The Spark

Another day.  Another light. 

Today's source of light is coming to you from another writer.  When thinking about this "Let Your Light Shine" series I knew I wanted to tell Hannah's story.  

Without a doubt.   Her story of shining a light had to be told.

But when I started to write it nothing seemed good enough.  It was difficult for me to articulate an event 2 years ago that changed Hannah's life and the affect on her it had.  So I am honored to say that Hannah has agreed to write about and let me publish a snapshot of her story.....for the first time.  

Prepare to be inspired. 

            Hope isn’t a bonfire. It isn’t a pyre of flames, and it isn’t obvious, especially when it’s in the presence of light. Hope is a spark, and we must choose if we let it ignite in our hearts. However, when our lives are shrouded by darkness, that tiny spark can be brighter than the sun. Without the darkness, we cannot see the stars, and that’s the beauty in our hardships.


            In the summer of 2010, I went on a mission trip to Honduras with my church. At the time, I was living comfortably. I was in my 15-year-old world, and the bubble that I lived in was small. I thought I knew everything, and I thought I had the world figured out. Little did I know that the mission trip would change me forever.

            What I saw on the trip altered my perspective and showed me what the world outside my small life was like. Seeing the terribly devastating poverty was eye-opening, but I was still seeing my world from the inside of my safe, comfortable bubble.

            Three days into the trip, my mission team went into the mountainous jungle to experience an incredible opportunity that Honduras has to offer: rappelling. On the way back up the mountain from rappelling down a 100-foot waterfall, the few of us that had gone down were hit by a tropical storm. The conditions that the storm caused made the trek up the mountain treacherous, and part way up, I lost my footing.

            The fall caused damage, physically and emotionally. The impact had broken my femur, my hand, my nose, a couple of my teeth, and caused compression fractures in my spine, as well as plenty of deep bone and muscle bruises. I had lacerations on my face that still are scars today, along with others that came from the many follow-up surgeries. 

            Not only that, but my world had shattered. My safe bubble had burst in one instance, and I was abruptly thrown into a world much bigger than I had ever dreamed possible. I had never been aware of the pain and loneliness the world could hold, and I was suddenly estranged from everything I had once known.

            After my 18 day stay in the hospital was finished, I returned home, but I didn’t escape my accident. I was swallowed by doctor visits, dentist visits, sessions with my counselor, physical therapy appointments, and follow-up surgeries. In the midst of my physical and emotional turmoil, I lost the thin illusion of control I had over my life. My grades slipped, I lost most of my friendships, and I fell into the darkest place I had ever been before.

             Darkness is the absence of light, but it is as heavy and as much of a burden as any tangible object. When surrounded by darkness, my entire world changed. I became listless and apathetic, struggling to make it through each day. I was alone, and no amount of loved ones or support could help me feel any less lonely.

             Yet even in the darkness, there was hope.

             It began as a flicker, but in the complete darkness, that flicker was blinding. Certain people were placed into my life at the perfect time, and I have no doubt that was any sort of coincidence. Though I still had to grapple with frequent hospital visits, emotional baggage, and physical pain, the spark ignited and banished the darkness away.

            To this day, I am still struggling with many of the effects of my accident, even as time goes by. I have to deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, along with circumstances not many of my peers would understand. However, I know that because of what I had been through, I have been changed for the better.

            Today, I can share my story without hesitation, and hopefully, ignite the sparks of hope in others as a couple of individuals did for me. I am stronger in my faith and my values, and I’ve seen a side of the world that has shaped me to feel for those that aren’t often understood. I now can see past the insignificant details of life and appreciate the big picture, along with being able to enjoy life in a way I’ve never been able in the past. Now, I am proud to say that I will have the opportunity to return to Honduras this summer on another mission trip.

           Metals must be tempered in order to bring them to the strongest consistency possible. Any metal that has not been tempered will be weak and frail, and will shatter under stress. However, if a piece of metal has been melted down and shaped again, it will hold under every pressure it must undergo. When our world is shattered in pieces around us, we are being tempered, thrown back into the forge so that we can be molded into something beautiful, and that’s what hope is. 


