Saying Goodbye to my Beautiful Grandma Gotta

 

I apologize for my silence this past week. Last Wednesday I received the sort of phone call you never hope to answer. And my world stopped. I rushed home in time to have three final days with my dear, precious Grandma before she went to Heaven. These left few days have left me numb, hurt and sad, but finally, last night I was able to put words down on paper and the process was immeasurably cathartic. If you like, here’s why my Grandma Gotta was so indelibly special to me:

grandma

When I think of my Grandmother Fern Ann I can’t help but feel warmth, comfort and remarkable joy. Joy strong enough to lift my heavy heart as I remember the gentle force of her presence. Her blonde curls, sparkling blue eyes and quiet step. Her enviable beauty mark and her genuine smile which could brighten the darkest room. Some say we bear a resemblance (the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given) and I can only hope to grow in beauty like she did.

As a shy and quiet child, trips to Grandpa and Grandma’s were a special treat; a time where I felt more like a woodland sprite than a little girl who still wet the bed. After a day of swimming in the blue-green water, catching minnows and maybe a sunburn, Grandma would wrap Maria and me in towels and take us up to the bathtub to get clean. Sudsy, sleepy and wholly content I’d trace the blue-tiled walls with my wrinkled fingers, not fully aware of just how preciously I was cared for. Next, it was time for stories and, dressed in our favorite nightgowns with our hair still damp, Grandma would read us stories in her soft, crackling lilt. I’d choose the same stories again and again—The Town and Country Mouse and The Three Little Kittens—but Grandma never seemed the least bit impatient or hurried.

When I think of Grandma, the aroma of fresh from the oven blueberry muffins fills the air and I can easily picture her precisely-set table. The blue-rimmed plates resting in perfect symmetry, the blinds open to views of her beloved garden and the green sweep of the yard. The delicious sense of anticipation as we waited for the bountiful feast she had so lovingly prepared.

When I think of Grandma, twenty-five years of birthdays, Christmases and football games come to mind, blurring into an almost indescribable feeling of lightness. Born two days and 58 years apart, Grandma and I would celebrate our birthdays together, sitting side by side, blowing out our birthday candles with expectation for what could only be a golden year ahead. Septembers with Grandma always felt rich and full. With football games starting and Gotta birthday parties peaking, we’d knew we’d see lots of each other. A happy secret we shared with relish.

grandma and me
I wish I could bottle the tangible magic of Christmases on Pelican. The glory of Grandma’s tree, bedecked with the shine of precious ornaments and silvery tinsel, filled the whole upstairs in beauty. The tenderly-wrapped presents were always almost too pretty to open, but I managed somehow and always opened exactly what I had hoped for.

Above all, when I think of Grandma, I think of a woman with a servant’s heart, endless love and the self-confidence to live her best life. She knew the elusive, rare art of living well and shared it with her family and loved ones in great abundance. She understood that the little things are the big things—the perfect slice of blueberry pie on a hot July day, hours in the garden pulling weeds to let her marvelous snapdragons grow; the thrill of a new dress and, most importantly to her, the weighty love of the handsome husband beside her.

Anyone who knows my Grandma knows she was an excellent cook and gifted gardener, but what I hope most to emulate is her joie di vivre. Grandma was interested in my life, in all her grandkids’ lives. She was never less than present, engaged and interested. She made me feel important and valuable. She knew that life could be beautiful and fascinating and hard and she never shied away from it. Many people would call my Grandmother busy and, active though she was, she was never less than generous with her time. Whether enjoying a cup of coffee together or drinking in sunshine on the porch, time with Grandma had a limitless, expansive quality. She was as efficient and studious as they come, yet lavishly gave of her time.

May 10th, 2014 was, to my earthly wishes, much too soon to say goodbye, but I know that the richness and depth of Grandma’s legacy will make the difficult days and weeks ahead easier to bear. I know she has already found a patch of land in Heaven and is rolling up her sleeves to create a garden that, like her legacy, will never fade.

Thank you for listening, everyone. 

Planning the Perfect Bachlorette Party

toastAs any of you married women know all too well, planning a wedding is time-consuming and inevitably stressful. My engagement was significantly shorter than most at six months and as I wasn’t actually back in the country until just three months before the wedding, my to-do list was immense. Finishing my dissertation and waitressing on the side didn’t help. In the end, though, everything came together and the things that didn’t hardly mattered as I walked down the aisle towards B looking handsome and nervous in his black suit.

My older sister is in this same situation now with less than three months remaining until her big day and she’s definitely feeling the stress. So I really want to make her bachlorette party as relaxing and memorable as can be. She planned such a fun and lighthearted party for me, which alleviated so much stress, and I really want to do the same for her. So, after thinking back to my bachlorette and other parties I’ve been to, I’m keeping these tips in mind:

#1: Keep it personal. Maria, my older sister, planned several personal touches that made my bachlorette special. Specifically, making me carry a Prince Harry cut-out everywhere. And I mean everywhere! She also did a brilliant job thinking of things that I would appreciate–like having dinner at my favorite lakeside restaurant, popping open my favorite bottle of Rose and creating adorably thoughtful gift bags for my friends.

harry#2: Get out of town. B went with his buddies to Chicago, but you don’t need to go that far to leave your worries at home. My girls and I went to my future in-law’s lake cabin and had a blast. There was no hotel bill the next day and we didn’t have to worry about being too loud. I plan to do something similar for my sister.

