Part 2: Leaving California

After our epic, 1800 mile drive, we had about a week before our new home would close escrow!


We knew we wanted to have the concrete floors polished prior to moving in, but another pressing matter surfaced….


When we had walked through the home a month before, it was fully furnished. However, not with your typical, run of of the mill furniture…


It was super-sized, massive furniture….  We felt we had walked into a plantation home in Charleston. Beautiful hooded (for lack of a better word) chairs, Victorian curved couches. Jazz musician statues….

Like this…



When we returned to take a second peak, we were pretty shocked by what we saw…


The absence of the furnishings revealed:  multiple wall markings throughout.


In the master bedroom, a splatter of what appeared to be coffee on the wall where the bed had been. A splotch of what appeared to be red wine on the master bathroom door jam. Every room had something. We felt like crime scene detectives speculating what made each mark…



Painting the entire house wasn’t an option. We decided to match the paint and cover spots.


This wasn’t an easy task: the same dark-ish, flat paint was used throughout. First, we enlisted the help of Home Depot.


How could the paint cover and blend perfectly in one room, and not another LOL?!


The bright, natural lighting in the dining room revealed the first attempt wasn’t a good match.  We approached the builder, asked for the name of the paint, and once again, Home Depot helped us mix up a better match.


We are not big on flat paints–eventually we will repaint with a lighter, semi-gloss.


Billy worked tirelessly: buffing and polishing the concrete floors, and spot painting walls and trim. At times resembling Chip Gaines, minus a demo day…


We closed escrow on a Friday, and moved in the following day!



We were blessed to have a team of 6 helping us!


Within 3 hours, the moving trailer was emptied, and our team began re-vamping the front yard to improve our curb appeal!








This blog post is best completed with  “thank you’s” to all who made this Texas-sized move possible; in no particular order:

Mom and Dad: we can never thank you enough for all you did to help us! Thank you so much for doing everything you could throughout this huge endeavor!

Uncle Ron: thank you so much for helping Billy with the master bathroom remodel.

Tom: thank you for your help with the plumbing in the master bathroom remodel.

Aunt Sherry: thank you so much for coming over and helping us pack!

Grandma and Gaia: thank you so much for the meals you provided us!

Jon and Kasha: thank you for introducing us to life as a Texan. For offering advice, support, and for hosting us!

To Kim and George (our Chico and Salado realtors): thank you for keeping us on track throughout the entire process!

Thank you to the Well Ministry for providing us a team of mean to help pack our moving trailer!

Thank you to our employers for understanding our decision, and not only to releasing us, but to offer kind words of encouragement and support!

Our close friends (you know who you are): thank you for your love and support!

Billy: you amaze me! You truly are one of the most talented people I’ve ever met!

Liam: thank you for rolling with all that you had to over the past couple of months! We love you, and we did this for us!

Our readers: thank you for following the next chapter in our journey!




Part 1: Leaving California

I will never forget our dear friends’ faces when we told them that our family had decided to move from Chico, California to Salado, Texas-within a matter of a few short weeks.


The common responses were: “What’s in Texas?”

“I didn’t know you wanted to leave California.”


Their perplexion was justified.  We had kept our “situation” quiet so we could sort through things….


There were several factors that HAD to come together for us to make such a big move. Our California home had to sell, we needed to find a new home in Texas, we both had to be released from our jobs, and my husband Billy needed to secure a job. We prayed and waited. Details, big and small, began coming together. We began preparing our home of 14 years for the new owners—Camp Fire victims who had lost everything…


A door mat we purchased for the buyers of our Chico home!


We were ecstatic when our offer on a beautiful Texas home was accepted!




Prepping our Chico home to sell was no small task. Our master bathroom had been gutted for 3 years, and it needed to be completely remodeled prior to our closing escrow. Billy worked tirelessly on the remodel while my parents and I packed the house, garage, and two sheds!




One day, we received a shocking email: the appraisal on our Texas home was ordered later than expected, and we were informed our escrow wouldn’t close till the end of the month. This was HUGE as we had planned everything around closing mid-month. We immediately made some phone calls…Eventually our closing date was adjusted to the 22nd.  We called the moving company to check the cost of their holding our trailer for a few days. Then, we called my cousin in Salado, who we planned to stay with until our escrow closed, to ensure a few extra days at their home would be okay.


We enlisted the help of a local Christian men’s ministry to help pack our moving trailer. Within a matter of days, Billy and I were on the road.  Our son Liam stayed behind with my parents, and flew out with them on a later date in order to miss out on the massive 1,800 mile trip.





Still we had our lab, Josey along for the ride. We enjoyed the first half of the trip together (as our Hummer was pulling my Murano),  re-connecting as a couple and spotting points of interest along the way—though we didn’t stop:





Image result for tombstone, AR sign



The countless…. LOL




Until the Hummer over heated in New Mexico— in the middle of nowhere.


With very few options, we chose to rent a U-Haul truck for Billy to pull the Hummer on the auto trailer. I would drive the Murano.



