One thing I know about marriage one year in.


A year ago, I stood patiently waiting out of sight to marry Mr. Wonderful when one of my best gals turned to me and said, “You’re the calmest bride I’ve ever seen.”

I was calm. I took a look at the people sitting there waiting for the ceremony to begin. MY people. OUR people. They’d come all the way to Mexico to celebrate the Neel Nuptials with well wishes and wine and The Wobble. I was in awe of this gesture of presence – both simple and grand at the same time. It was the kind of warmth that flooded my heart with enormous gratitude.

Even then I knew that evening’s purpose was so much bigger than a wedding. It reminded me to keep showing up for my husband. Keep showing up for my sons. For my people. For myself.

Read the rest of this post at Austin Mom’s Blog.



The story behind the confetti.

Photo by Dennis Berti

This moment stands out the most about my wedding day. Surrounded inside that tunnel of family and friends, I stood utterly amazed at the sheets of confetti that rained down on me and my groom. It was as though time slowed down for just five seconds. And I knew she was there with us.

This confetti, you see, came from dozens of cascarones made by my late grandmother. Making confetti-filled eggs was her most precious pastime. The woman didn’t knit or do crosswords. Her lifetime hobby was making the brightly colored cascarones to sell at Easter time. When she passed away two years ago at 91 on the night before Easter Sunday, there were cartons upon cartons of the little gems left over. (I like to think she made it home just in time to celebrate with her creator. Perhaps she cracked one of her favorite “watermelon red” cascarones over some other angel’s halo.)

Last winter, Mr. Wonderful asked me to marry him and I imagined our wedding. More specifically, I imagined the send-off celebration. I knew we had to break out those hand-painted eggs full of her hand-cut confetti. I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to pull it off, but Mom promised she’d get five dozen cascarones to our destination wedding in Mexico.

I crossed my fingers the delicate shells would go unscathed as airport baggage handlers tossed luggage onto a plane headed from Austin to Cabo San Lucas. I held my breath knowing Mom would have to get them through Mexican customs. As “animal products,” would they be considered agriculture and therefore prohibited and confiscated? This very important tribute to my grandmother rested on a game of red light, green light.

And then, GREEN.

We did it. SHE did it. And it was positively magical.

The sea of approval


I have a new appreciation for toe rings and animal prints after a recent cruise to Cozumel with Mr. Wonderful. Many of our shipmates looked suspiciously like the people of Walmart, but I will give credit where creativity is concerned. Kudos to the groups of cruisers sporting matching shirts bearing phrases like, “Get Ship Faced” and “Titanic Swim Team.” What can I say? I I have a soft spot for XXL puns. Well done.

All the while, I was crossing my fingers I wouldn’t end up with a “SURVIVOR: Carnival Edition” tee as a souvenir after hearing about the infamous “poop cruise” last fall. If you remember, that’s when a fire knocked out THIS VERY SHIP’s power, leaving 4,000 passengers and crew stranded for 4 days without sufficient food, water or toilets. I don’t think I have to explain the nickname.  Thankfully during our stay, all went swimmingly aboard the Triumph — named appropriately. Full disclosure: I may have boarded the ship with my own travel-sized bottle of Lysol. I may have worn flip flops in the shower. And I most certainly had the hand sanitizer on rotation. So there you have it. Confessions of a germaphobe. Revealed.


Minus a little motion-induced vertigo, our sunny sail days were pretty solid. Impressive cleanliness, lot of activities, great food, good tunes, and, of course, perfect poolside company.

Actually, seasick sweetheart seemed perfectly content in his lounge chair watching me host a dance party of one on the lido deck. Who knew that Pitbull had such an effect on me? Or was it the lovely libation presented to me in a pineapple? Warning: Novelty drinks may cause illusions of grandeur on the dance floor — as evidenced by the rum cocktail served up inside a disco ball the night before. All aboard!