Skip to main content

Mary's Blankets

In a phone call the other day, I realized an important detail. I am very different from my mother-in-law. This is not rocket science, this is not an earth-shaking newsflash.  We've known each other for more than twenty years now. But in learning to appreciate her for who she is, and in learning to see her unique talents and gifts, I can finally quit expecting her to be like me. She never once expected me to be her carbon copy, but maybe I went into this relationship with the wrong expectations. Maybe a young bride assumes that her husband's mom will be a lot like her own mom. Wrong. Sorry sweetie. That's not how it works.

The other day I was hoping she'd share some words of wisdom, or write down stories for me to tell her grandkids when they get older. But she's not a writer. She's great at talking on the phone, and she loves to laugh. I'm guessing her sense of humor has gotten her through some very difficult years. One of her best talents is being able to work effortlessly with her hands. She's crocheted dozens of blankets over the years. That's a lot of yarn!

This year's stockpile is almost ready to donate to charity. She loves the Project Linus group, and she'll get all the blankets loaded up and ready to give away before Christmas.

She's given blankets to many different family members. We have blankets from my husband's childhood, blankets for newborn babies, for big kids as they got old enough to have favorite colors. We even have handmade teddy bear sweaters and potholders for my kitchen. Each gift of love has kept us warm and cozy. This legacy of blankets is one of our favorite treasures.

Other treasures are less tangible. One character trait that I hope gets passed down: bravery. She's fought through cancer for nine years now. Each time she's lost her hair after chemo, she's found a reason to smile when it grows back again. 

Optimism is another gift. Thank goodness for a sense of humor. Liz explains: "Mom had asked me to come over and buzz her hair off because it was starting to fall out and get itchy. But this time around (2018) she said she wanted to have a little fun with it and post some funny pictures so she also asked Doug to come over after work to take a twin bald picture. They asked me to step between them and put my hair over both of their heads for a funny picture of me providing hair for both of them :-)

Once again my Mom showed me her resilience, strength and faith. In a time when most people are struggling with the effects of chemo, my mom decided to have some fun with it and try to get some laughs.
She and I were talking and she told me that sometimes her strength and faith come from the scriptures and other works from the church. Sometimes it's dreaming about what she can do in the house and the yard & sometimes it comes from crocheting two beautiful receiving blankets for the newest great grandchild. What it always stems from is a future for her with her family!!

The previous 18 chemo treatments (from 2010, 2016 & 2018 <6 per year> she lost all of her hair.  The 18 treatments (once a week for 3 weeks with 2 week breaks from Jan to June) for 2019, she DIDN'T lose her hair. She was already to have me come over to buzz it off as it started to fall out, but it didn't happen this time. Of course those were the ones that really took a toll on her heart by severely hitting her platelets each treatment, caused anemia & ultimately gave her the pulmonary embolism that she now has to give herself the blood thinner injection twice a day." 

As the oldest daughter, Liz has shouldered a heavy burden in this battle as well. Words are inadequate to describe my gratitude for her courage and compassion. I'm pretty sure she'd say her efforts are ordinary, but to me they are heroic. She has been there for her parents and cared for her mom through this very difficult journey.

Two years ago, Grandma and Grandpa drove south and joined us in Utah in the springtime. I'm glad we took a picture that day at Thanksgiving Point. It was the last trip when she was strong enough to travel to visit us.

This year we flew north and managed to see them in the summertime. The family get-together after church was priceless. We spent a few hours with all the cousins and aunts and uncles at the park for a picnic. Serious thanks to my sisters-in-law for their work and preparation to pull that off! I'm realizing now what a precious gift it was, to have a moment in time where everybody could smile together and laugh. Just a few days later, Mary was in the hospital, yet after a few very scary weeks she rallied and got strong enough to come home.

In sickness and in health, she's loved her family. She's loved and accepted me all these years. I can't crochet or make blankets, so her gifts have blessed my family in ways I cannot. It seems like our opposite talents and gifts were meant to be. My kids are lucky to have her as their grandma. For me in this unique relationship as daughter-in-law, it's kind of like a coming of age. I'm finally old enough to see how hard this mommy thing is, to appreciate what she did as she raised children and grandchildren of her own. I'm finally old enough to recognize some of her struggles and sorrows, to see behind the scenes, so to speak.

Mary is also an excellent cook. My favorite recipe from her kitchen has been a classic in our family for many years now. I shared it last week at a fall festival. It was actually a chili cook-off, which I've learned is a Texas thing. You start with small cups so everybody can taste twenty different varieties, then go back and eat more of your favorite. We'd already eaten a few chili dinners during October, so I made cheddar chowder instead. It was a win, as evidenced by the empty crockpot at the end of the night.

Cheddar Chowder

Make a roux:
1 cube butter
½ C flour
2 cans evaporated milk
2-4 C shredded sharp cheese

1 large onion
½ stalk of celery
1 lb carrots
6-8 potatoes

Cube the veggies, then boil in salt water for 10 minutes. Drain most of the water. Add a blob of chicken or vegetable boullion.
Combine veggies with cheese sauce. 

