Celebrating Grandma Tudor

Yesterday we had a service to celebrate the life of my grandmother, Sarah Tudor.  The spirit of the day was precisely what we’d hoped it would be, and I am tremendously grateful to all who helped make it happen and all who attended!  My dad, aunt, brother, sister and I all spoke, plus a former neighbor who was like a daughter to my grandmother.  Based on my emotional stability when writing and rereading my speech, I felt fairly confident that I would not make it through the talk without going into ugly-cry.  Thankfully, I was only a little shaky at the beginning and the end.  (I think the pep talk Andrew gave me in the car on the way there helped:  “You just need to lock it up.  You feel those tears coming, just lock it up.” ;-))

Here’s what I said at the service, for anyone interested:

Many of you who knew Sarah Tudor probably knew her as the hardworking CARITAS leader, or a committed Sunday school teacher for the Mastin class– always willing to help where she was needed, always feisty enough to get the job done.  I am fortunate to be one of the few who knew her as “Grandma”, and, as my Aunt Ann said recently, “Of all her roles, I think ‘Grandma’ was her best!”  (So, my apologies to most of you in this room for not getting to know her at her best. ;-))

Although she was only “Grandma” to a few, it’s clear to me that she loved anyone standing in front of her with the same sacrificial love that Christ speaks of in John 15:12—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  From the time I was an infant, she did just that for me, my brother and sister, and as I’ve learned over the years, countless others. 

When I was a baby and both my parents had to work, my grandmother moved to Richmond to be our full-time nanny.  One of my earliest memories of her was during my nap time as a toddler.  Years later, she’d tell me what a good baby I was, but I distinctly remember her holding me, rocking me in a chair, trying to sing me to sleep.  I would lie still on her chest for a minute, then lift up my head and ask if it was time to get up yet.  Time after time, she would tell me, “Shh…just rest,” and continue to rock me, but never leave me alone. 

On school days throughout my childhood, Grandma Tudor would drive to our house early in the morning, start a load of laundry, wake us up for school, cook us breakfast, pack our lunches, and see us off to the bus stop.  After school she’d fix us snacks, help us with our homework (sometimes more than others—like in second grade when my dad made me rewrite my paper on James Monroe, after correctly suspecting that the 5-page, single-spaced one I turned in may have been mostly Grandma’s work.)  Most days she’d cook us dinner before our parents arrived home.  It wasn’t until middle school that I realized other kids ate cereal for breakfast because their grandmothers didn’t make them pancakes, eggs, cinnamon rolls, or whatever else my grandma made us at 6:30 in the morning.  The love she showed by serving us was just a normal part of life for me, and at the time I didn’t realize how special that was or what an impact it would have on my life.

But as sweet as Grandma Tudor was, she had equal parts sass and wit, and she was fierce in her convictions.  Intentional or not, she was always making us laugh.  Even today I have friends who, when we get together, say, “Tell me a Grandma Tudor story!”  So in the spirit of making this a time of celebration and remembering the happy times, I have a few Grandma Tudor stories to share with you:

-One year when I was in college, the family had gathered for Grandma’s birthday.  All weekend she’d been talking about cake, “There probably won’t be a cake.  No one needs to make me a cake.  We don’t need to make a big deal about my birthday.  Oh, I hope no one goes through the trouble of baking a cake for me.”  So after dinner that night when we brought her cake out and sang to her, she said, “My, my, my…there IS a cake.”

-Later that night my sister and aunt were discussing their Pashminas—hand-woven, fine fabric shawls.  I didn’t have one, and neither did Grandma Tudor.  After they spent a few minutes saying how great they were, how everyone needs one, and so on, Whitney said, “Mine isn’t real;  it’s just a lookalike.”  At that, Grandma Tudor leaned close to me on the couch and whispered, “Hers isn’t even a real cashima.”

-Grandma was above many of the frivolous things in life, and not afraid to say how she felt about them.  A few years ago when the social networking website Twitter had just emerged, she asked my brother, “Ross, are you on the Tweeter?”  We chuckled a bit, and Ross said, “No, Grandma.  I’m not on the Tweeter.”  Then, with no trace of a smile, she looked each of us in the eye, back and forth, conveying the seriousness of what she was about to say, and said, “America… is going to Hell.”

