Gratitude for Strong Women

Strong women inspire me,

Cause me to look at my humdrum routine

And see how I might shake it up:

Live a little,

Do something daring,

Work less at my daily roles,

Paint and draw and write and dance more!

Breathe …

Break free from the bonds of my ordinary life, yet appreciate the holy moments found in the everyday –

Rise above the clamor of many demands pulling me in various directions,

Look deep inside and realize the potential waiting within.

 

These thoughts were inspired by attending a writers workshop over the weekend. I was honored to be invited, then awed as I heard the women around me read beautiful, insightful, pain-filled yet victorious words they’d written on the spot. I’ll admit I was intimidated by sharing my paltry thoughts and beginnings of ideas. But a seed was planted, and I look forward to what comes from that. I have a voice and I have something to say. Now begins the journey of discovery to find out exactly what form that voice will take and where it will lead me.

In Gratitude for Body Parts That Work Like They’re Supposed to

Today I am especially grateful that my left elbow, which got infected on December 14, is regaining mobility and function. It’s amazing what we take for granted when all is going well. Then when we injure some part of our body, or something goes wrong, we are reminded how much we rely on that previously ignored body part.

I have an autoimmune disorder that was diagnosed in 1989. Since then I’ve had many opportunities to appreciate a properly functioning body, as little surprises crop up when I least expect them. The latest episode took place when some calcium deposits in my elbow became inflamed, then infected. I went to the doctor two days later, and she put me on a strong antibiotic and asked me to return two days later so she could assess my progress. She mentioned that I might have to be hospitalized for IV infusion of antibiotics.

That evening I started running a fever, and it went up to 102.1 (pretty high for me, since my body temperature normally is about 97.6). John called the doctor that night, and she asked me to come in first thing the next morning. Fortunately, the antibiotic started working so I didn’t have to be hospitalized. But my arm was swollen from the wrist almost to my shoulder, and I couldn’t bend my elbow enough to be able to put on earrings or roll my hair. John helped me out with those tasks for a couple of days, as well as assisting me with showers. Wouldn’t you know the infection/inflammation was in full force on the day of our church choir’s annual Feast of Lights (our big Christmas music worship service). I managed to hold my folder with my right hand and turn pages with my left.

So I’ve been thinking about the lessons I learned during this time I was physically impaired. Probably the biggest challenge was patience, as it took me nearly twice as long to get dressed each day, plus my elbow just plain hurt.

I thought about people who suffer each day from chronic pain, and I felt empathy for them. It’s hard to be pleasant to others when you’re in pain. I hope I will remember this when I encounter someone who snaps at me. You never know what someone may be going through; all we see are snapshots of people’s lives.

I felt grateful for John’s willingness to pick up some extra work, like loading the dishwasher and cooking and assisting with all sorts of tasks. He did it gladly, and he made me feel loved. My dad, who is living with us right now while going through treatment for leukemia, also was eager to help. He folded laundry and was a comforting presence.

I kept thinking of the passage from 1 Corinthians 12 where the apostle Paul writes about how the parts of the body are like individuals (and each person’s unique gifts) in the church:

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. 14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted. 19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.”

I think this is one of my favorite scripture passages. It reminds me of the wonderful diversity of people and how God designed us all to be different with unique gifts. My hope is that someday Christians will unite in demonstrating “mutual concern” and love for each person regardless of their differences, whether in religious views, gender, political persuasions, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or whatever.

Our Christmas Letter for 2013

Dear Friends,

I had every intention of writing a Christmas letter and inserting it in my Christmas cards, but that didn’t happen. Life gets busy, and you have to be flexible.

Wanted to share with you 10 highlights of 2013 for the Trudel family. For those of you who notice things like this, pardon the switch between 1st person and 3rd person point of view.

1. John began the year with a new venture: he is managing a pool & spa maintenance business. I admire him for having the guts and stamina to start a business at his age. He is like the Energizer bunny…says he thinks he’ll work at least 5 years.

2. In January Daniel, age 26, finally moved into his own apartment. Yay! One bird launched from the nest.

3. Julie gave a senior voice recital in March (I think…we made several trips to Jackson, MS this semester). She did a fine job. So proud.

4. In May Julie graduated from Millsaps College with a B.A. in Spanish and a concentration in voice.

5. In the summer Anne started traveling for work. Attended a copywriting seminar in Indianapolis in June (and got to see longtime friends Sharon & Jim Myers and their 3 kids). Went to a children’s ministry conference in Greenville, SC in July, the Congregational School for Development in Denver in August, and at the Apprentice Institute of Spiritual Formation at Friends University, Wichita, KS, in September. Decided after missing a week in the office each month that business travel is not always as glamorous as it seems.