Last night, while I sat on my comfy brown couch warmed by the fireplace, I read this beautiful piece of writing.  I could feel Hannah's heart through her words.   I sobbed.   Maybe some of you will cry......maybe you will feel empowered.....maybe you will feel empathy.   But I sobbed.

You see.... I know Hannah.  I think of Hannah as another daughter.  I watched her leave for Honduras so excited.  I cried in the middle of the night when the phone call came that said she was hurt badly.  I prayed for her as she was being air flighted from Honduras to the Florida hospital.  I wished I could have been in that hospital room with her and her mom those long 18 days.  I greeted her  (along with a HUGE crew of people who love her) at the airport when she was wheeled off the airplane back home.  I have observed her as she has gone through agonizing chronic pain and countless surgeries.  

I sobbed.

But I wasn't sobbing because of the hard stuff.  I was crying because she has come out on the other side, done the hard things, been so courageous, conquered fears and..... become a woman.  A wise woman.  At the young age of 18, Hannah is wise beyond her years.  

So.....back to that spark.......  Hannah says that she saw a very bright spark in the midst of the darkness. 

I saw it too.

It was Hannah.  

As she was being molded into a new creation there was a spark that flew from her hardships that heated metal.  When Hannah felt like she wasn't visible is when I saw her the clearest.  

I am grateful that Hannah was molded into the woman she is today.  

I am grateful for her words, perseverance and bravery that inspire me.

I am grateful that God was the one holding the torch and hammer, creating that spark, and shaping her heart anew. 

May you be as inspired by Hannah as I am.

May you know that, in the midst of darkness, there will be a spark.

May you be brave, courageous and persevere.

February 05, 2013

The Spotlight

Today starts a little blog mini-series called "Let Your Light Shine"!  I can't tell you how excited I am about this!  I explained a little about the reason for this series last week when I shared with you a little bit about my favorite sign.

Light is a complex thing. I am not a science gal so you are not going to get a big old explanation about how light works....mainly because I don't know. ;)  I thought about it, so I googled "how light works".  What I found more profound than the science was a little blurb about an article.  This is the quote:

As a citizen of a sunny Earth, it's hard not to take light for granted. 

In this article, we salute you, light, 

for a lightLESS world would be a gloomy place indeed.  


So there are lots of different kinds of lights and each illuminates in a different way.  

Much like people.


Today I will start with the spotlight.......

Meet Lief.  Lief is the director of our church's high school ministry.  Lief is gregarious, passionate, loud, funny, energetic, larger-than-life, unashamed, bold, talkative and an amazing friend to everyone.  

Lief lives BIG.  

Lief loves even BIGGER.  

When he is in a room there is an energy that is fun and contagious.  Sitting back and watching Lief is like sitting in a room that is lit up by dozens of blazing spotlights of many vibrant colors.  It is a perfect thing for a guy in his position.  High school students love him!  (and so do us normally boring adults!)

Those lights can warm your heart, lift your spirits and flood a room with joy.    

Sometimes life can blindside you.  Kind of like last night's Super Bowl.  In the midst of the biggest football game of the year, all of a sudden, the big powerful lights that illuminated the field shut off.  Suddenly and unexpectedly the teams and stadium staff had to change.  That is what happened for Lief late this past year.  

Lief's mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  It was a shock for him, his whole family and the enormous number of people who's lives she touched.  It was always clear how much Lief loved his family and especially his mom.  From all the pictures that we have all seen it very evident that she lit up a room with her smile.  She was a special lady and her death was stunning for him and his family. 

I watched as Lief's light changed.  

The big flashy, fun, colorful spotlights faded.  He was quiet, introspective, sad, grieved and burdened.  All the things he normally is not.  

But........ here is the thing....... I said his light "changed".  It never went out, it just shifted to a different mode.  It became a single soft spotlight.  

When life got a little dark Lief's light became.... 

more pure.

more simple.

more focused.

more purposeful.