-When Andrew and I had been dating less than three months, our family gathered in Raleigh to celebrate my niece Kendall’s 3rd birthday.  Grandma had met Andrew prior to this and liked him very much, though she never could retain his name and called him, “What’s-his-name.”  With all the family and Andrew gathered, Grandma said, “So Catherine, when’s the wedding?”  I laughed and said, “Well, Grandma, we just started dating.  We really aren’t thinking about that yet…”  She looked at me, in complete disbelief at my insensitivity, and said, “Well, I’m not going to live that much longer!”  How dare I?

She did live that much longer, and she made it to our wedding two years later.  In the months leading up to the event, when Alzheimer’s had set in, whenever we’d speak on the phone she would ask about the wedding.  “I can’t wait for the wedding!  Is it this week?”  “No, Grandma, not this week.”  I wasn’t sure she knew exactly who I was, but she could associate my voice with the upcoming wedding.  When the day came, Grandma Tudor arrived at the site while I was getting ready.  My hair was done, complete with a veil, but I was still in my regular clothes.  I went out to meet her, and when she saw me, a look of delight crossed her face, and she said, “Oh, I didn’t know it was you who was getting married!”

It meant the world to have her present at my wedding.  The woman who rocked me until I fell asleep during naps, who would cook to order whatever I wanted for any meal, who sent me $5 bills when I was in college with notes to, “Buy myself a latte or something,” who spoiled me in every way for as long as she was able…  Grandma Tudor loved deeply and actively—her family, friends, and anyone she met.  She showed her love by putting herself aside to serve.  I know people tend to become “sainted” when others speak of them after they pass away, but Grandma Tudor really was this awesome.  A coworker told me this week that he used to call her “Mother Theresa,” and he was not the first person to draw this parallel.  I know that my life and the lives of so many others are not the same because of the constant love she demonstrated. 

Although I miss her tremendously, I know she is free and dancing with her Heavenly Father these days, and for that, I cannot be sad.

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Family gathered at our house after the service…I love these people so much! ❤

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My daddy and me 🙂
(My hair was flipped over my shoulder in this photo, but it looks like I had it chopped off;  seeing it that length, I may actually get it cut…)

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NC Mission Trip Recap- Part 1

I am home from North Carolina and excited to give a full account of the week, but first, I must acknowledge what happened yesterday:  Andrew hijacked the blog.  It was a legitimate hijacking.  Not only did he not tell me he was writing a post, but he didn’t tell me he’d done it afterwards either!  I happened to glance at the stats page on my phone, saw a few notifications, and thought, two people commented on…what post?  Oh…  What a funny guy. 😀  Because the stolen post seemed to be well-received, Andrew has landed himself a contract job as a monthly guest blogger (he’s not getting paid for it.)  I hope those of you that we don’t know in real life enjoyed “meeting” Andrew!

Now the mission trip summary…I’ll do my best to keep in concise without leaving out any juicy details 🙂

The team:
Our team consisted of twelve middle school youth and four adults.  I’ve probably mentioned this on the blog before, but I love middle schoolers.  I think they are absolutely hilarious in that you never know what they will say or do.  In that regard, they did not disappoint this week.  Actually, they did not disappoint in any way this week;  I was impressed by how hard they all worked and the great attitudes they had despite the heat and persistent mosquitoes.

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The people we served:
As I mentioned in my midweek report, we worked with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley, who are in a very tough spot in life at the moment.  Chuck is sharp, witty, knowledgeable about many, many subjects, and full of hilarious one-liners.  “She’s as tough as woodpecker lips.”  “At least my report card didn’t stutter;  yours kept saying, “D-D-D-D-D…”  More importantly, he has a deep love for his daughters and a rock-solid faith that was evident to all of us.  Despite losing his wife, job, and being left to raise teenage girls, his devotion to God has not been shaken.

In addition to teaching us some legitimately useful life skills, Chuck showed us how “we rednecks” get strong out of in the country:  using heavy metal bars and sledgehammers:

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And that block of wood they are pounding with the sledgehammer?  After we took turns hitting it all day, Chuck stood it up and split it in two with the sledgehammer, prompting this response from one of our boys:

“If I took a girl out on a date, and you were her dad, I would treat her so well…”  😀

The work:
Half of our team painted the outside of Chuck’s trailer, and half the team replaced the floor in a few rooms inside.  As I mentioned above, everyone worked incredibly hard and finished the tasks we set out to do.

