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

Be There at the Crossroads

  Last week I was looking through an old box, searching for letters that Norm and I wrote to each other before we got married. I didn't find the letters but instead found an old journal from 1987. Look below and see my handwriting when I was a ten year old girl living in San Diego. We’d just moved there from Grand Junction, and I talked about missing our cat, about making new friends, going to Disneyland with my dad and my brother. It was really fun to read through this old journal. I'm glad I wrote that stuff down!  In the middle of these memories from 1987, I was also searching for a quote about mothers and their great influence on their kids. And the quote was something like “be there at the crossroads” when your children are coming and going. Turns out that the quote I was searching for also came from the late 80's. A brilliant church leader and prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, talked to the women and spent time encouraging and reminding us why motherhood is impor

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

Golden Anniversary

My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. CONGRATULATIONS! Fifty years. An anniversary like this is remarkable for a few reasons: to stay together that long, to both be alive and well, and to still like each other after all these years. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane first.  My mom and dad met at a college dance.  When my dad proposed, he was working at a ski area, and she was skiing that day. My dad taught me to ski when I was a girl, and he taught me to love the mountains. My mom taught me to love the ocean. Marriage is a funny thing. In our culture we make a big deal about the wedding and plan expensive parties and receptions. But the real work begins AFTER the ceremony. Anytime my father-in-law talks about attending a "Wedding Deception," I have to laugh and cringe at his dry wit. I learned many great life lessons from my parents through the years. My mom taught me to serve, saying, "You love the people you serve."

Hair and random thoughts from a Brunette

Recently I've thought quite seriously about doing this to my hair. It might be so fun to have purple/blue highlights! I never dyed my hair in high school or college. Then when I was 37 the first few grey hairs appeared, ironically enough while I was pregnant. I've spent the last handful of years adding lots of blonde highlights.  Now my hair has a respectable amount of silver. It's kind of annoying. I'm learning to say farewell to being a brunette, because that young girl with the dark hair has grown up. Last month for Christmas, one of my favorite gifts that I GAVE to my little daughter was kinda fun. I spent like 20+ minutes at Target deliberating on which Barbies to buy. Finally I chose this group of friends for their amazing variety in hair!!  And I love each for different reasons. The dogwalking blonde is fun because my daughter really wishes we had a dog. The other three have accessories to be an astronomer, a teacher, etc. Ultimately, each Barbie is different fro


"How are you feeling about your son leaving soon?" has been my favorite question lately. My answer is kinda mixed. During July and August I was surprised and excited. Then on September 14 he flew to and from San Francisco by himself for a day. The purpose was a quick visit to the Finnish consulate for a visa. He had fantastic instructions to get from the airport to the BART to the consulate, but waiting for the interview took longer than planned. Leaving the consulate he had less than an hour until his flight was supposed to take off. That included a 32 minute tram ride, printing a boarding pass, airport security, etc. In all honesty, he should have missed that flight home. But he didn't. Call it a miracle or a test of faith, or whatever you want to call it. But for my boy who loves to be punctual, boarding a flight 7 minutes before take-off was pretty intense. Long story short, I think we all realized a few things that day. There are so.many.details I can't control,

The Invisible Woman

Today I'm thinking about my mom. She spent a lot of years building and serving and lifting. She poured love and time and energy into her children, in a never-ending pattern. She did a hundred things that we still haven't noticed. I wonder if there's a coming of age that happens for a young mom, when she begins to realize how much work it is to BE a mom. Then maybe about two dozen years into this parenting thing, she begins to see  more stuff she missed. Then another realization comes when her oldest is almost grown. I'm still learning to see my mom and appreciate her as a person. But how can you see somebody who's been invisible? This morning I was talking with a good friend, another mom like me. She's younger and in a different season of mothering, yet we both can relate to sometimes feeling lonely. Sometimes we need evidence of progress, or at least a friendly word from a girlfriend. Maybe sometimes we just need somebody to notice and say thanks. Years ago I h

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

Companions - Notes on Home MTC

November 18, 2021 Most people know that missionaries run around in pairs. Some of my neighbors have seen this version of a companionship lately. Let me explain. During Covid, the church did a pivot and changed the missionary training experience from in-person to virtual. During this process they realized there were a few cool benefits that were worth continuing even after the pandemic. So the new version of missionary training begins  at home  with an Elder or Sister doing full-time training with a companion online. Then they transition to  in person  after a few weeks.  My oldest son began on November 8 with training at home. When they are in class or working together, they are meeting and making friends with other missionaries in their district. My son's cohort has four young women and four other young men, for a total of nine kids all going to Finland in January. BUT when they're not actively working or studying together,  I'm his companion . All of the places I'd no

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'

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