At the funeral Lief was brave enough to get up in front of hundreds and share.  He was very clear about the sadness they were feeling at the loss of a dear loved one, but also very clear about the hope and grace that was carrying he, and those around him, through this painful time.  

Lief loves God.  Lief's light comes from that love.  

He has always shone that light so brightly and vibrantly.  He passionately lives his life and teaches about GRACE with great the group of glaring colorful spotlights.  But during these past few months he has lived quietly, honestly and clinging to the HOPE he teaches the undiluted, unwavering, single soft spotlight.  

Both lights are beautiful.  

Both lights are meaningful.  

Both lights have inspired me.... and I hope do the same for you.


May you enjoy the big colorful spotlight people in your life.

May you learn from to the single spotlight people in your life.

May you love them both.

May you know your light may change.

May you know that sometimes, even when painful, change is good. 


February 04, 2013

My Favorite Sign

My favorite sign hangs in my studio.

Every morning, after my husband leaves for his office and the kids are off to school I "head to work" myself.  I walk down the 12ft long hallway, pass (intentionally!) the laundry room and enter the Cellar Designs' studio.  (my commute is AWESOME!)

And each morning, when the skies are clear, this powerful burst of light streams in the room as the sun comes up over the neighbor's home.  I look over and see that bright shining sun entering into the room right next to my favorite sign.

It is a beautiful moment.

The sign reminds me every day that.......

          A.  I have a light (some days I am not so sure!)

          B.  That it can shine.

          C.  I have to LET it do so.

We all have the ability to let our light shine.  What does that mean?

Well........I am sure it means something different to all of us.  But I am just going to share what it means to me.


I think it means reflecting the love you have received back to others.

I think it means being kind to people.

I think it means forgiving.

I think it means inspiring people to be and do better.

I think it means showing grace.

I think it means smiling at strangers.

I think it means helping to empower others to be their best.

I think it means letting a driver merge into your lane in a traffic jam.

I think it means being supportive to others.

I think it means being willing to be supported.

I think it means overcoming obstacles.

I think it means being brave.

I think it means growing in your generosity.

I think it means.................radiating HOPE.

I have been pondering the idea of how we all shine our light and how the rest of the world sees that light.  I am so inspired by others and how their light has shone in good times and bad times.

So I am going to do something different.  I am going to have a little mini-series of blogs dedicated to "Let Your Light Shine"!!   I am hoping that these few blogs will inspire you as well.

I know I normally only blog about once a month, but I am really shaking it up and there will be MORE THAN ONE next WEEK!  Woah.  I know...crazy. ;)

I hope you tune in............. until then....

May you ponder what "shine your light" means to you.

May you know you have a light.

May you want to "let" it shine brightly.

February 01, 2013

Moments.....Of A Lifetime

Several years ago, on Facebook, I started to occasionally share a few funny moments of my life with our youngest.  Over time they have become known as "Noah Moment of the Day".   Today I went back and looked at some.....I was a bit nostalgic.  

You see, today Noah turns 8 years old!  8 years ago Craig and I welcomed this little redheaded bundle of love into our lives.  We didn't plan for him, but God sure had a plan for us by entrusting him to us!

So these Noah Moments of the Day.....


Sometimes these moments are ones that I (and all others around him) burst out laughing uncontrollably...even when I don't think it is the best parenting decision to laugh.

Sometimes these moments are ones that I shake my head at and wonder "what are we going to do when he is a teenager?  We are in so much trouble!".

Sometimes these moments are so touching that they balance out the other moments....thank God!

But all of these moments are ones that I want to hold on to, treasure and learn from.  Each of these moments, along with thousands of others that I didn't post on Facebook, are evidence to me that I have matured into a different kind of mom than I was the first (and second...and third as well!) time around.  #4 sure did change me....and I am grateful.

So, I thought, in honor of Noah Scott Stevens' birthday I would share a few of the little moments...and the little lessons....with you all.


"My heart melted today when Noah kissed me good morning and 

then said "I love that sound Mommy!"

That would be the kissing sound. :)" 

Lesson learned- I needed to pay closer attention to the little things.....

like the sounds of being a mom.