1 lb cubed ham
2-3 C peas

½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp white pepper
Salt to taste

Cheddar Chowder is as hearty as it sounds. Serve it with Ritz crackers.

Food has been a thing that's brought us together. In the early years of my marriage, when they'd come to visit, she'd always give us jars of grape juice. This gift of love represents hours and hours of work. Early October in central Washington, they used to glean grapes after the harvest. Some of the farmers would let people come and pick their own, purchasing them at a cut rate. Then Mary would spend a few days making grape juice. It takes about 2.5 lbs of grapes to make a one quart jar. That's a lot of grapes! Mix with an equal amount of water or sprite.

This last photo is with her great granddaughter.

As we look ahead to the holiday season this year, one of the prayers that we keep lifting up, is that her "chemo holiday" may continue. Every day is a gift, and health is another precious treasure. The treasures she's shared with us include blankets to keep us warm, and delicious food like cheddar chowder and grape juice. She's been gracious to share the good things in her life.

Post Script
August 2021
Mary passed away a few hours ago. 

I realized today as I was reflecting, that the best gift my mother in law ever gave me wasn't a tangible thing. She always loved and accepted me, as is. She was certain that I'm good enough. Sometimes they even joked about how they liked me better than Norm. Of course that's not true, but it made me feel loved and gave me a sense of belonging. She was always happy to talk to me when I called on the phone, and I will miss hearing her voice.

Below is my favorite photo of her from June. Nancy made an amazing picnic for the family at a park on the Columbia River. I love the smiles on both of their faces.

Dear Mary, God be with you 'til we meet again.


  1. What a beautiful tribute! Aunt Mary is a lovely woman. That last picture is so precious. All of the pictures are. I am glad you have been able to learn to appreciate her. I think a lot of people feel the same way you do, that your expectations aren't always met and it takes a while to learn to appreciate that.

  2. Hi Kari, thanks for leaving a comment. Sorry I'm terrible at leaving replies here on my blog. So glad you liked the pictures and tribute. Yes, you're right that we often make expectations for all kinds of things, and then have to re-evaluate. You said something very poetic: "It takes a while to learn to appreciate!" Learning to appreciate what we have is a gift for sure.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Leaving Utah

Norm and I are at a crossroads.  It's time for our family to take the next step.  But first a quick trip down memory lane. We first came to Utah sixteen years ago.  We were young and cute and pregnant with baby #1.  Norm had been accepted as a student.  I had a lot of fun during my first two years of college, and I imagine the admissions board looked at my transcript and said something like, "yeah right!"  (More details about getting a D in organ lessons over  here .) So my first BYU application was rejected.  They let me attend classes as a visiting student, and one day an admissions officer called my phone.  It was a landline, and we were living in BYU married student housing.  He had two questions for me:  Is your husband a full time student?  Yes.  And you live on  campus?  Yes.  End of interview.  A few days later I got my acceptance letter. We finally graduated together in 2004. We bought our first home in Lehi, not too far from Willow Creek middle schoo


  These four books are either written by or about some of my favorite authors of all time. Isaiah , Prophet, Seer and Poet, by Victor Ludlow. One semester during college we did a deep dive into this poet's literary works found in the Old Testament. Someday if I get bored, I want to learn Hebrew and read his stuff in the original language. Neal A Maxwell  is another favorite writer. My favorite book that he's written is called All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, and is a masterpiece on human suffering and why it's necessary in the refining process. Highly recommend. The first time I read through it, it took about a year because I could only digest about a paragraph a day. believe  is such a fantastic collection of quotes on hope. Love it. Eliza  The Life and Faith of Eliza R Snow, by Karen Lynn Davidson and Jill Mulvay Derr. I love this lady so much and she's my favorite poet and pioneer woman. This biography is beautifully written. My favorite poem or quote by

2021 Christmas Card

December 2021  Dear Friends and Family, We love you and and miss y'all that are far away in WA and UT and other places!! This year we skipped our tradition of sending a Thanksgiving card and opted for a virtual Christmas card instead. It saved a ton of stamps and envelopes, but I definitely miss the glitter and sparkle. We hope you can feel our love even through a simple email or blog post. One tradition we couldn't skip was our gratitude tree, where the little leaves are a list of blessings. We are so thankful for God's goodness and mercy every day. Here's the highlight reel:  Cade graduated, made lots of Domino's pizza, read probably a thousand books, and is currently living in Provo, UT as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's heading to Helsinki, Finland in January. We are so proud of him and his hard work, we miss him but are excited for his opportunity to learn and serve. Shad spent a zillion hours with Marcus Ban

Thorns and gifts

We've been reading in the New Testament as a family lately, and Paul has some great advice and counsel that's still applicable today.  In his letter to the church in Corinth, he talks about a thorn in the flesh. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 7  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8  For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9  And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. It's kind of a moot point to speculate what Paul's particular thorn might have been, but I've often wondered. More importantly: what is God's purpose in giving his children such difficult stuff to learn? Why does life have to be so hard?

