Friday, August 31, 2012

Market Lesson

Sometimes it is good to slow down.

Sometimes it is important to focus on the "now".

Sometimes it is beneficial to look around and learn.

Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to do all these things.

You have to slow down to do the Farmer's Market on the square in Madison, Wisconsin.  One of the nation's biggest farmer's market happens spring through fall.  Dozens of hard working people taking pride in their harvest by displaying it so beautifully.  Hundreds of men and women shopping for fresh veggies, flowers and (especially because it is Wisconsin) cheese bread and curds.  Children running and rolling on the state capitol's lawn.  It is like a scene from a great movie...

To truly enjoy the market you have to focus on the "now".  It would be easy to be just another shopper, going with the traffic flow around the square, buying a box of tomatoes or a jar of honey and miss the true simple beauty of the market.  It would be easy to be thinking of the laundry back at home, the long "to do" list waiting on the kitchen island, worrying about something that happened the day before or planning the next day's events.  It would be easy to put your head down, get to the booths on your shopping list, pay the farmer and move along.  But to do those things would be tragic.  When I have gone through the market this way I miss the good stuff....the real stuff...the life stuff.

Luckily last Saturday I was not alone.

My husband's two aunts from Iowa were visiting Madison.  Aunt Mary and Aunt Thieleane have wanted to come to the market for many years and I was so happy when they wrote that they had plans to come!  When we met downtown their excitement was big and palpable.  The very first booth brought "ooooohs!" and "aaaahhs!".

I knew then that it was going to be a special morning....for them..........and me.

Aunt Thieleane & Aunt Mary

Let me back up a bit.  I want to introduce you to 2 people who I loved very much.

Grandma Evadeane and Grandpa "Steve"

They were my grandparents-by-marriage...but that didn't change how special they were to me. Thielen and Evadeane Stevens were two loving parents who taught their 3 children many things.
I admire all the lessons taught, but the one that always stands out is this:
Their children care about people.  All people.

They look people in the eye, ask questions, listen and learn each person's story.  My father-in-law and his sisters, the 2 aunts from Iowa, are so good at this.
They are a rare I am glad to follow behind and hope that some rubs off on me.

So.... back to the market.

I enjoyed walking the square with them.  It took us about 2 hours to get around the whole thing.  Most people do it in much faster amount of time.  But those are people who are keeping their heads down, picking their bunch of radishes, handing over the cash and heading to the next booth.  Not Mary and Thieleane.

Heads were up.
Eye contact was made with the farmers.
Asking questions.
Showing interest.
Listening to answers.
Thanking the farmers.
Leaving with a smile.
Every time.

Grandpa and Grandma Stevens taught them this.
They know that each person has a story.
They care about that story.

Before they started a conversation a vendor would be hard at work, concentrating and serious.

After, when leaving, the vendor was smiling, engaged and...I think....feeling honored.

Let's be clear.  These 2 women have LOTS on their plates.  They could have been walking the square thinking of the challenges they are both facing, the lists of things to do, the friends and family who have health issues and more.  But, even with all this in their lives they wanted to engage in conversation and show their respect and gratitude for the hard work of these farmers.  They treated each person with dignity and great interest.

This is a bit of a lost art everyone.
We are all way too busy and in a hurry to stop, look the waitress...the grocery store clerk...the school's office admin...the bank teller...the child in the eye, ask them a question and listen to the answer with interest.

So, what did I learn that Saturday?

I learned that maybe if I just slowed down, focused on the "now, and looked people in the eye and listened to their stories that I......we.... might just start a kindness comeback!
A graciousness revolution.

That would be the best market lesson ever.

May you keep your head up as you walk the "markets" of your daily lives.
May you focus on the "now" instead of the yesterdays, tomorrows and next weeks.
May you look others in the eye.
May you want to learn someone's story.
May you show them you care about that story.

Thank you Aunt Mary and Aunt Thieleane....
for the flowers, the fun morning, the car ride home.... and the life lesson.
Love you both!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Born to.......

Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 45.  At first blush this seemed like a big number. It thought it would feel different than 40 did.  I loved 40 and thought that 45 would be harder.
It wasn't.

The day yesterday was full of the people I love, places I adore and moments of joy!   Throughout the day I found myself being overwhelmed with the feeling of being blessed........