"Noah just told me that he learned about the word peaceful today.  He said he drew a picture about peaceful.....of himself!  What??!!  Noah?  Peaceful?!"

Lesson learning- I might not see my kids the way they see themselves...

and they might be more right than me. 



"I am giggling while listening to Noah sing I'm a single lady, 

I'm a single lady"!"

Lesson learned- I needed to not take myself so seriously all the time!


  Noah is making me laugh today............ 

Noah: Hey Mom, are you smart?

Me: Yes, I am smart and so are you.

Noah: Well I am glad you are smart.

Me: Why?

Noah: Because I just saw a commercial about a lady turn a postcard into 15 Chuck E Cheese tokens!!!  You can do that too, right?!

                           Lesson learned- Don't let the kids watch commercials!!  ;)


 "So I am shopping at Piggly Wiggly today with Noah.....

Me: I have to get tomatoes.

Noah: But I don't like tomatoes.

Me: That is fine bud, but you have to at least try them.

Noah: Well, it is just how God made me...not liking tomatoes. (shrugs his shoulders and smirks)

He played the God card......what am I supposed to do with that one?!?"

                  Lesson learned- I had to love that moments when our kids live out what 

we had been teaching them......even if it meant not eating nutritionally!  


 "Just woke up the little dudes.  

While in bed, stretching and trying to open their eyes, 

out come the first words of the day:

Luke- 'Morning you.'

Noah- 'I throw my hands up in the air sometimes....

saying AY-OH, gotta let it go.'"

Lesson learned- Every kid is different and each can totally make your day brighter!


  "I turned on the light in the little dudes' room this morning and said 'Good morning boys'....

A little voice from the bottom bunk says, 'I did NOT see that comin'!'"

Lesson learned- Always have a great sense of humor.....

even first thing in the morning!



"Noah Moment of the Day:

He is upstairs, supposedly getting ready for bed.

I go upstairs to tuck him in and his door is closed.

I go open it to find the red-headed, pasty white little dude TOTALLY naked.....

except for one thing.

A pirate eye patch....on his eye."

                                  Lesson learned- Expect the unexpected!!



"Noah is 'child of the week'.  We had to fill in and color this huge poster.  He had to write things like what his favorite color is, who is in his family, etc. 

In the middle of the poster there is a big start and inside it says, 'What makes me a star.'

Noah writes, 'I have a good heart.'" 

           Lesson learned-  Continue to teach our kids what part of them has value...

not the outer stuff...but their heart!



"(while talking about math in the car) 

Noah: Did you know that 16-10=6?

Me: Yes, I did.

Noah: How does the minus happen?

Me: It is like if you have 16 apples and you take away 10....

Noah: You would have 6 give to someone else....because that is kind.

That is my 'restore the hope' moment of the day!'"

           Lesson learned- Noah had discovered the only kind of math I EVER will love!



"Another day, another Noah Moment of the Day....

(after a failed attempt at swim lessons at Aunt Joanie's pool)

Noah: What age was Luke when he learned to swim?

Me: 7, exactly your age.  This is your summer pal.

Noah: Well, maybe I am never going to learn to swim.

Me: Oh, sure you will, don't worry, everyone learns sometime.

Noah: Well, maybe no EVERYone.  Remember, I am different than everyone else in the whole world. This might just be another reason why I am different.

Me: You are different all right....."

            Lesson learned-  Sometimes the kids win by using your own teachings.  Sheesh! ;)


And this last one was just last week.......

 "Noah Moment of the Day:

Every day when I pick him up I ask him for his high and low of the day....

it has become pretty silly lately......until today.

Me: Hi pal!  How was your day?  High and Low?!

Noah: My seeing you.  My low....nothing."


Lesson learned- I am one blessed gal to love this guy and be loved in return!


Happy Birthday Noah Scott!

I couldn't love you more!


In fact... I love you mosterest!


January 07, 2013
7 Minutes of Wonderful

7 Minutes of Wonderful

Last Friday I sat, heavily with a sigh, on my couch with a paint brush in hand.  

