Friday, December 17, 2010


{I wrote the bulk of this post about my grandma and her funeral right after the fact, but I never posted it because I felt like it was incomplete.  I've done my best to finish it, but I still feel like it doesn't do her justice.  I decided it was a greater injustice to not honor her at all, so here is my attempt.}

Grandma was sick for a long time.  Not sick sick--not something with a name like pneumonia or cancer--but sick in the sense that her small body was no longer an adequate vehicle for her great spirit.  Her decline was gradual but steady.  These past couple decades, she fought for a fraction of the productivity she had previously enjoyed; tasks took many times longer than they used to.  She lost the use of one shoulder.  Then another.  Her back began to give out.  Osteoporosis, gout, compression fractures, fatigue and pain slowed her down.  But still she cared for Grandpa, still she cooked delicious meals, and still she painstakingly made beautiful quilts for her growing posterity.  But then her vision began to deteriorate from macular degeneration.  Then her pain made even a trip to the bathroom a monumental task.  Then she lost Grandpa.  And it was too much.  There came a day when she could no longer get out of bed, she could no longer handle the pain, she could no longer rely on her mind, which had always been so keen.

{A very small sampling of Grandma's talents and gifts}

I have had several caring people ask me if her death was expected.  It is a difficult question to answer.  My mother often says she has never seen someone with such an indomitable will to live.  I have said "goodbye" to my Grandma many times when her health was poor and she'd not been expected to make it.  Each time, though, she would rally and make a modestly miraculous recovery.  I said goodbye to Grandma this past May.  Just as I had in February.  And December.  And the May before that.  And over six years ago before I left on my mission.  As of a few weeks ago, I firmly believed I would get to "say goodbye" again this December.

While I selfishly wish I could have had that opportunity to hold her hand again, to sing to her, to kiss her cheek and tell her I love her, I know that this course was the merciful one.

As I looked at her in her casket, dressed elegantly in gauzy white, I reflected on the blessing it is to know that she is free now.  I touched her right shoulder, the one that has been a source of such pain and frustration to her for over ten years.  And I smiled through my tears.

{My family.}

My dad conducted the funeral services and shared a few thoughts at the end.  "Imagine Mom and Dad," he said, "walking hand in hand and talking... and actually being able to hear each other."  And that's where I see them: someplace green with plenty of flowers for Grandma to tend and an oven for her to bake in.  I imagine she's back to taking care of Grandpa, and I'm sure they're quietly serving those around them, just as they've always done.  I am humbled when I think of the legacy they have left me.

{The view from the Georgetown cemetery}

Just before they closed the casket, the family took a few minutes to say their final goodbyes.  I was standing quietly in the far back corner.  I watched as the families of the oldest siblings filed up to take their turn.  They leaned on each other, held onto each other, cried into each others' shoulders.  It was a painful moment, and I looked away.  The room was full-to-bursting with family.  Right in my line of sight, between me and the casket, was my cousin and her beautiful baby girl.  Lyla laughed and grinned and stretched up on spindly legs, her back arching proudly, tiny arms flailing.  She cooed and babbled happily. 

I felt a ray of joy cut through the haze of loss as I watched her and smiled, seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins pay their last respects at the casket behind the happy baby.  It was a circle of life moment--somewhat cliche, I know--but intensely personal, surrounded as I was by a circle of family.  Grandma had given all of us life, brought us all together.  She lived for us, but even though she is now gone, she lives in us.  

My sisters and I sang the closing song during the service:

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?
Then, at length, when I've completed
All you sent me forth to do,
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

I miss you, Grandma.  Give Grandpa a hug for me.  See you later.

Friday, December 3, 2010


And here, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the reasons I haven't been posting lately.  

Has preparation for this thing been somewhat life-consuming?  


Will it be worth it?  

I already know my answer, but to come up with your own, you'll have to see for yourself.

Please come.  

There are sure to be a few moments when we sound like what we are: a bunch of amateurs with varying skill levels who love to make music. 

 But there will also be moments that are transcendent.  I guarantee it.  

{Oh, and if you're like me and most appreciate classical music in easily digestible portions rather than five-course meals,
 the concert will run 90 minutes or less.}  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Family Resemblance

"You don't look like sisters." 

We get that a lot.  

But if you listen to us share inside jokes, quote movies, sing together or heckle each other, you'll say we sound like sisters.