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The funny (part 1):
The man living next door to Chuck owns a bunch of goats and keeps them in a barely charged electric fence.  Think static electricity.  Or a first grade science experiment using a battery and a light bulb (I know this to be true thanks to one of our awesome adults, Robin, who teaches science to elementary school students. :))  One afternoon Chuck showed a few of our youth what that fence feels like, and, because they are twelve years old, that entertained many of them for longer than you might think.  Weird, but harmless.  Well, the phone calls home that night sounded like this:

“Catherine let us electrocute ourselves on an electric fence today!  We kept shocking ourselves over and over!  What?  Why not?  Yeah, I’m okay… No, it didn’t hurt… No, we didn’t do it for very long…”

Oh boy.  Parents, I did not let your kids electrocute themselves.  Again, think static electricity, and please consider that your twelve-year-old may have exaggerated.  I do think, however, that a few of them seemed slightly more balanced afterwards… 😉

I will leave it here for now, but I have plenty more to report tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

NC Mission Trip- Midweek Report

The week so far…

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This week we have been working with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley.  Chuck’s wife passed away in April, and around the same time he lost his job.  Due to the tough financial situation,  the three were forced to move into a broken down trailer.  One of the girls told us that life has been so crazy that they haven’t even had time to mourn the loss of their mother.  Our crew has been replacing an old, rotted floor this week, as well as putting a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house.  It’s been a joy for us to spend time with Chuck and the girls too!

In addition to sweating like crazy from 8:30-3, here are some other notables of the last few days:

Highs:

-beach time

-awesome food

-a surprise ice cream delivery by Mr. Oguich

-goats at the worksite (yes, everyone else is just as excited as I am about this ;-))

-worship on beach blankets in the sand

 

Lows:

-broken AC in the girls’ room the first night (which has been fixed! We are nice and cool :))

-Mosquitos that laugh at our Off! Deep Woods bug spray…

-noisy neighbors (I laid the smack down last night 😀

All around, it has been an awesome week… And we have over 3 days left!  I will give a full report when I return… Blogging via smart phone is a painful task.

Have a great week!

Gone to Carolina [in the Church Van]

In a few hours I will be on my way to North Carolina with a group of our middle school youth for a mission trip.  We are spending the week repairing homes near the coast (low-income areas… not people’s beach houses, as my mom suspected :)), and I am so looking forward to it.  Missions and local service projects are a key piece of our youth ministry, and here’s why:

In the book of James, chapter 2, James poses the question, “What good is it, brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace;  keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In other words, if all we ever do is sit around reading the Bible, then go about our lives and ignore those who are hurting in the world, what’s the point?  That type of faith is not sincere.  In light of that, I am humbled and thrilled to have opportunities like this trip as part of my job.  Plus, I get to hang out with all our crazy middle schoolers, whom I love dearly. 😀

I am not sure how much I will be able to blog while I’m there–maybe a few brief posts–but I plan to give it a try.  If not, I’ll be back next weekend!  In the meantime, please pray for our team, those we are helping, and Andrew, who has to hold down the fort by himself this week.

As the very talented James Taylor put it:  “Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in [the church van.]” (Or something like that. ;-))

Friday Cheers, Hay, and Mother’s Day

It’s Monday morning, and Andrew and I had another full, but awesome weekend.

We kicked things off by heading to Friday Cheers–a summer concert series on Brown’s Island in downtown Richmond.  $5 lets you enjoy good music, nice river views, and excellent people-watching.  There are food trucks, and people park themselves on picnic blankets all around.

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(Source)

The bands playing this Friday were The Lone Bellow and Radical Face–I was excited about the former, Andrew the latter.  The music was good, as was the company (we met up with a few of my college roommates but ended up seeing about 30 other people that we know, including my brother!)  The only downside was that, in addition to the food trucks, a cigar store parked its truck on the island (I say that as if it just drove up and decided to stop, which I know isn’t the case;  it may have been a sponsor,) and so many people were smoking.  <Begin smoking rant here> Now, I know smoking is not illegal, and we were at an outdoor event, but as a nonsmoker it stinks to leave a family-friendly event with a sore throat because people decided to light up while standing in very close proximity to other people.  Be kind to your body, but if you aren’t going to do that, at least respect the fact that I am trying to be kind to mine.  <End smoking rant.>

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Playing with the panorama feature on my phone before the concert

Saturday morning I went with a group from our church to work with Shalom Farms.  We spent three full hours putting straw around the potato plants.  That’s a lot of pitch-forking, walking, and squatting!  Also, to add to the week of wildlife I’ve been having, we found a few giant spiders and a nice little snake.  By the end of our time there, I was itchy and never wanted to see straw again.