6. In September Anne turned 55, and there was a huge party with most of  my cousins  present. Wait, no, the gathering was not for my birthday but for the wedding of my cousin Nick (Joe’s son) and Stephanie in Hilton Head, SC. It was a beautiful wedding on the beach. My 91-year-old uncle officiated. John and I made a vacation of the trip. We spent some time in Charleston and enjoyed a day trip to Savannah from Hilton Head. It was great fun to be with my cousins on my birthday.

7. September 14 was a big day for more than one reason. In addition to being Anne’s birthday and Nick & Stephanie’s wedding day, it was also the day Julie left for Madrid, Spain! (The second bird launches from the nest!) She is spending at least one year there as a teaching assistant, and she’s tutoring children on the side. She is getting lots of experience with various ages of children. It will be exciting to see where she winds up.

8. Between the end of October and November 22, Anne made three trips to Canton, NC. On the third trip, she and John brought her dad back to Nashville to live with us for the winter. We will decide next steps after we see how Daddy, age 91, does this winter. He’s yearning to get back to North Carolina, and he had just put down a deposit on an assisted living place that we both liked before coming to Nashville.

9. We spent a quiet Thanksgiving at home, and that was a relief to Anne after traveling so much. We keep in touch with Julie by Skype and e-mail. Technology is a marvelous thing. (Except Anne is still learning how to use her smartphone. Evidently she is smartphone-challenged.)

10. We set up a Christmas tree this year after no one caring about whether we had one last year. (Anne missed it.) Our cat, Lily, has had a heyday with the tree. Before ornaments were put on, she climbed halfway up the tree. Now she thinks it’s her personal playground, and she’s launched a few sneak attacks from under the tree. She has also adopted a few cloth ornaments from the bottom of the tree.

All in all, 2013 was a most excellent year for the Trudels. Just like anyone else, we’ve had our challenges, but we feel richly blessed to have friends, family, a roof over our heads and other necessities, jobs we enjoy, and a wonderful church home.

We wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and a hope-filled New Year.

Love,

Anne & John

A Christian Reflects on Suicide

Contrary to what the pop song “Suicide Is Painless” says, suicide certainly isn’t. It leaves family and friends reeling, wondering if they could have done anything to prevent their loved one’s act of desperation.

This matter has been on my mind from time to time but especially in the past couple of months as I have been touched by two, maybe three, suicides of people I know or family members of acquaintances.

Some Christians say that suicide is the unpardonable sin. How helpful is that to someone whose family member died by his or her own hand? (More like, what a stupid, uncompassionate remark to make in the face of tragedy! I would like to take someone who makes such thoughtless comments aside and shake some sense into them, not violently of course, but like, “Hello, what world are you living in? And just how Christlike, if you call yourself a Christian, is what you just said?”)

I remember hearing earlier this year that evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s son committed suicide and thought, “What a tragedy.” Anytime someone comes to the point of despairing enough to take his or her own life, it should give us pause for thought.

A little over two weeks ago, one of my coworkers committed suicide. She was only 33, the mother of two young girls, and seemingly happily married. I did not know she had struggled with depression. Most of the time when I was around her, she was chipper and exhibited a good sense of humor. That just goes to show that you never know the struggles people are dealing with privately.

One day not long before her death, we were riding the elevator together. I noticed that she seemed down, and I asked, “How’s it going?” She said, “It’s been a rough day” and went on to tell me about some things that had happened at work. I left a card on her desk in the next few days, trying to encourage her and let her know that she was an intelligent and valued colleague…basically, not to let the “turkeys” get her down.

I don’t have any really deep thoughts on suicide, only some observations. When I read the whole of scripture, I find instances of suicide (Samson, Judas, and others) but I don’t find scripture that says suicide is an unforgivable sin. The only “unforgivable sin” I find mentioned in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Somehow I find it hard to believe that any sin would be unforgivable…otherwise, what did Jesus die for? If you buy “atonement theory,” he took upon himself the sins of the world, and he willingly died for our sins.

Scripture aside, when I look at the life and ministry of Jesus and consider how he would have responded, I think he would have shown compassion. He probably would have wrapped his arms around the family of the deceased and reminded them that their loved one was a beloved child of God.

That should be enough to make us Christians consider carefully the words we say when we encounter someone touched by suicide. Perhaps we should learn to just keep our mouths shut and show our love by being present with persons who are hurting. You never know the road someone has traveled that has brought them to the point of suicide. Words are powerful tools, and sometimes it’s just best to keep our mouths shut in the face of tragedy. Sometimes there are no words.