And maybe we do look a little like sisters, after all...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Free at Last

In Loving Memory of
Mary Ann Cassidy Middleton Ott
May 29, 1917  - November 8, 2010

Oh, what a day in heaven it must have been--
Wallace got to hold his Mary again.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

May I Suggest... Fashion

Yes, I gave some fashion advice.  Please, try to contain your snickering.  For a bit of amusement, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trick or Treat?

Happy Halloween!

Isn't it ironic that when you have time to blog, you're not doing much that's "blog-worthy," but when you're doing tons of fun stuff you'd love to write about, there's no time to blog?  Or maybe that's just me...

Anyway, I'll be back soon... 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ten on 10/10/10

I really did write this on 10/10/10--I just didn't post it.  Things have been a bit hectic on my end.  How about yours?

1.  Fasting + teaching nursery = death
I'll admit it: I wasn't excited about being asked to "teach" nursery at church (the 18 month - 3 year olds).  The first month or so was rough.  It's not that the kids are bad--I'm just bad with kids.  Anyway.  The past couple months, though, things have gotten better.  I think I've hit my nursery "groove"--Jay and I and the kids are pretty comfortable with each other now.  For the most part, I enjoy my two hours a week of watching 7-10 little people run around.  

2.  Except on Fast Sunday.  Me: starving, exhausted, cranky.  Kids: HYPER.  I swear, when I had to pass out goldfish crackers at snack time, I almost keeled over.  I held them under my nose and inhaled their cheesy scent.  More than once.  Jay and I basically gave the tykes free reign and did everything we could to sit limply on our butts the whole two hours.

3.  I lay down yesterday and read a book all morning while Jay cleaned the house.  I felt guilty,  but loved it at the same time.  I love my husband.  And reading.  But I love my husband more.  

4.  I've been working on irregular past tense verbs with one of my clients at work, and I had a breakthrough of my own--I finally got the lie/lay lay/laid forms down.  I think.

5.  Grammar freak that I am, I'm quite excited about this accomplishment.

6.  I'm also excited because my 5 year old client has them down, too.

7.  Which means that the two of us now belong to the 1% of English-speakers who know (or care) about the difference between lie and lay.  

8.  I'm still in denial that it's October.  I am dreading the end of daylight savings time--I hate when it starts getting dark at 5:30.  

9.  Jay is sitting next to me, eating a bowl of Kix.  There's no milk in the bowl, but he's still using a spoon.  Odd.

10.  Jay and I got a new phone plan two weeks ago--we switched to T-Mobile because I was getting booted off my family's plan and T-Mobile was cheapest.  We both got nice touch-screen phones for free.  But then I started freaking out that I would have to ration talking time with my family (turns out I use lots of cell phone minutes), so we went back to Costco on the last possible day and canceled our plan.  We signed up with Verizon, so now I can yak to my fam whenever and for however long I want.  And I am at peace. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

May I Suggest... Kitchen

Check out my kitchen picks from last Friday here.

I didn't include a link in my submission, but if I could pick a new baking stone, it would be this one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This is a recipe Jay and I have made many times over the past year or so--it's a new favorite.  I thought I'd share since it's not something you see all the time.  We call it "broo-SHET-uh," but I think the technical Italian pronunciation is "broo-SKET-uh."  Bruschetta is technically an appetizer, but we love it so much we eat it as a meal.  It's light and refreshing; perfect for an easy summer dinner.

This recipe is very forgiving--the amounts are not exact.  Feel free to alter quantities according to your tastes.

  • 6 to 8 roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (I use more since we grow our own and have it on hand)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 1 t kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste (I like just a dash; Jay likes around 2 tablespoons)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • artisan bread, sliced and toasted (we usually use baguettes, but the pictured rosemary olive oil loaf was great, too)
Jay and I recently invested in a food processor, but we used to just dice everything by hand.  Both ways make great bruschetta; hand dicing results in a chunkier consistency, while the food processor gives it more of a thick salsa-like texture.

Note:  For best results, it's important to use fresh basil leaves and fresh mozzarella--the texture of aged mozzarella is completely different.  If you want to substitute cheeses, try sprinkling grated parmesan or romano over the top of the bruschetta.

If using a food processor, add the basil, sundried tomatoes and minced garlic.  Pulse several times until chopped (you want the dried tomatoes small or their flavor gets overwhelming), then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Pulse until tomatoes are small chunks (I pulsed one too many times on this batch--we usually like it a bit chunkier).  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  

If cutting by hand, cut up sundried tomatoes finely (I find that either kitchen shears or a large, sharp knife works best).  Dice roma tomatoes and mince garlic.  Cut basil into small pieces.  Stir together and add salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

Layer mozzarella cheese on toasted bread slices and spoon bruschetta over the top.