One More Syllable

It's been a year. One year ago we moved to Texas. One year ago I started asking people to call me Kristina instead of Kristy, thus adding one more syllable to my name. August is our anniversary. Last year we celebrated that anniversary by adding a cool new memory. That day we drove up to our house, found the keys and walked inside with the kids. We spent the night in our house without any stuff. Isn't it funny how places seem bigger when they're unfurnished? And that pool in the backyard? We knew nothing about pools and maintenance but just jumped in carefree. It was great. It was like being in a hotel but with room for everybody to spread out. Maybe it's time to explain the name change. For me, I had decided before moving to Texas that I wanted to quit using Kristy as my nickname. It served me well for many years and I still like it, but it's mainly for simplicity. When I'd first meet somebody, maybe I'd mumble or maybe I don't speak clearly enou

It doesn't matter where you live, but how...

Thoughts on Houses This is my first post from Texas.  The blog lives on.  August was a whirlwind, September we started settling in, and now it's October.  Most of the boxes are unpacked.  Just last week I found the box that had cookbooks in it, and that makes me pretty happy.  I still haven't made whole wheat bread or cookies since we got here, but maybe I'll do that soon. We spent a lot of time this summer thinking about houses, getting ready to sell our house in Traverse Mountain (in Lehi, on the northern edge of Utah County), and brainstorming on what we'd need in a house in Texas. On the way to Texas, we drove south through Colorado and spent the night at Mesa Verde.  We found the Far View Lodge inside the park and stayed up high on the mesa.  The night sky was pitch black away from the city lights, and the weather was at least ten degrees cooler up high.  I loved it.  The next morning we learned a lot about the Native Americans who lived there.  A man ga

How Controlling Are You?

Life is like Mario Kart. In the early levels, you're driving through Moo Moo Meadows and the grass is green and there's cows and fields and it's lovely. There's an occasional banana peel that gets tossed in the path, and sometimes the cows walk in the road so you try not to hit them. But overall the driving is pretty mellow.  Then later after you've unlocked other levels, there's stuff like Bowser's Castle. It's a maze with lava on both sides of the path, there's fire and brimstone all around, there's stone columns that try to smash you at random intervals. Just to know where to go and how to steer and stay on the path is complicated. Some stages of life are like Moo Moo Meadows. The details are easy-peasy and you just keep moving right along. And then there are years like Bowser's Castle where it's pretty intense and you pray a lot because the fire around you is pretty hot and you're trying not to fall in the lava pit.  During years

Meek Warhorse

Norm's last church talk/sermon in Utah before moving to Texas July 2018, Lehi UT, Traverse Mountain 8th Ward Hello brothers and sisters, it’s my privilege to speak to you today.  I guess this is our good-bye address even though we haven’t moved yet, which I’m taking as a personal sign that the bishopric can’t wait for the next family to move in.  (that was a joke, guys) In my remarks today, I’m going to cover an alternative definition of meekness that really struck a chord with me.  Once I’ve introduced this idea, I’m going to share my supporting argument for meekness as a strength, and then I’m going to talk about how I believe we can develop this form of meekness in our lives. As Kristy told you, our topic is “being meek and lowly of heart” which, in the terms I normally think of meekness or lowliness, is a subject that does not come naturally to me.  I am not naturally what I consider to be meek, quiet or, as Kristy would tell you, all that well behaved.  While I

Twenty + One Month

You know how life gets kinda messy sometimes? My version of messy looks like this: Four kids including a teenager learning to drive; a kindergartner learning to get herself ready in the morning; a senior learning about adulting; a middle schooler learning to ride her bike to electives every other day, a mortgage husband's career VIRTUAL PLUS church service pandemic, civil unrest, election year my own personal need for friends and connection even when my schedule looks like a revolving door Our big anniversary was last month and we were lucky enough to celebrate together this past weekend. We managed to sneak away for 24 hours. First I need to give credit where credit is due. There was a very generous friend who volunteered to parent the children during our 'Nelson marriage offsite.' And there was a generous benefactor who donated Marriott points to spring for the fancy room. I won't mention either party by name, but thanks to their generosity we had a great time. I'

Shoplifting: Tic Tacs at Target

 You know when you're at the store and one of your kids asks you to buy stuff? Then they ask again and again and again and again? My reply is usually something like, 'No, but thanks for asking.' And if they ask again then the reply goes something like, 'If you ask again, the answer will be no for like a week.' OR, "If you ask again, I'll take away your favorite toy," OR "If you ask me one more time, __________." Think of a punishment you will actually do! You can't make an empty threat here. If you don't have the energy to see it through, then just say yes. My older kids will often comment on how their younger sister gets a ton of stuff or privileges. If I'm tired and don't have the energy to win a battle, it's much better to JUST SAY YES the first time. That way, when I say NO on something, it carries more weight. So I explain to the older kids that they've already run me ragged and I no longer have the patience or st