When I arrived home in the early afternoon, Andrew informed me that he had purchased straw that morning to put in our garden.  Hah.  He had no idea that I’d been doing that all day, but I told him that our little 10 x 20 garden would be a cool down after everything that morning!

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I have no idea how he determined the amount of hay we would need, but he better not quit his day job in favor of farm math;  we used maybe a quarter of one of those… bales?  (I better not quit my day job either in favor of farm terminology…yes, I’m sure that’s a paying job ;-))

Saturday night we went to a graduation party for our good friend Gabe after her graduation from VCU.  The party was held at the Center of the Universe Brewing Company up in Ashland.  We were given a brewery tour, enjoyed time with friends, played Corn Hole, and celebrated Gabe.  We are proud of you, my friend!

For Mother’s Day on Sunday we went to church in the morning with Andrew’s mom, then took her out to lunch to all of our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Vietnam Garden.  Sunday evening my mom and brother came over to our house, and we cooked burgers on the grill.

I posted this photo on Facebook yesterday in honor of my mom.  It’s one of my favorites from our wedding that I think anyone who has taken part in a wedding can appreciate:

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We were all so tired of taking photos, but desperately trying to get the Christmas card shot.  Whitney’s best friend Jeanine was behind the camera trying to make my nieces laugh–or smile… or just look in the general direction of the camera–and her strapless dress fell down, leaving her a bit exposed.  This photo captured everyone’s reaction.

My brother, however, posted the winning photo that captures the coolness of our mom.  When Ross was about ten, he got really into WWF wrestling.  He’d watch the shows on TV regularly, so my mom decided to take him to see it live.  This photo was taken before the show, sporting their WWF t-shirts, and honoring one of Ross’s favorites with the wrestler’s signature move:

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Hah!  Awesome.  Not much else can be said about this one 😀

We had a wonderful day celebrating our mamas and a great weekend with friends!

What was the highlight of your weekend?  

Youth Stuff and Yard Work: A Full, Fabulous Weekend

Well, I survived the crazy weekend!  Despite the stress I experienced leading up to this weekend, everything went incredibly well.  Here’s what the last two days held:

Saturday morning I went with a group of our youth to volunteer with the Miracle League of Richmond–a baseball league for kids with disabilities.  We “buddy-up” with the players each week during the league’s spring and fall seasons to help them enjoy the great American pastime.  It is an absolute joy to know and be able to spend time with these guys and girls.  Plus, it’s my kind of baseball: everyone gets up to bat, everyone swings until they hit the ball, and everyone makes it home. 😀

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One of our youth, Eliza, and Carrie Rose have been buddies almost every game for about four years!

If you live in the Richmond area and are looking for awesome volunteer opportunities, check out the Miracle League!

When I returned home Saturday afternoon, it was time for yard work.  Andrew was working on the roof installing… something related to ventilation along the very top (not my area of expertise. ;-))

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After thanking Andrew for having such useful life skills, and also having a serious chat about not climbing on the roof when a. no one else is home and b. no one is holding the ladder (seriously, Andrew, what were you thinking?), I offered to mow the lawn.  Now, I mowed the lawn frequently when I was in high school, but the lawn mower we have now stinks.  It just stinks.  The previous owners of the house left it behind, and it works, so we figured, why buy a new one?  It is a full-body exercise to push it across the yard, and only once have I successfully started it by myself.  (Andrew started it for me initially, and then when I took a break after, oh, four rows, Andrew was back on the roof, and our neighbor Gary took pity and started it again for me :-D)

In the garden we thinned the broccoli, Swiss chard, and beets.  I know it has to be done–if two or three plants are too close together, none of them will thrive–but I have such a hard time pulling up little plants that are doing well!

