Monday, October 15, 2012

Me day

I haven't had a Me Day for a long time. So yesterday I declared one for myself.

A Me Day is a day I set aside to have a little adventure and try something new, by myself and just for me. The glow I have at the end of a Me Day day is worth it and lasts quite some time. Well, until the itch comes again.

Starting with the Ojiketa Art Blitz (the second annual) in nearby Chisago City at 10:30 (yes, I even skipped church), I was one of the first hundred attendees and therefore received two wine glasses and a great burlap bag, which was the real reason for being there at 10:30 and skipping church. I have two glasses from last year's festival so it's, by default, the start of a collection.

My good friend, Barb, was there displaying and selling her exquisite gemstone art.

It was a cool, brisk morning for walking around the park, a former Camp Fire Girls summer camp, but a great place to greet familiar faces along the paths in the crunchy leaves to the various cabins where art was displayed. The hot cider took the chill off the body while the friendly atmosphere warmed the spirit.

The sun came out as I drove into the cities to the Mall of America. It's my annual visit to the MOA to the American Girl store for Christmas gifts for my two little girls, ages 5 and 6. As toddlers, I bought them Bitty Baby; so each year I buy them accessories. Since they both started kindergarden this fall, I bought them a Bitty Baby backpack and rolling suitcase, a fleece coat, mittens and pink beret for the coming season. Checked that off my list.

Strolled along the Mall with no other purpose, enjoying the store displays and stopping to watch the cake decorating contest. Picked up a few tips for frosting a cake and decided I must have a pedestal turntable and a cloth pastry bag for best results.

Mid-afternoon hunger set in, so off to Nordstrom to the top floor for lunch. My mother and I used to have lunch there when we were at the Mall together and it has fond memories. The bleu cheese, pear and candied walnut salad was wonderful, but I was conscious of the empty chair across from mine and held an imaginary conversation with Mom.

On the way out of the Mall, I was tempted by the cosmetics counter and all the beautiful fragrances. Years ago, I wore a fragrance by Estee Lauder called Aliage.  I hadn't thought of it in over twenty years, but asked if it was still available. The first salesperson said, no, sorry, it had been discontinued. Another salesperson said, oh, no it hadn't and she had some in a drawer behind the counter. Apparently, it's not in high demand.

As I sampled it on my wrist, a flood of memories came back of my first real job in my professional career, wearing Jones of New York suits and expensive shoes. Truth be told, I probably couldn't afford either, but Aliage brought it all back, reminding me that I was once 40 and somebody.

That did it. I had to have it. Wasn't this a Me Day, after all?

I left the MOA, smelling very good, I might add.  Now headed to the Danish American Center for my first visit to their Reading Circle. I had dutifully read Per Petterson's book, I Curse the River of Time, and was prepared for a good discussion.

The group didn't disappoint. Far exceeding my expectations, there were fifteen women and two men gathered for what turned out to be a most enlightening review of a good book and background of the author with his unique writing style. I was glad I came.

Again I thought of my mother, who I try to model by jumping in and trying something new, for better or worse, whether it be a successful venture or a total flop. This one was the former and I intend to return. A cup of good Danish coffee and a slice of American apple pie topped off the discussion, allowing me the opportunity of visiting with some of the people there.

As usual, a glow went home with me, the sun starting to set but still illuminating the reds, golds and oranges of this beautiful Minnesota autumn.

You've never had a Me Day?  What are you waiting for?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Belgian lace

This lovely piece of lace from Belgium was given to me as a wedding gift in 1965.

Its gracious giver was a long-time friend of my mothers, and was sent to me from New York City.

My mother and her friend, Leonia, had become the best of friends while both were working at National City Bank on Wall Street in New York City. From their training days to their various promotions, they, along with another co-worker, Margie, became a close threesome.

Many stories were recalled  by my mother of those happy days as a young woman in her first professional job. When my mother married and moved to Minnesota for a business opportunity for Dad, she and Lee, as Mom called her, remained in touch.

Never losing contact, they called each other often, right up until Mom's passing. They enjoyed sharing various clippings, bulletins, announcements, or snippets of news from their corners of the world. Mom especially loved getting articles or human interest stories from the New York Times that Lee would send from time to time.

And on any special occasion, be it Mother's Day, Easter, Mom's birthday and so on, I knew Mom would be telling me she had talked to Lee. They had a very special bond and both had sealed this wonderful friendship long ago.

I have tried to stay in contact with Lee since Mom's passing since I realize how difficult it must be to lose a dear friend. Lee also helps me to keep a piece of my mother's past.

I called her recently to ask about this piece of lace. I never knew its history.

Lee was happy to talk about it and was a bit surprised, but pleased, that I had kept it all these years. She told me my gift of long ago was among the pieces brought by Lee's mother and brothers when they came to America from Belgium in 1958.

Belgium is renowned as the leading maker of fine lace, still practiced to this day exclusively by hand. You won't find any lace factories in Belgium.

Belgian lace making, like many other needle arts, shares the story of European winters that were cold and dark. Days were long; folks were indoors. Working with bobbins and a pillow, hooks and needles, fabric and threads, they passed the time creating fine things. These were things that could adorn their homes but could never be bought.

Her brothers, Lee noted, also did lace making. I shouldn't have been surprised by this. The dexterity required to work with wooden bobbins might better fit a man's hand than perhaps stitching using a fine needle. And so my piece could have been made by any one of her family members.

Lee still has a collection of pieces with such cherished memories attached to each one.

Many fiber art forms have made a comeback. People are turning to simple things, perhaps with the changing economy. Yarns, fabrics and threads do not need to be expensive and beautiful creations result in people just sitting still and allowing their creative instincts to blossom.

Classes in knitting, stitching, weaving, bobbin lace making and other techniques are thriving, many offered through a community education program for a low cost. Knitting stores are happy to have you come and sit while you knit, and learn some new stitches.

The satisfaction gained from a finished piece is worth the time the effort. And who knows what piece you create today might be a cherished heirloom in years to come?