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

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


"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,

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

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

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

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


  My favorite quirk about my neighborhood is this: at Halloween all the skeletons come out of the closets. This one made me laugh out loud the other day. I was mad about something, it might have been the shenanigans going on around me or in my kids' schools or I might have been miffed about all the &*&%$ going on in the Middle East or South America or whatever. But when I drove past this skeleton, it just illustrated my current view of humanity. "Got my butt in a jam," with a skeleton literally stuck in a trashcan. I love my neighbors for their creativity, for loving the kids and for wanting to give them a fun Halloween season. I love the empty nesters for storing all this crap all year long, so that during October we can drive past and see something that makes us smile. Some of my favorites this year: I think that they're trying to illustrate that a good kegger might lead to trouble. ;) The skeleton wedding makes me smile almost as much as that gorgeous blue


Let's start with a fun list of opposites, skipping the usual favorites like hot and cold, and day and night. Instead here's a handful of spectacular rivalries.  Adobe and Apple Young Living and DoTerra McDonald's and Burger King Pepsi and Coke BYU and Utah TX Longhorns and OU Mercy and Justice Today my thoughts are on justice. Recently I took my girls to the dentist. My youngest doesn't love to brush or floss her teeth, she loves sugar, and hadn't been to the dentist in almost two years. After hearing good news that went something like, "Yay, good job everything is looking good..." Five minutes later I learned that there's six cavities with two more teeth that need silver caps and it will cost over $800 to fix everything. I was so miffed! Why get my hopes up before looking at an x-ray, and send them crashing down to earth after seeing the details more clearly?  When I die and go to heaven, I hope justice is Nothing like what I just experienced: I thoug

A church hymn I hated for five years

Hymn #223 Have I Done Any Good? 1. Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone's burden been lighter today Because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there? [Chorus] Then wake up and do something more Than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, A blessing of duty and love. 2. There are chances for work all around just now, Opportunities right in our way. Do not let them pass by, saying, "Sometime I'll try," But go and do something today. 'Tis noble of man to work and to give; Love's labor has merit alone. Only he who does something helps others to live. To God each good work will be known. Text and music:  Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909, alt. James 1:22, 27 Alma 9:28

Church music, my favorite song by Pink, and thoughts from a recovering perfectionist

A song I've loved for years is, "You are perfect," by Pink, because it rings true for me:  I've chased down all my demons.  Or at least most of them. I've played the organ in Sacrament meeting dozens of times.  Occasionally there's a distinguished visitor or an important somebody sitting on the stand (literally two feet from my organ bench).  Sometimes it makes me nervous, but usually not too bad.  The time that freaked me out the most was when there was music professor in the congregation.  I remember having a little meltdown before church that day.  I told the Bishop, "I got a D in organ when I was in school..." and in his good natured, humorous way, he said, "We won't tell him."  Still, my anxiety was real.  I was worried about the songs, I was worried about the singing, I was worried about a lot of stuff.  Mainly, I was worried that I wasn't good enough and that somehow that music professor would agree. If you