#3: Plan silly activities. A bachlorette simply isn’t a bachelorette without silly games and girls-only activities. I like to keep things classy and a few ideas I plan to use at Maria’s party include: having each guest bring a bottle of wine for a wine tasting, playing “Name the Celebrity Spouse,” creating a fun photo booth area, and (just maybe) dancing on the bar top.

harry2

#4: Have a back-up. As the host, it’s my job to come prepared. That means having a good arsenal of snacks, treats and other goodies to keep guests having a good time. I won’t disclose what time we or didn’t go to bed at my bachelorette, but! in case your guests or the bride is just too tired to stay out, make sure you have a good chick flick to fall back on.

Okay ladies, what am I missing? What do you think makes a great bachelorette party?

First photo courtesy of Her Campus

 

Our Easter Celebrations

Hello, everyone! How was your Easter? Did you spend good time with family or friends?  B and I had a really fun Easter weekend in Fargo. Lots of delicious food and time with my favorite little people. The only downside was that the time just flew by! Even for being a three day weekend!

I’ll be following this post up with the usual Travel Mondays, but wanted to share a few photos from our Easter Sunday:

Post Easter-candy silliness (Gigi on the L, Nanie R)

Post Easter-candy silliness (Gigi on the L, Nanie R)

Even Winston got in on the Easter hunt goodies.

Even Winston got in on the Easter hunt goodies.

"Audrey, stop wunnin' away! You're too yiddle to pay by yoself."

“Audrey, stop wunnin’ away! You’re too yiddle to pay by yoself.”

Little Sophie was quite unprepared for keeping up with Jackson, Nanie and Gigi's egg hunting skills.

Little Sophie was quite unprepared for keeping up with Jackson, Nanie and Gigi’s egg hunting skills.

So much sunshine!

So much sunshine!

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!” Luke 24:5-6

Have a Lovely Easter Weekend

I honestly can’t stop looking at the clock. Although it’s only been a four day week (office is closed tomorrow!), it’s honestly felt like six and I’m so eager to head home tonight. Snow, long drive et all!

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Easter egg hunt with Gigi and Nanie, circa 2010.

What are your plans for Easter? B and I are going out with my sis and bro-in-law on Good Friday and celebrating Easter Sunday over at my parents. I can’t remember the last three day weekend I spent at home, so it will be so nice.

I’ve stocked up on Cadbury’s and candies in honor of the big egg hunt on Sunday (I still can’t believe the girls are 6!), but have otherwise kept things really simple. However, it’s not too late to dye and decorate Easter eggs or prepare a special dessert.

Here are some Easter-related links for crafts + activities + desserts…

Darling Peeps cupcakes

The sweetest little Easter bunny cookies

A tasty idea for someone with a bit more time on their hands

The slighter healthier, but still delicious version of Paula Dean’s Gooey Butter Cake

How to dye Easter eggs without the mess

Easy sugar cookie fruit cups

How pretty are these glitterey Easter eggs?

Easter games from Martha Stewart

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” -1 Peter 1:3

Mexico Pictures, Pt. One

What I love most about vacations is how drastically different time becomes. This week has gone so fast in the usual blur of work/eat/sleep and what I loved most about Mexico is that everyday I had the whole day to simply relax. My sister-in-law captured some really fun moments of the trip I thought I’d share with you. Next I’ll be posting some photos of charming San Jose.

mex

Relaxing in the “warm pool” with my adorable niece (6) and nephew (3)

On day three a herd of horses suddenly appeared

On day three a herd of horses suddenly appeared

My darling baby nephew!

My darling baby nephew!

Dance party at the pool

Dance party at the pool

mexico

These yellow plants which resembled bananas were everywhere.

Swimming in the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula isn't advised, but the water was so warm!

Swimming in the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula isn’t advised, but the water was so warm!

Baby Hunt just loved the water!

Baby Hunt just loved the water!

Everyday before lunch Coop would lay on my lap for storytime. Anything to do with ninjas, sharks and tigers were a hit.

Everyday before lunch Coop would lay on my lap for storytime. Anything to do with ninjas, sharks and tigers were a hit.

We had a lot of fun celebrating Olivia's 6th birthday

We had a lot of fun celebrating Olivia’s 6th birthday

I'd travel anywhere with this guy.

I’d travel anywhere with this guy.

I’m ready to go back! Have any of you ever been to Mexico? It was my first trip. I would have liked to do a bit more exploring, but it was so great to spend lots of time with niece and nephews. And, of course, get a little tan. X