wondering what we think of this place, now that we’ve been here for over a year and a half. We still laugh at the ‘seasons’, since the concept of cold for us is still based on East Coast temperature variances. However, our snickers are based on life at the lower elevations (that would be on average 1350 ft. above sea level, as compared to 6755 ft. above sea level for Big Bear, or even 4860 ft. above sea level for Crestline–the community right above us). We tried taking a trip up the hill but didn’t stop to rest often enough and got height sick. Here’s what things looked like from a bit higher up the hill; our house is somewhere way down below, behind them to the right:

Christopher and Khalil on Rt. 18

We were in awe of the beauty of the season this winter, despite the fact that it is going to be 72 degrees today. To sum it up, we are happy and feel blessed that God would bring us to this place. We leave you with a bit of our view of the world, taken the week of Christmas, below. Blessings to you and yours this holiday and in the coming New Year. Don’t forget us, just as we won’t forget you! Love…

Winter, Churchill Street 2008

Crestline, winter 2008

Distant Crestline, winter 2008

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008 Annual Updates 8 Comments

Christmas 2007

Warning: you may receive an abridged version of this post in your mailbox.

Yes, this is our Christmas 2007 update, XL version. It will be modified and sent to those folks who 1) don’t have email or 2) we didn’t remember had email. It has been a very busy year, chock full of changes; here’s the skinny:

Christopher

Thanks to his wife, who since 2005 has had a very bad case of…what’s a good word…wanderlust?…Christopher has been uprooted (more on the specifics of all that below). He has happily been dragged across the country and is now squirreled away in his studio, planning his next move. He has been completing a number of art and recording projects and is patiently waiting for the release of Cousin Kelly’s full CD release.

God works in mysterious ways; in the course of this hectic move about the country, Christopher has been reunited with two of his original Imani African Dance students, whom he taught when they were just little people. Both are now adults with children of their own…

Andree’

To define the term above, wanderlust…in 2005, Andree’ had the pleasure of traveling to Tucson, Arizona with her family to attend the Fielding Graduate University School of Educational Leadership and Change National Session (remember, earlier in 2005 she joined Fielding as a doctoral student); Christopher had warned her, prior to their leaving the Philadelphia International Airport, that she would most likely love it there. At the time, she thought nothing of his warning. However, after a week in the foothills at the Westward Look Resort, she was hooked. So hooked in fact that once she, Christopher, and Khalil were seated on the plane to return to Philly International, she cried for 45 minutes. From that moment, she was determined to find work and relocate.

Fast-forward to 2006: Andree’ had been working as the Director of Community Outreach and the Salem City location of Salem Community College since 2000. That position was eliminated in the fall and she was appointed to the position of Manager of Institutional Research, Planning, and Development. This was quite a change and took Andree’ away from working with students, customers, and constituents; in fact, she could no longer serve on the local committees she had been involved with for almost the entire time she’d been there. The appointment was initially temporary, which inspired Andree’ to search for work in the West all the more; she’d by this time expanded her search to include Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California.

Jump to 2007: Andree’ was blessed to be selected to serve Azusa Pacific University’s Inland Empire Regional Center as Director. Wanderlust satiated…

Khalil

Khalil was also dragged across the country by his mom; he was somewhat miserable during the almost 3,000 mile trip but survived nicely. He has become a very good student at the newly built Cesar Chavez Middle School and is quite the builder; his Bionicles collection is coming along nicely.

Highlights

While the move to SoCal (Southern California, for those of you yet to be initiated) has been great, there were a few sad highlights. We are close to 3,000 miles away from family and friends. Although she made the trip like a trooper, our senior cat Jingles passed away about a month or so after our arrival.

Jingles

God works in mysterious ways. We were introduced to a cat in Salem and brought her home; we named her Pepper. We brought her with us to California, only to find out that she was pregnant. She was just as surprised as we were.

Pepper

You can see Pepper and all the babies on our web album entitled “Critters”.

You can also see a slideshow of our trip across the country on our web album entitled “California Bound”.

And for now, that is our update. We pray that you have had a good year and that your New Year will be blessed. Be on the lookout for more updates, hopefully…

The Adventure Continues…

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007 Annual Updates 9 Comments