Monday, October 4, 2010

May I Suggest...

Hannah was nice enough to let me participate in her "May I Suggest" series.  While it may be difficult to believe that I have any offerings in the beauty department, I had a fun time thinking through my products and selecting some favorites.  Check it out here.

I'll be participating for the rest of the month.  I highly recommend looking around Hannah's site--she is incredibly creative and talented, particularly in areas I'm entirely deficient.  You ever meet someone who makes you a little sick with envy but is so down-to-earth you can't really hold it against them?  Yeah, Hannah is like that.  

Anyway, check it out--the other ladies participating actually have some beauty sense, so you might even see a suggestion worth taking...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where's Lucy? Take III

Either Lucy's embracing her inner shoe diva, or she has a penchant for small spaces.  
Or both.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Adventures in Speech Pathology

Some days, I really, really like being a speech pathologist.  Some days, well, I don't.  

But one of the great things about my job and the populations I work with is that there's always something to laugh about.  Take, for example, a recent conversation I had with one of our patients at the skilled nursing facility (euphemism for "nursing home with a rehab wing full of people who should probably be admitted to a nursing home").  

I walked into the room of two elderly Hispanic women who are on our caseload, both for dysphagia (euphemism for "swallowing") issues.  Both women were seated in reclining chairs next to their beds.  One of the women ("Sister") was talking in Spanish at the top of her voice.  After I caught a few familiar words, I realized she was praying.  Loudly.  And once she finished in Spanish, she started in English.  

I didn't want to interrupt her prayer, but I also needed to get their therapy done, so I began talking to her roommate ("afghan lady") who, by the way, was staring fixedly at the muted tv and appeared utterly unfazed by Sister's booming supplications.  Loudly, I began asking her if she recalled any safe swallowing strategies.  

"Take small bites," she said.  At least, what I thought she said--she spoke softly and I was lip-reading.  Sister was still going strong.  

"Can you remember any more?" I asked afghan lady.  

With hardly a break in stride, in the same volume and manner in which she'd been praying, Sister said, "You must take small bites and small sips, and then God will help you swallow!"  

Her eyes were still closed in the attitude of prayer, and I grabbed her hand.  "Yes," I said.  "Very good.  Small bites and small sips."  

Her hand clasped mine, vice-like.  "Yes, Sister.  And God will help us!  He will always help us!"


I smiled as I walked out of that room a few minutes later, Sister's loud blessing following me down the hall.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Close Up

I love little things.  Close ups.  Details.  I love the minuscule flecks of dirt on Jay's fingertips, and I love that he has a tiny snail shell on each finger.

Looking at this picture, you have no idea that Jay is wearing a suit.  That his sister and her family were standing a few feet away.  That we were walking around the temple grounds.  That it was a beautiful, sunny, hot hot July day.  It doesn't tell you that Elizabeth was zonked out, that we were in the middle of taking pictures of her and Andrea and David, that after we were done, we went to Great Harvest and bought a loaf of honey whole wheat bread.

Most of the time, the things we see make up only a tiny snippet of a whole reality.  From looking at another person, you don't know their history.  You don't know how their morning was or what's important to them or what their favorite candy bar is.

But even though, in the grand scheme of things, all we see through the wavy glass of imperfect understanding are the equivalent of closeups, detail without the whole picture, there is beauty to be found when we take the time to look for it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This is Likely Only Funny to Me. Sorry About That.

We went into a speaker store last weekend.  The salesguys swarmed like piranhas.  One of them insisted on demoing some of their products for us.  

When trying to explain to us the differences between the two sound systems he'd just shown us, salesguy Tim exhibited some word-retrieval difficulties.  "The first one we listened to is more, uh, detailed," he said.  "You can hear all the glass tinkling and all of the individual explosion sounds in that Die Hard clip.  The second one has a fuller sound.  But this one, the first one, it's kinda more, well, clearer or--you know, you can hear all the little sounds, so it's more... um..."

Being a helpful person (and a speech pathologist), I reached into my lexicon and pulled out a favorite, well-used adjective.  

"Crisp?" I offered.  

"Yeah, yeah!" he said.  "Exactly!  The sound of the first one is way more crispy."  

So we had to listen to him say "crispier sound" at least ten times in the remainder of his fifteen-minute demo.  I was looking at sound systems, but all I could think of were potato chips and Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Crunch.

