Saturday, October 27, 2007

Feeling Arizona

My Grandma Fidela traveled up from Arizona to visit us this past week. We don't get to see her nearly enough, so it was great having her here for a few days. Being with her reminded me of how proud I am to be a part of such a wonderful family. Both my mom and dad were raised by people who always put family first. My parents always put the needs of my brother, sisters, and I before their own, and I've learned over the years that my grandparents were the same way. So for my first post, I 'd like to share a little bit about my family. 'Cause to know a little about my family is to know a lot about me, and since this is my blog...All right you get the picture. Okay, let's start with Grandma Fidela since she inspired this post.
This is Fidela Sanchez Ochoa when she was 18 years old. I think she had my mom, her first baby, when she was 19. Grandma loves to laugh so there's never a dull moment when she's around. She's sacrificed a lot for her family, and I love her for that. Then there's my Grandpa Refugio Ochoa.
This is Grandpa Fufi with his sergeant in the Army (Refugio's the handsome one on the right). Grandpa passed away in 1987. None of us kids were able to go to his funeral, 'cause we were living in Panama at the time. Fortunately, my mom got to go, and she said that his funeral was standing-room-only since Grandpa had so many friends who loved him.
Here's Grandpa with me and my cousin Johnny. I don't have many photos of me with my Grandpa Fufi, so I'm glad I found this one.

Grandma and Grandpa Ochoa raised six kids in Arizona, and they've all stayed in Arizona except for my mom. Here's a photo that was taken during Grandma's recent trip to visit us.
My mom's two younger sisters came with Grandma to visit...Starting in the back from left is Irene, Grandma, my mom, then there's me on the bottom left with Rosie and Maria. This was taken right after we all got finished watching one of Irene's favorite Mexican novelas! If you've never watched a novela with a bunch of Mexican women before, I'm tellin' ya that it's an experience not to be missed.

My dad was also born and raised in Arizona. Here's a bit about his parents, Grandma and Grandpa Merrill.

Here's Fern Ashcroft Merrill and Philemon Merrill (Everyone just called him Chick though). Both of these photos were taken in 1944, not too long after Grandma Fern and Grandpa Chick were married. Grandma Fern is incredible. She's super resourceful, loving, and definitely the backbone of her family. Grandpa Chick was always the most popular guy in the crowd. He was a fantastic story teller and so fun to be around. One of the stories he loved telling was about his great-grandfather, Philemon C. Merrill. I found one summary of the story here. Grandma and Grandpa Merrill always taught us to be proud of our heritage and where we came from, and I 'm grateful for that.

Here's my mom and dad, Ruth and Phil (short for Philemon).
Mom and Dad are living proof that opposites attract. Dad's always been super shy, and Mom's basically not shy about anything. From some of Dad's stories, it's a miracle that he even mustered up the nerve to ask Mom out, but I'm sure glad he did. I couldn't have asked for better parents. My dad is the kindest and most humble guy you'll ever meet, and my mom is the strongest person I know. Here's my mom (8 years old) one Sunday after church when she was the only person in her family that was a member of the Church. She's with the Elders who converted her.
Three months after Mom became a member of the Church, she converted her mom. And then a year later, with the help of her mom, she converted her father. Soon after that, the whole Refugio Ochoa family went to the temple and were sealed to each other. This story amazes me every time I think about it...My mom was incredibly strong even back when she was a little 8-year-old girl. Thanks Elder Burton! Thanks Elder Boyce! Thanks Mom!

Okay, now it's time to meet my sisters and brother, starting with Melinda.
Here's my oldest sister Melinda trying to pick me up at my high school graduation. Oh man, Melinda's hilarious. It seems like she's always instinctively known how to do all the cool stuff girls are supposed to know how to do. For example, at a very young age she was appointed to be the Merrill girls' very own in-house hair stylist 'cause she just somehow knew how to do all the cool hairstyles...Do you want curly hair? Straight hair? Side ponytail or french braid perhaps? No problem, Melinda can do it. She's also a terrific cook and so creative. Melinda knows how to have fun. I wish she lived closer so we could hang out more. Speaking of Melinda, here's her husband, Jason.
I've recently realized that I don't have as many photos of Jason as I'd like. This shot is pretty old...Sorry I didn't have a more recent one Jay! Haha! As you can see from this picture, Jason is always ready for a good time. I love him a lot and can't quite remember what the family was like without him in it. Come visit soon Jay so I can take more pictures of you!

Here's Matt, the quintessential big brother. I've always looked up to my big brother and always feel safe when I'm with him. I remember how he always protected me against bullies on the school bus, and he still looks out for me now. He's a good brother.

Matt and I in Tuscon...Matt seems to be missing a few teeth.

Here I am with Matt and his three gorgeous kids.

And here's Matt's wife, Aleesha...
I'm convinced that this girl rolls outta bed every morning looking as beautiful as she does in this picture. I don't recall ever seeing her looking less than picture perfect. How do you do it Leesh? She's an amazing mom and throws the best birthday parties ever!

Next up is my younger sister Maria. Well Maria's technically younger than me, but she's really taken on the role of older sis for me in recent years. She's a lot smarter and wiser than I can ever hope to be, and she's always giving me good advice...I'm supposed to be giving her advice right? Maybe someday I'll be able to help her out with my "older sister wisdom," but until that day comes, I'll be looking to her to shed some light as usual.

Maria and I in Tuscon...This is one of my favorite pictures...Maria's looking at me like I'm crazy, not unlike the look she often gives me nowadays.

Here I am with Maria not too long ago.

And just because I can't get enough of old photos, here's one of the Merrill crew before Melanie decided to come along.

Speaking of, I was saving the best for last...Meet my baby sister, Melanie...
Is this not the cutest little girl you've ever seen!?! Look at those curls!

Melanie and I hanging out a few weeks ago.

Melanie's awesome. She stays super busy 'cause she's actively involved in so many cool things. She works hard, is a phenomenal tennis player, and has a huge heart. Plus she's always willing to roll with all my crazy ideas. Hey Mel, remember that one time when I almost got us stranded out in the middle of nowhere on our way to the Spiral Jetty? Good thing those friendly Swedish dudes came along to give us some hope, haha! Good times.

So there's my family in a nutshell. Hope you liked reading a little about them. I sure did enjoy going through some old photos recently. I'll be updating this blog every week, so be sure to check back. I should have some interesting Halloween photos for next week's installment. Oh and be sure to check out my "music pick of the week." I'll be updating the player at the top right of my page every week with some of my favorite music, so hopefully you'll hear something you like. Have a good week, all you people of the blogosphere!


Em Russ said...

wooo hooo!!! I am so excited that you are blogging! You're one of my favorite people and I can't wait to read about all of your adventures. It was fun to see all the pictures of your cute family too. Reminds me of those times we sat in the hot (cold) tub at the Merrill house.

katieo said...


Welcome to blogworld! All the cool kids are doing it. Love the pictures!

Maria said...

Ok first of all - how is it that you already have a cooler blog than me? HA! Girl, I love this post! You found some awesome pictures that I haven't ever seen before! I started to tear up when I saw the one of mom and dad- they look so happy - mom is ridiculously gorgeous in that one!
Keep up the posting!

p.s. my hair is awesome in that picture of us sitting on the log!

Ben + Brittany Trujillo said...

Monica, I love the blog, you already have it done up so well, it will be fun to get on here and check everything out. BEN

Lance said...

So much about Monica that I never knew before. I enjoyed the stories and pictures.

Kaila said...

Great blog! I love all the old pictures.

pepper said...

very nice
beautiful family
I'm so happy you are blogging!