I had been painting a special sign for a courageous young woman. After stenciling the first coat of paint for the words that tell the story of her life, I went to my computer to check email and work on a design. Facebook was up on my screen from earlier. The top item  on the news feed was something about a tragedy in Connecticut. I walked to the family room, paint brush in hand, and turned on the CNN. What I saw and heard, as we all know, was horrific. 2 hours later I still sat there.... frozen with sadness, fear and heartache. My paint brush still in my dry and useless. 

December 18, 2012

A Piece Of My Heart

21 years ago today I was making Hamburger Helper in the obnoxiously-decorated-in-bright-primary-colors kitchen (what was I thinking?!) of our our shotgun style slate blue home in Pensacola, Florida.  Craig had run to Blockbuster Video to get a movie for the night.  I was about one week overdue with our first child.  

We never got to eat the Cheeseburger Macaroni flavored dinner or watch the movie.  

In the wee hours of December 1st, 1991....around 2am....our first son was born.  

Zachary Patrick came into our lives after a long drug free labor, several hours of pushing and then ultimately a c-section.  That whole night is a blur for me....up until they said "It's a boy!" and I heard him cry.  Then Craig and I cried too.  There was a rush of emotion that I can never adequately describe in the written or spoken word.  It was overwhelming, big, amazing, scary, palpable, breathtaking, paralyzing, joyful, humbling, frightening, incredible.....  It was just indescribable.  

What I also can't describe is the love we felt for this little 7lb 10oz human being with sweet blue eyes.  It was a feeling we had never experienced before and would only happen 3 more times in our lives. 

 I don't remember who said this, 

but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist 

until you love a child.

-Anne Lamott 

Zack turns 21 tomorrow.  Sigh.  It is so hard to believe!  Sometimes those 21 years seemed to have crept by at a snail's pace (like when he was a colicky baby or a grumpy 13 year old!) and yet, looking back it feels like just yesterday I held him in my arms for the first time.      

The huge-ness of the love...........oh my.   

Zack was a sweet baby who dealt with 14 ear infections in the first year of his life.  There were many sleepless nights spent at ERs.  He has ear tubes on this 1st birthday....what a great gift!  

He learned as a young baby to have strength and tolerance and courage.

Zack was a smart toddler who talked fluently and adult like at a very young age.  He knew how to give directions in a car to someone, point out and name all 50 states and read sight words by age 4.  

He learned as a little dude to have a thirst for knowledge and learning.

Zack was given his first guitar at age13.  It was his Grandma's guitar that she had played for many, many years.  He was excited about the guitar but grumbled at the thought of lessons and practiced the assigned lessons with attitude.  But, in the quiet of his room or the basement he played songs he liked, searched the internet for guitar tabs and picked the strings....constantly.... as he had discovered a passion.  

He learned as a young teen that finding a passion in life can be something to carry you through good and bad times.....and can end up being something you share with the world. 

Today Zack is a man.  He is someone we love more than words can express.  

He is still someone we would step in front of a truck for.  He is still someone we would allow to fail even if it hurts our souls to see because we know it is what will make him a better person.  He is still that little boy who sang "The Wheels on the Bus" a zillion times in the car with us.  He is still that guy who drove us crazy with the teenage caveman grunt answers to every question.  

But, as a man, he is much more.

He is someone we admire.  He is a guy who is strong in his faith.  He is an honorable dude.  He is a thoughtful human being.  He is one of our 4 biggest blessings in this life.  

 Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  

It is to decide, forever, to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

-Elizabeth Stone

Yep.  Our children are those places in our heart that we didn't know existed before, outside of our bodies.....4 little chunks of our hearts strolling around life.  

One piece of our heart is......

walking around downtown Madison on campus gaining new knowledge every day, singing and playing guitar for mission teams in West Virginia, being a loyal, fun friend to many, and loving others deeply and genuinely like God intended him to.  

May you feel some kind of HUGE love that is indescribable in your life.

May you be grateful for the passions, thirst for learning and 

joy that others can bring.

May you recognize that the pieces of your heart that may be walking around 

are another piece of the big puzzle called LOVE.  