The morning started at the early hour of 5:45 when the alarm rang.  This is unusually early for me in the summer.....and especially on a Sunday.  But this was a special day. One of my dearest friends (pictured below) was going to be doing the message at our church.  It was her first time doing so and she was a bit (well more than a bit!) nervous.  Since we all know that a good hair day does wonders for our confidence I put on my ex-hair designer hat to help out.  She crept quietly in at 6:15am......with arms full with a vase of flowers, gift and card for my birthday!
Here she was.... about to speak in front of thousands of people over the course of the day full of services, and she was thinking of me!!! I blessed to have her in my life!

After she left I was using the alone time in the hushed house to work on a custom layout for a buyer.  While sitting at the computer, listening to the birds chirp outside, a "ding" went off on the computer.  It was an email Facebook notification.  My daughter, Taylor (pictured above with my friend) , was sending me a private message all the way from Romania!  It said "log into Skype".  Yay!  I got to see her smiling face on a sunny day in Craiova, Romania...wishing me Happy Birthday!
Here she was... across the earth, working with a team to help orphan teens/young adults make a transition into the real world and she was thinking of me!!  Holy I blessed to have her in my life!

Then off to church.  It was Next Gen Sunday at our church.  It is the annual day where the youth of our church serve on the worship teams, greeters, ushers, venue pastors and more.  To walk into the service and see one of my home group high school gals up leading/singing was amazing!  To see a good friend of my daughter's welcoming people and do announcements and the benediction during service was so fun!  To sit with a dear friend who was visiting our church for the first time and my husband, son and mom was very special.  To listen to my dear friend deliver an inspiring message about devoting our time and love to the many children and teens of the church community was fantastic!
Here I was... at one of my favorite places, surrounded by people that love each other but love others more....and nothing was about me and my birthday.  Just the way I want it....I am so blessed to have the community of Blackhawk Church in my life!

Back at home..... It was a quiet afternoon.  I got to spend a quick moment with a sweet neighbor who brought a handmade card, done in my favorite colors.  I was able to spend some time painting in the new studio with the sun shining through the windows.  I got to chat on the phone with a few loved ones.  I sat down on a couch and cuddled with my two little dudes, Luke and Noah.
Here I was... at home with family, nothing big happening.  Just the way I like it...... I am so blessed to have this home and family and not need any hoopla!

For dinner we headed to my aunt and uncle's house for a family picnic on the lake.  The family "shorelines" are one of my favorite parts of the summer.  So far, whenever there has been one, we have not been able to go.  So, I was thrilled when there was one scheduled for yesterday!  There is lots of laughter, catching up, grilling out and eating.  The lake was quite still and quiet....with just a faint noise in the distance of a band playing.  At the end of the evening a surprise homemade key lime pie came out with a single candle in it!  My aunt had learned that key lime pie was my favorite and made one for the first time to celebrate my birthday!
Here I was... with family that I love dearly, on a lake that holds many special memories, sitting around a fire pit laughing......I am so blessed to have moments like this in my life!

We got home from the shoreline and sat down at the table to play the priorly promised game of Apples to Apples. It was Craig and myself, our college son Zack, his girlfriend,  Luke and Noah.  We were interrupted for a quick moment by a special surprise.  In walked (without knocking because they know this is their home too!) 3 of my favorite high school gals!  They are my daughter's friends, but they have become my daughters as well.  They came with a card and cute monkey cupcake for me!
Here I was... with a college kid and girlfriend choosing to spend their night with us boring adults...and a gaggle of high schoolers on their way to a hangout night, stopping by to give me a hug...... I am so blessed by these young people and am so grateful for them!

Throughout the whole day I was side by side with my husband.  We don't need big stuff, celebrations or gifts.  We just are lucky to like being together.  He does so much for me and our kids.  He spent part of the afternoon mowing the lawn and trimming bushes and of his least favorite things to do.
Here he was... could have chosen to sit and watch the last bit of the Olympics, but instead was doing something that he knew would make me happy.  I am so blessed to share my life with this man!

So, that was my day.  I went to bed thinking of all of this...and more.  Many people think about what they "were born to do".  This thought is what I fell asleep to......

Some are born to heal people.
Some are born to invent things.
Some are born to raise children.
Some are born to teach.
Some are born to lead people.
Some are born to follow.

What was I born to do?


And do so fully aware of how blessed that life is....and grateful for it.
That is what I born to do.

May you find yourself on your day of birth feeling abundantly blessed.
May you know what you were born to do.
May you live that purpose out well.