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Saturday night, this happened.  I am scarred.  Absolutely scarred.

Sunday morning was Youth Sunday at church, which meant the youth were responsible for most every aspect of all three worship services.  This was a large part of my crazy-stressful week last week.  Everything came together beautifully, and all our youth did a wonderful job!  I am one proud youth director. 🙂

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Meg was one of two high school girls to offer the sermon…Go, girl 🙂

After following the bulletin closely and nervously for three services thinking, “What did I forget?  Where is there a hole in the service?” I headed home to rest for a few hours before our youth year-end banquet.  I was nervous about the banquet, but all went well!  Okay, I  forgot to recognize and include one of our mission teams from last summer in the slide show…Sorry, LA Team!  (Or as Forrest renamed it, the “Lost Angeles Team.” ;-))  Oops.  Aside from that, all went well. 🙂

We ate, watched the slide show, thanked our parent volunteers, and honored our seniors and some other youth, including our awesome Servant of the Year, Lauren!

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…and the public speaking wasn’t as horrible as I’d imagined 😉

When I returned home at the end of the night, I enjoyed reading through notes from youth and parents.  Thanks to everyone for your kind words…they brought me a lot of joy!  Perhaps the greatest…item…I received last night was this collage from hilarious 9th grader, Courtney:

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Why, yes, she photo-shopped herself into a bunch of pictures and added captions like, “Our engagement photos turned out GREAT” and “I’m so glad we’re married now!”  😀  Andrew and I laughed SO hard.  What a funny kid.  We’ve considered adopting Courtney, but because she comes from such a loving, outstanding family, we don’t think the courts would approve the request. 😉

While I feel like I say this every Monday, this was a full, but great weekend!  Thanks to everyone–youth, parents, Andrew–who stepped up to make everything run smoothly!

Today, I enjoy my first day off in three weeks. 😀

A Week in Workouts

Each week I have a general idea of what and when my workouts will be;  I make a plan, but it’s a very flexible plan.  This is what I typically aim for:

Monday: Run (30-45 minutes)

Tuesday: Weights (30 minutes) + Walk (30 minutes)

Wednesday: Run (30 minutes, speed work)

Thursday: Weights (30 minutes) + Walk (30 minutes)

Friday: Long run

I can usually count on doing something active with Andrew Saturday or Sunday–hiking, taking a walk, biking, tennis, yard work, etc.– so I don’t plan a workout.  If we end up doing nothing, that’s okay too.

What actually ends up happening most weeks?  One of the runs turns into a walk because I’m tired, I hit the snooze button and only have time for weights on Thursday, my “long run” becomes a “not-so-long” run, etc.  And again, that is okay.  I think it’s important to have a plan, but also to allow yourself some grace.  Discipline is great, but rigidity?  Not so much.

I mentioned in my last post that we recently joined a gym.  At first I was hesitant– if you can stay in great shape without paying for a gym membership each month, why would you pay?  About a year ago I remember thinking, “If I never step on another Elliptical, that will be just fine.”  However, so far we have thoroughly enjoyed our gym.  While you certainly don’t need a gym to stay fit, it helps ward off boredom and eliminate the “it’s too cold outside” excuse to not exercise.

The gym has also changed my weekly workout plan.  Here’s what this week looked like for me, in workouts:

Sunday: Elliptical trainer (35 minutes, with Andrew)

Monday: Yard work/hauling wood (youth group service project)

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Tuesday: Walk (60 minutes, with my friend Kate)

(We walked to Maymont and got to see the goats… I. Love. Goats.  I ask Andrew at least once a month if we can get one.  So far he’s only been opposed to the idea.)

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Wednesday: Cycle class (45 minutes, with little bro Ross)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Treadmill run (40 minutes, intervals + warm-up/cool-down)

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Saturday: Weights (I’m planning to, anyway…it’s only 8 a.m.)

Looking back I had lots of social workouts this week, which is rare for me, but I definitely enjoyed it.  I’m also really feeling the group fitness classes at the gym–being surrounded by other people is good motivation not to cut a workout short!

Clearly my weekly exercise plan is changing with our gym membership.  I am looking forward to shaking up my routine and trying new activities… though running is still my first (fitness) love. 🙂

Do you prefer to workout at a gym or at home/outside?