Happy Birthday Zachary Patrick Stevens.

You are loved & blessed.

Always and All Ways.


November 30, 2012
Common Ground

Common Ground

On the night before the election all is not quiet, the phones are ringing and the tv ads are still annoying.....

Yes, it is the day before the election.  Tomorrow is very important for our country.

But what is more important is what happens on the days after Tuesday.

November 05, 2012

Dandelion Wishes

Who remembers being a kid and making wishes while blowing a dandelion?  Do you remember closing your eyes tight and wishing for that Barbie doll that all your friends had? Do you remember believing it would come true?

Do you know the story behind this folklore?

It has been said that the seeds of a dandelion carry wishes and dreams to loved ones.  I can vaguely remember loving to find this weed like, humble plant, picking it, closing my eyes and wishing for something.  I am pretty sure that I didn't think it was carrying them to loved ones...but, for me, rather it was like a little hopeful prayer being blown heavenward.

I have found myself looking for a dandelion or two these days....

I thought I would share with you some of the things that I would have wished for.

I wish....that teenagers could look at themselves and see how truly amazing they are!

I wish...that other teens could look at people around them in high school, respect each other and acknowledge that someone different than them might be equally as cool as them.

I wish...that teachers knew from every parent how much they are appreciated for all the time, love, devotion and passion they pour into their jobs.

I wish...that the American people could tell the difference, with both parties, between a politically motivated answer and an honest one.

I wish...that my Gram was still alive so I could go sit on the floral couch next to her in her green chair, have some Panera take out soup, and talk about what I wish for.

I wish...that kids on the bus weren't so mean to the driver and other children...making it hard for my sensitive guy to ride in peace.

I wish...that there were more people like my favorite cross walk guy....who waves at everyone with a smile.

When I think of a dandelion I can't help but be amazed that this plant that most think is ugly and without purpose is the one in which this folklore is part of.  Peoples' hopes and dreams are big, important things.  And, yet, here we are choosing from a whole big prairie of beautiful flowers this simple, colorless weed.  

But when we look closely to this simple, humble useless plant we can see extreme beauty.  Well, at least I do.  The intricate lacy detail of the umbrella like petals are unbelievably exquisite.  The long thin stems that stretch out from the seeds are fragile looking but strong in nature.  

I wish...that cancer had not taken a beautiful, loving woman from her family 5 years ago.

I wish...that I could lose 15 lbs in a day.

I wish...that there was a way to adequately express how much I love and admire my husband.

I wish...that I could have the pleasure of seeing my kids grow up but at the same time never see them leave.

I wish...that I could adopt 12 children from Africa.  Seriously.

I wish...that car accidents never would happen.

I wish...that a parent never had to feel alone in the raising of a child.

I wish...that I could fix things.  Big things.

I wish...that I could find a great pair of jeans that fit perfectly.

I wish...that one amazing blogger could truly know her impact on the world.  

I wish...that the laundry would do itself.

I wish...that people were more kind to each other.

I wish...that Ann Romney would quit calling my house, leaving messages from "the party did not divulge their name" and call me "Sean".  

I wish...that Thanksgiving was a longer holiday since it is my favorite.

I wish...that my children grow up to love themselves, others and God.

I wish...the sun would shine every day.

I wish...for world peace. ;)

I wish...that I knew the story of everyone who bought my signs.

I wish...that my daughter gets to mother someone one day.

I wish...that my sons get to father someone one day.

Did you know that a dandelion can grow in rich or dry soil?  Did you know it can thrive at sea level or 10,500 feet?Did you know that it can grow in an untouched field but also in a crack in a sidewalk in an urban city?Did you know that it multiplies at amazing rates and is impossible to get rid of?Did you know that a dandelion adapts and transforms to live in the environment it lives in...and survives?Same can be true of our hopes and dreams. 

Thankfully there are fields of them out there...... 

I wish...everyone felt loved.

I wish...that all my wishes came true. 

May you have the childlike need to find a dandelion.

May you close your eyes and make a wish.