Thank heaven I didn't give in to my urge and suggest that the second system had a "warm" sound quality--who knows what that would have turned into?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Labor Day Reunion 2010: Sunday

Sunday was a slightly more relaxing day.  Most people got to sleep in awhile and then come over to our place for breakfast crepes.  We went to church, ate dinner, and then just hung out.

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but one of Elizabeth's bows ended up on Jeremy, and I feel almost bad posting these pictures, but his father, Erik, is very secure in his son's masculine manliness, so I'm  not going to worry that these pictures will give the kid (or his parents) a complex.  

There has been a dearth of Jeremy pictures in my previous posts.  While I never did get the chance to do a photo shoot, we did get a few pictures.

Jeremy does this flailing thing with his arms--they're constantly in motion.  He looks a little like like he's conducting an orchestra.  An orchestra that never stops.

Mostly, though, he's just a really cute kid.

Why is Elizabeth in a chicken suit?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Seriously--I was just sitting there and then I turned around and there she was.  In a chicken suit.  Bawk bawk.  

That evening, we went on a family Sunday walk.  You may recognize this park as the place we went with Amy and Erik on Friday.

I miss taking Sunday walks.  My family used to go out walking--sometimes biking--on Sundays.  I loved it.

Andrea and David (and now Toby and Elizabeth) go on walks together every Sunday.  We visited them once a couple weeks before Elizabeth was born and joined them on their family walk.  Andrea was great with child, but she walked two miles.  I was impressed.

Lindsay and Tyler and their cute girls.  Word on the street is she's having a BOY, so we're excited to welcome nephew #2 in a few months.

Jay can do a "one-handed" chin up.  Impressive, no?  Check out Gracie and Olivia's guns.  Work it, girls!

Me and Jay.  I really, really love this guy.  Even if he is about six inches too tall.  It just goes to show, nobody's perfect.  Not even Jay.

How does it feel to be six inches tall of perfection, baby?  

Looks like Olivia doesn't mind that Jay's imperfect.  

Speaking of perfect, check out these babies.  

Like I mentioned earlier, this was the first time that the whole clan has been together since our wedding nearly two and a half years ago.  The love was tangible, to say the least.  

And there they are.  All seven.  From youngest to oldest.  You can see how the older siblings have rebelled against the family tradition of wearing dress clothes all day Sunday.  For shame.  

There were some crazy and hectic times, but we loved having the whole fam visit us in San Antonio.  We're not sure how we lucked out to be the ones everyone came to visit, but we hope they'll all come back soon.  And often.  

Especially when we move out of a one-bedroom apartment and into a house.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

In Case You Wanted to Know...

Whoever invented "skinny" jeans hates curvy women.  

I never want to hear the term "jeggings" again.

I, for one, will be wearing flared pants until I'm eighty.

That is all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Labor Day Reunion 2010: Saturday

Saturday, we went to Six Flags.  

It was a day full of sunscreen and roller coasters, heat and fun and family. And I realize I'm easily distracted, but doesn't Jay have amazing cheekbones?  

The kidlets did pretty well, considering what a long day it was.  My three nieces--aren't they sweet?

I love this picture of Andrea and Elizabeth.  The babies spent most of the day dozing in the heat.

Looks like Olivia, too, caught a nap or two.

The grandparents were a great help with the kids, especially the babies.  

Uncles Josh and Newt were indispensable as well--I've never met young adolescent boys so good with children and happy to help out.  The older nieces adore them.

Gracie and Olivia had a blast.  Lindsay, being pregnant, could not go on rides--a major bummer, but Linds put her game face on and got to watch her cute girls discover the joys of roller coasters and water parks.  

This was by far my least "efficient" trip to an amusement park--whenever I've gone before, it's always been about fitting in the most rides and maximizing riding time.  This time, with seventeen (and a half) people to keep track of and arrange rendezvous with, two babies who needed feeding every hour or two, and a 50+ year age spread and varied interests, it wasn't possible to pack in the rides.  

Really, though, that ended up being just fine.  We got to spend a little bit of time with everyone, frequently switching up groups based on babies' feeding schedules and peoples' activity desires.

And let me just say, how did we ever live without cell phones?  Even with them, we had our share of miscommunications, but we always managed to find each other in the end.  

I've always loved roller coasters and thrill rides, but I think I'm starting to get old: the park itself was just so loud and big and busy and hot.  I felt like I had an amusement park hangover after just three hours.  

But, you know, despite the screaming neck and shoulder muscles, the bruises from jolting rides, the excessive noise and ridiculous prices, I really had a good time.  

There's just something about being with family.