I Haven’t Dropped Off the Face of the Earth

I’ve just been a little absorbed since June with traveling for work (once a month from June through October), vacation and a family wedding in September, changes in my job (good ones) and learning to deal with new technological challenges, and last but not least, my dad and his physical decline.

This month I have driven to North Carolina two weekends in a row to arrange home health care, look for assisted living, go to doctor appointment, and cook for him. Prayers have been answered in the facts that my dad has accepted that it is no longer safe for him to live by himself, and he’s planning to move to Nashville for at least a while as he undergoes treatment.

Now that we have a diagnosis (he has a form of leukemia common in elderly people), the next step is to consult with an oncologist in Nashville. In all of this experience I am grateful for:

  • my sweet husband, who has shopped for groceries, cooked, made many phone calls to arrange doctor visits for my dad here, and just generally been a rock for me
  • friends and coworkers who are praying for me
  • good books to read (and divert my attention)
  • funny comments on Facebook and Twitter
  • yoga and my walking buddies
  • the gift of prayer and the assurance that God will be my strength
  • my crazy kitty, Lily, who warms my lap each night
  • crisp fall weather (even when it’s damp and cold)
  • the beauty of nature
  • art and music to enjoy
  • writing, poetry, and the right words spoken when I need them

I am a little weary but holding up okay. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other.

The Summer I Missed

Lord, have mercy! I cannot believe it is already October. What happened to summer?

A strange phenomenon has happened as I’ve gotten older. Time is speeding up. I know, I know. It’s really not passing any faster than it did when I was a “young-un,” but now it seems that every time I turn around, a season has passed.

This summer has been full of adventures and it has passed by at warp speed.

I usually don’t feel like it’s summer until I have been swimming at least two or three times. This summer I tried to make it to Wave Country, our local wave pool, on August 23, my daughter Julie’s 23rd birthday. We were stunned to discover it had already closed except on Saturdays and Sundays. Julie and I looked at each other as we sat in the parking lot, then she got out and went to the gate to read the sign that confirmed yes indeed, the pool was closed. This year school started in Davidson County on August 1. Julie commented, “That’s just not right.” My feelings exactly.

Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, school didn’t start until after Labor Day. I remember the crispness in the autumn air, the smell of freshly cleaned floors and the (what seemed to me then) wide halls at my elementary school, the thrill of getting new supplies for school (which were ever so much less expensive than what parents have to buy today). I passed on my love for school supplies to Julie, who looked forward to shopping for Post-it notes, new notebooks, notebook paper, organizers, colored pencils and crayons, book covers, etc.

The beginning of school was a different matter for our older child, Daniel. He stressed out every year when it was time to start school. In third grade he began showing symptoms of stress: his chest hurt, among other physical symptoms. He called home (John was working from home) and asked his dad to come get him. If I had been there, I would have kindly told him no, that he could make it through the day. John took a different approach, and perhaps it was for the best. Our sensitive son needed a little extra TLC. Fortunately he had nurturing, empathetic teachers who were patient with him while he tried to learn all the rules. For the first month or so of school every year from third grade on through about sixth grade, Daniel would say to me, “Mom, tell me the rules. There are so many new rules to learn!” I tried to simplify things for him. “Son,” I said, “remember these things: Do what your teacher says. Pay attention. Keep your hands to yourself.”

Darn. I forgot where I was going with this post, chasing the rabbit trail of memories of the first of school with my kids. I think I was going to say that summer just passed me by while I was traveling for work. Starting in June, I have been out of town for at least 3-4 days once a month until my last trip, to Wichita at the end of September. I like to travel, but I usually I am not away from home that much. While I was traveling, I fell behind in my e-mails at work. I finally just started going through my inbox, pressing Delete, Delete, Delete. Who has time to read all those marketing blogs, writing tips, and other interesting stuff when you have work to do? I started limiting myself to 15 minutes of e-mail in the morning, another 15 around midday, and another 15 at the end of the day. Thanks to one of my boss’s help (it takes two people to manage me, heh-heh), I learned to prioritize (triage e-mail) and take control of my day.

So now I’m looking forward to a little time at home before the holiday season. I am trying to slow things down a bit. I enjoy walking, so I take walks by myself sometimes and enjoy looking at chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, trees (I am forever trying to identify them), and even the “wildlife” (students) on Vanderbilt’s campus. Fall, my favorite season, is here…and I’m determined to enjoy it. I can’t wait to take at least one hike. Maybe it’ll happen this weekend, who knows?

My mantra for fall has become: “Breathe in, breathe out. Realize how much you are blessed.”

