Friday, August 22, 2014

Morning Contemplation

The first thing I do when I get up on a summer morning is open all the doors and take in the sights and smells of our yard. I pour my cup of coffee, tune into my praise music, feed the koi, and begin to think about my day. The beauty that surrounds me reminds me that I am blessed to be living here at the Hacienda, surrounded by garden plants, flowers and trees.

This summer morning I have begun to focus (obsess?) on our upcoming trip to France. Smoldering beneath the excitement of traveling in a foreign country is a tiny undercurrent of fear: fear that something might happen, I won't be able to communicate, I'll get lost, I'll get sick, etc. Thankfully Dave is not that way at all - everything to him is an "adventure". I tell him that my worrying is just my way of processing and planning, I guess. Somehow I think that if I chew on it long enough I will have all the bases covered and be prepared for anything. I do try to shove them into the background, and contemplate instead all the wonderful aspects of seeing new landscapes, experiencing the culture, eating delicious food, etc.

Being a worrier is a bad habit and like all worriers, we do out best work in the early morning. Thankfully, it's never strong enough to overshadow the draw of traveling. Usually the minute I'm on the plane soaring skyward, I get over it. My pragmatic self shifts into gear and tells my psycho-worrier self "It's gonna be what it's gonna be, Laurel. So take a breath, sit back and hang on!" I think it's a God thing...whatever happens - good and bad - He's there. Trust,

And I get to see some of His best works of beauty...this time touring around the French countryside!


From 2008, first published in Laurel's Quill
in February, 2012

Perched on a tiny pedestal near the cash register at Starbuck’s Kenneth/Madison store sits Stan.  Stan is a homely little man/doll with a bare chest and a big nose. Customers of the local coffee shop sign up on a schedule to take Stan on vacation with them.  Across the room is a bulletin board covered with pictures of Stan taken around the world – Stan on an elephant in India, Stan in Ireland, Stan swimming with Dolphins, etc.

Dave and I signed up to take Stan to Europe in May.  He probably had been there before but we hoped to show him new sights and experience new adventures together.  Three days before our scheduled departure, I went to pick Stan up, as he was supposed to be arriving back from a two week junket to the nation’s capital.  Alas, Stan had not returned to his perch by the cash register…sorry Stan…no Europe for you.

It would make a great story if I told you that I decided to take God with me to Europe instead of Stan.  You know…like I was immediately overcome with a sense of godly purpose, spreading the Gospel to strangers I’d meet in every sidewalk cafĂ©.  Honestly though, I wasn’t thinking of God much during my packing and planning, like so many days that manage to slip through my fingers without so much as a passing thought of Him.

We left for Europe, full of excitement and anticipation, and though I didn’t put God in my plans, He showed up anyway. As we rounded the corner of a darkened Paris street, I caught my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower - twinkling, majestic and reaching for Heaven. I was overcome with thankfulness – many never see such beauty.  I felt the same way as I entered the room where the lovely Mona Lisa sat in gracious repose for the curious throngs – what incredible gift from God was given to the man who captured her likeness?

God was everywhere, every day. In a single twenty-four hour period I was awestruck by miles and miles of yellow flowered hillsides that graced the road to Berlin, only to be brought to tears by the letters and photographs displayed in the Jewish Holocaust Memorial.  That same quietness marked our visit to Omaha Beach, where surely God must have cried on that windy June day in 1944.

For every day that we were humbled by the history of Europe, there were no less than four or five that were marked by magnificent beauty, joyful sharing and adventure that surely rivaled our best attempts to conjure up Heaven! 

Just take a drive through the vine covered hills of Tuscany, swim in the crystal blueness of the Adriatic, loose your purse with passports and credit cards only to have them returned safely into your hands by two strangers and tell me there’s not a loving, gracious, generous and merciful God who NEVER leaves your side. 

 And Stan…well, he’s just a doll.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Happy Birthday, FabricLady!

One of my favorite chick flicks is "You've Got Mail", a loose adaptation of the 1940 classic "Shop Around the Corner". In the old version, two employees at a gift shop in Budapest who can barely stand each another, don't realize they're falling in love as anonymous correspondents through their letters. In the 1990's version, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks correspond via email - he, the owner of a mega-giant book conglomerate who plants an huge outlet across the street from her shop, a small boutique book store. 

The movie is a romance, but the underlying sub plot depicting the demise of her precious Shop Around the Corner as it becomes overshadowed by the giant chain is all too familiar in today's economy. "Box stores" are everywhere touting huge inventories,  mass produced products and self-checkout lines. There are no Megs to query, no experts with advice...just aisle after aisle of stuff you don't need, can't find and don't want.

As a whole, Fabric stores are no different. If I want candles, Halloween decorations or silk flowers I can go to any of the big-name chains.  If I want fabric - I mean real fabric to make a new outfit - I'll drive 100 miles to Berkeley to my precious "shop around the corner" Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics.  There are precious few of these specialty stores left and they survive because of the hard work and perseverance of people like Suzan Steinberg, who still believe that customer service and product knowledge are the cornerstone of enduring success.

As I shared in my first post about our budding collaboration (see original 2013 post below), Suzan and I share a vision of a renewed interest in garment sewing. Over the past year, we have created a new buzz about sewing for yourself on her blog Fabric Lady, and I personally have been blessed to play a small part in her life. We have made over 50 garments together, many of which she wears and displays in her shop on Shattuck Avenue.

I admire, respect and love you, my Leo-Sister, and congratulate you on the continues success of your precious "shop around the corner", StoneMountain.  Have the happiest of Happy Birthdays this weekend!

Be fierce, Suzan...afterall, are we NOT Leos?

 Laurel. Sew On!!


My Exciting New "Gig"
(Published in June, 2013 in Laurel's Quill)

Okay, it's not like I don't have enough projects or anything, but you know me - there's always something new that pushes my creative buttons.  Over the years I have juiced my entrepreneurial spirit sewing for others, designing dresses to sell, creating unique one-of-a-kind necklaces, selling paintings on the street corners, doing interior design and house staging, etc.

My friends know that have always wanted to have my own fabric/yarn/jewelry/artwork etc. boutique, but somehow it was never in the cards. When I visit a shop that I love, I try to imagine how I might "become a part of it", but more often than not, I will just breathe in its ambiance, buy a few trinkets and leave, wishing I had had the chutzpa to do it myself.

Along came Suzan Steinberg, co-owner with her father Bob, of my favorite fabric shop in Berkeley, Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics. Suzan put out a notice to her customers that she was looking for people who might be interested in sewing garments for her, as well as samples for the store. I promptly replied to her. expressing an interest in more than just the sewing gig, but some sort of "collaboration" that might also include my love of blogging and photography as well as feed my inner need to create, teach, otherwise influence and inspire others (there's that "corporate" head still trying to rule!).

Suzan and I met, threw around some ideas and quicker that you can say "fabric", I was sent home with bags of material, patterns and notions to make several outfits for her. Somehow, things are just meant to come together - it's almost like I've known her for years. I will be a guest contributor on her blog, FabricLady, that will feature some of the outfits that I am making for her, along with some tutorials perhaps, and whatever else Suzan has in store!

I am excited to work with her creating some garments that not only showcase the quality and variety of Stonemountain fabrics, but just get women to want to start sewing for themselves again. Both of us think that fashion sewing is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and for my part, the more I can get that message across, perhaps more of the big "chains" will start to take notice and truly be able to call themselves "Fabric Stores".

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