May you believe that even if your dandelion came from a crack in a sidewalk of a dirty street that it can thrive.

May your wishes come true.  

October 29, 2012

What Do You Know?

There are very few things that I know.

I "think" many things...

I "feel" lots of stuff...

I "assume" a bunch...

But "know"?   Not as many as I would like to say I do.

Here are a few things that I do know.  For sure.  No doubt.  Absolutely.  Without hesitation.


My parents love me.

I love my husband.

Macaroni and Cheese provides the perfect love-hate relationship for me.

The Wisconsin Badgers are the best college team EVER.

Autumn is my favorite season.

A cup of Starbuck's coffee (or hot chocolate in my case), just in the holding of it,

      makes you feel cool and hip.

I have the best  in-laws...ever.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

The love I have for my children is mind boggling.

Big family get togethers are one of life's greatest gifts.

Chocolate has healing properties.

God loves me....and I love Him right back.

The color black is my wardrobe friend.

The Green Bay Packers were ROBBED by the replacement refs this past Monday night!

I am forgetful.

I am human.

I am a mess.

I am ok with it.


A reminder of the last few from the list came the other night.  There was a rare...and much hoped for... moment in our house.

Our son, Zack, is a junior at college.  He just lives about 20 minutes away but we try and treat it like he is hours away.  We talk on the phone rarely, text a few times a week and see each other every once in awhile.   Zack is 9 years older than our son Luke and 13 years older than Noah.  These brothers love each other....but have not, because of the age gap, been very close.

I have longed for the little dudes to benefit greatly from a close relationship with their older brother....and vice versa.  I personally, and with admitted bias, think that all my kids are pretty awesome and could learn a lot from each other.

A mom dreams this....hopes for this...and prays for this.

So back to the other night.....

Zack had come home for the evening, at the request of his dad to help with some heavy lifting.  For the first time in over 2 years(other than Christmas and summer) he brought laundry home as he was here for awhile.  Bonus! :)


The moment....

Luke is now playing trumpet.  He was practicing in his room as Zack arrived.  When he came down Zack talked to him about it and asked if he could see the trumpet.  Luke brought it down and proceeded to teach his musically gifted brother about an instrument Zack knew nothing about.  The pride on Luke's face was priceless.  He knew more than his older brother about something.  There was genuine interest on Zack's part and pumped up pride on Luke's part.  Good stuff.  As they talked, the subject of cleaning the trumpet came up.

Here is where the list comes in.....remember from above....

I am forgetful.

I am human.

I am a mess.

I am ok with it.


Luke told me......back in August....that he needed a trumpet cleaning kit.  He has reminded me several HUNDRED times since then.   Each time I say, "Oh sorry buddy, I will get it in the next few days."  Then I forget.  (insert eye roll directed from me toward me)

Luke told Zack about this and they gave me a hard time.  I said "Luke, leave me a note and I will get it tomorrow".  So...........what did they do?  Zack got a whole pad of yellow post-it notes, started writing on them and sticking them EVERYWHERE.



Luke was laughing and giggling so much as he watched Zack do this.  Luke has the best laugh.  It is infectious and delightful.  It is like music in our house.  Then Luke joined in and wrote one himself.  The photo above is the collection of some of them that I put on the refrigerator, together. On the fridge was the one in the center, "You Know."   Yep, I sure do.

The two of them were bonding over their common fondness to make fun of me.  They were getting close while ridiculing me.  They were being brothers.

I loved it.


I can take any amount of ridicule if the end result is my kids having tight relationships with each other.

I can handle all the razzing they can dish out if it ends up with them being a team.

I can withstand all the teasing they can throw at me if it means they are friends.

I am ok with it.


So, on National Siblings Day..... I can now add one more thing to the list of things that I know without a doubt.......

I know that I love watching my children love each other.

(disclaimer~~~ the next day I asked my husband if he could get the cleaning kit for me because my daily list was too long!  See...still a mess. )


May you know a few things for certain.

May you count your blessings that you have a few things.

May you know..........that loving others is one of your biggest blessings.

May you know.


September 27, 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!


August 31, 2012