You Never Stop Being a Mom

Why didn’t someone tell me, when John and I were planning to start a family, that once you’re a parent, you’re always a parent? I guess I knew that intuitively but didn’t really think about it. I thought parenting would get easier as time moved on, but I’ve found that it never stops. You just go through different stages as your children grow.

When you’re a young parent, you focus on getting through each day…changing diapers, feeding your baby, getting all the requisite shots, finding the best daycare (if you have to work while your children are young, and most women I know don’t consider it a choice), spending time with your little one(s), and somewhere amid all that, trying to stay connected to your spouse.

Then come the elementary school years, and the activity ramps up. There’s organized sports, parent-teacher conferences, checking to be sure your child’s homework gets done, learning to communicate with the sometimes antiquated school system (it seems that ours was stuck in the 1960s at times), volunteering to help with field trips, taking refreshments to school on special days, planning birthday parties, arranging music lessons or other enrichment activities for your child, organizing your days and weekends around your child’s/children’s activities, and oh yes, trying to work in some family time and religious education along the way. I remember fondly our time in Girl Scouts, the few camping trips we took as a family (our son was always afraid of bears and couldn’t sleep well), the times we stopped at waterfalls and other natural sights while we were on road trips, our trips to the beach, going to the Smithsonian and many other museums and marveling at dinosaur skeletons and historical and art miscellanea, reading books about dinosaurs (Daniel went through a dinosaur phase from about age 3 through third grade), playing with toy bulldozers in our tiny front yard (I had to learn how to play like a boy), taking family walks with our springer spaniel in tow (me pushing the stroller with Julie, Daniel riding his bike ahead of us, John lagging behind–we were spread out over a block), visits to nearby parks (Centennial Park and the ever-famous Dragon Park), American Girl dolls (we only bought one) and reading those wonderful books, and so forth.

Then came middle school. Daniel spent his whole 8th grade year, it seems, on the couch. He was growing so fast that he was tired all the time…or playing video games. In retrospect, I wish I’d given him more stringent limits on the video games. John tried to tell me…but he was immersed in his business and didn’t have a whole lot of extra time.

Julie, meanwhile, was in her last year of elementary school and then middle school. John and I stayed busy chauffeuring both of our children to different schools and just generally trying to keep up with all the paperwork at school, not to mention fairly hectic schedules of our own.

High school. What a blur. Daniel had a couple of blips in high school but managed to finish with a diploma from Hillsboro High School, just about a month after his peers. We celebrated with a ceremony in our church’s family life center. Daniel, the child I was ready to send off to college, opted to stay at home for two years and go to the community college while he tried to figure out what he wanted to study. John and I adjusted to his living at home. He worked delivering pizza while he attended college and continued doing that when he transferred to Middle Tennessee State University. We were so proud when he graduated in December 2009 … he managed to keep his Hope Scholarship for 4 1/2 years.

Julie, meanwhile, chose to go to college 400 miles from home, to a small Methodist school in Jackson, Mississippi (Millsaps College). I was not quite ready to let her go that far away, but it was good for both of us. John and I kept the road hot traveling to Jackson to see her in Millsaps Singers, Chamber Singers, a play, and her junior and senior recitals.

Daniel moved out of our house in January 2013 (after moving back home following college graduation). YAY. We had one child launched.

Now Julie is getting ready to head off to Spain for the adventure of her life. I have mixed feelings. I am so excited for her opportunity to live abroad and learn about another culture. I am envious, in a way, because I studied Spanish in college and didn’t have the same opportunity to live where I’d be forced to speak the language.

This past week when Julie fell in our front yard and sprained her ankle, I worried about her. I thought, “Well, this is a dress rehearsal for her living alone.” My instinct was to come swooping home and take care of my “little” girl, but I just coached her on how to take care of herself. Her sweet daddy went out and bought an Ace elastic bandage for her (Daniel had the only one we’d had before). Daniel brought the crutches we’d loaned him to his job, and Julie & I stopped by to pick them up on the way home from getting her ankle X-rayed.

So, this whole summer has been an exercise in preparing myself to be a mom from a distance. I know I will worry about my independent little chick as she spreads her wings. My first concern is how to know when she’s gotten to Spain safely, as we will be out of town. She’s nervous about clearing customs and whether she has enough time between flights at Chicago O’Hare. We’re both nervous about how the whole money thing will work. She’s researching all that and getting her “ducks in a row” to prepare for living in a foreign country.

Meanwhile, I am like the humpback whale in this photo. I’m going under the surface for a while, but I suspect that I will resurface from time to time for air … and to make my mysterious whale (mom) sounds from a distance.Image