Cara-vanning for the remaining 12+ hrs. of the trip was in one word: CRAZY!


At times, we were on the phone just so Billy could direct me through insane highways designated for 75 mph speeds!


I quickly learned that I needed to up my driving “game!”


Additionally, issues with my brakes, a horrific bloody nose, and a “warning” from  law enforcement (our trailer lights had become disconnected), delayed our arrival time.

We were so grateful to FINALLY arrive at my cousin’s home, but we had no idea what BIG challenge lie ahead….


Make sure to catch Part 2: Leaving California next week!





Merry Christmas!

I wasn’t sure about this picture gracing our Christmas card this year.

Our usual Christmas card is serious. Dressy. Traditional.

The opposite of this one LOL.


If you guessed it was my husband Billy’s idea to do a funny picture to “change things up,” you’d be correct.

He often pulls me outside of the “norm” aka. my comfort zone.

I’m so thankful for him- for so many reasons.

Words can’t express my gratefulness for that boy in the pink “deranged” bunny suit. He’s fun, quirky, and plays along with our shenanigans.

Though it isn’t as plainly on our card this year as in previous years, please know: our family gives all glory to God for “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17).  Especially the gift of Jesus, and the hope found in Him (Luke 2:11).


Praying that you experience His comfort and peace in your life!


We wish you a merry Christmas!




The O’Neal family


Why Do Facebook Lives?

If you had told me two years ago, that I would be putting my life out there on Facebook, I would have thought you were crazy.


In May 2017, my husband Billy and I began our FB Live “journey.” Little did we know that we were accidentally  ahead of a trend:



Screenshot of one of our first Facebook Lives


According to Facebook consultant John Eric, by 2020, 80% of your FB newsfeed will be comprised of FB lives. That means, you need to get cozy in front of the screen, or….



From a Facebooking sense, you WILL DISAPPEAR.  That means your friends will not see the majority of your posts in their newsfeed anymore. In fact, unless they intentionally visit your FB timeline, they will not be able to stay current with you.



Is that a big deal to you?


I would argue that it is a big deal for most Facebookers. How many times have you seen a friend post “comment if you can see this post?”


People want to be seen on Facebook for many reasons….


*It’s how we share the latest that is going on with us/our family.

*It’s how we share important information within our community (this has been especially important in light of the recent Camp Fire that has impacted my Northern California area)

*It’s how we interact with friends and family (especially those who live away from us)

*It’s a way to meet and to get to know new people


For example: Last week, I was shopping our local Costco, when I heard,”Heather?”

It was Heidi who I had met on Facebook months ago, but we had never met face to face! She had recognized me from my pics and FB Lives! I was so thankful that she said “hello” to me! That’s what I want–more personal connections through Facebook! 


FB Lives are SUPERIOR to traditional written posts, pics, videos, memes.




FB Lives offer you to the opportunity to create unique content that captures your excitement in a “real time” format. It is true that most of the viewers will catch a Live on a replay, but usually you will have a few viewers that you can interact with as you are Live.


If you’re an entrepreneur, FB Lives offer you a creative medium to feature your product or service.  Pictures are powerful. Videos are even more powerful. However, FB Lives are KING!


Lastly, FB Lives drive traffic to your FB profile— back to being seen. Whether you just want your friends and family to know the latest in your life, or you are promoting your business, FB Lives puts you in front of your audience.


Whether we want to admit it or not, FB Lives is the wave of the FUTURE!


So, get past those inhibitions!










Reflections: The Camp Fire

I clearly remember that day. I was headed to Marysville about a 30 minute drive from where I lived. I was rehearsing my lesson plans in the car as I listened to the radio. I remember questioning what I heard: a plane hit one of the Twin Towers? Immediately I called my husband Billy to tell him…
Eighteen years later, a similar situation…Last Thursday, I was headed to school, a different school. The sky looked ominous, dark clouds and a red sun. I called Billy, who was helping our son Liam get ready for school. He agreed that it appeared to be another fire. However, this wasn’t just “another fire.”
This was the beginning of the Camp Fire, which has leveled the town of Paradise and significantly damaged the towns of Magalia and Concow. At the point of writing this blog post, it is at 50 % containment; approximately 146,000 acres damaged, 11,862 structures burned, 52,000 have been evacuated from their homes, 71 confirmed deaths; and 1,000 unaccounted individuals. The Camp Fire is being called the most destructive wildfire within this century.
Our town of Chico is within a 15-20 minute drive of Paradise, so many evacuees have arrived here. Over one thousand are residing in shelters. Hundreds are parked in parking lots through town- Walmart, the old Toys R Us, and our mall. Some are residing with friends and family. We personally know 11 families who have lost homes. With over 7,000 households displaced, Chico’s housing market falls significantly short. Some are estimating that only 800-1,000 households can be accommodated. It is the problem on everyone’s mind, and it will likely take years to fully address it…
What does it look like when a national disaster happens in your area? I offer my perspective to my friends who live outside of the area:
1. From the moment you wake up, you turn on the morning news for the latest Camp Fire updates.
2. You check Facebook for updates on your friends and family. It’s peppered with posts such as these:
*Expressions of thanks that homes were spared
*Pictures of land where homes once stood
*Gofundme accounts started by loved ones
*Pictures of the missing
*Posts of the helpers-encouraging others to do the same
3. You feel compelled to help: collecting items to donate, hosting families, volunteering at shelters, cooking meals, and giving funds to relief efforts.
4. You feel guilty about not being able to do more. The loss is overwhelming.
5. Your festivity is restrained this holiday season. I have a home to decorate, so many don’t…
6. You are encouraged by the helpers (as Mr. Rogers used to call them). You thank God for their ability to put love into action and for their knack to think outside of the box for creative solutions.
7. You resist the temptation to be stuck. The scope of the situation is overwhelming, but you are motivated to do SOMETHING. ANYTHING.
8. You don’t sweat the small stuff. You catch yourself complaining about petty things, and then you feel ridiculous for doing it.
9. You pray for evacuees, first responders, angels of goodwill, and officials as they search for solutions.
10. You resist the blame game, realizing now is NOT the time to point fingers. There’s just too much to do….
With God’s help, we will rise from the ashes. Paradise may be lost, however HOPE is not lost… Butte Strong!
***By the way, the image below was created by the design team at Fifth Sun. When I attached the image, I had not inquired first whether I could use it. I contacted Randy Cook, owner of the company, and he has graciously agreed to my using it here. Please consider purchasing a Butte Country Strong t-shirt! All proceeds got to the Camp Fire victims, and to date they have raised over $69,000!!! Here is the link to order:
To gain a clearer picture of the devastation, please click the links below:
Whether you live in the area or not, there are ways to help out! Please clink the link below! Thank you for your contribution!
A special thank you to all the first responders! We can never thank you enough!

How to Foster an Attitude of Gratitude in Our Children

I always feel very convicted this time of the year—I know that I should be more grateful for what I have. It is very easy to take all that we have been blessed with for granted.


Can you relate?


We feel guilt because…


*We know there’s people throughout the world who would give anything to have what we have—shelter, food, loved ones, etc.


*Innately, we know gratitude helps us connect to others. Whether we are showing      gratitude or receiving it, we feel supported and a sense of community…


In fact there’s research to support the latter. According to the article Seven Ways to Foster Gratitude:


In 2006, psychologists Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson conducted an analysis of parents’ descriptions of their children’s strengths—and found that gratitude had the strongest relationship to life satisfaction.


In fact the article takes it even further: gratitude determines adult success.

Recognizing the importance gratitude plays in our lives, we must instill an attitude of gratitude in our children.


  1. As parents, we need to model and intentionally teach gratitude. Our children are watching us. Are we thanking the checker at the grocery store? Are we sending notes or texts when a loved one gave us a gift? Are we doing something special out of the blue for someone who helps us out? That’s the modeling. The teaching is explicit. For example at Christmas, you might say: “Your grandma gave you such a thoughtful gift! What should we do for her to show appreciation?” Sometimes they will come up with ideas. Other times you may need to give suggestions and have them choose.



2. Spend quality time with your child. When we truly appreciate someone, we do our best to focus on them. Not being constantly tied to our phone is a start. Asking your child about their day and really getting to know them as a little person is also important.


3.Support your child’s autonomy/individuality. Be authoritative yet democratic in your parenting style. Help them become their best version of themselves. Provide opportunities for them to nurture talents and strengths. Limit all screen time, so your child’s energy can be channeled into developing other talents.


4. Help them discover ways to use their talents and strengths to show gratitude to others. Maybe they are very introspective writers. They may write a beautiful letter of appreciation to a friend. Maybe they love singing or playing a musical instrument, so they play a song as a “thank you” to a relative. Or, they could be crafty, and choose to create a token of their appreciation.


5.Focus on the intrinsic goals. Help them key in on how their heart feels. Do they feel warmth towards a person who helps them? Help them brainstorm ways to show appreciation as mentioned above. Once they show their appreciation, ask them how they feel about it? Focus more on those innate feelings than extrinsic things-physical things they may receive.


6. Encourage them to look for opportunities to help others. Teach them to kind and inclusive on the playground, to speak up if someone is being bullied, and to be the student their teacher and school staff can count on to make good choices.

7. Help your child discover what matters to them; a cause. Even as children, they can make a difference in their community. Maybe they want to donate their toys to a shelter. Maybe they have a passion for the environment, and they choose to recycle. Or, maybe there’s an elderly neighbor who needs help with yard work.


When parents and teachers apply strategies such as these, our children begin to form a sense of gratitude. Gratitude shouldn’t be seasonal. It should be something that is “caught” and “taught” explicitly.  When children have a sense of gratitude, they feel supported and a sense of community. Thus, increasing their chances of living a fulfilling, successful adult life.


For 32 concrete, scientifically- based strategies for encouraging gratitude in children, check out the book:


Making Grateful Kids