Lessons from Ruby

Recently Netflix fed Ruby into my recommendations as I was looking for another TV series to distract myself with. I sometimes need a re-set to transition out of work mode into house-mode, and a 30-minute episode can do just that. I didn’t think a weight-loss program would intrigue me, but this one had a lot of heart, and while parts of it did feel scripted and staged and ‘dramatized,’ overall the show felt more real than ‘reality TV’ generally is.

Here are my takeaways from her journey:

#1 All goals are relative

When I put my big dream hat on the naysayer in me starts acting up. I look back at how much has happened the past year that I couldn’t quite visualize at the start. It was one step at a time. My dreams have a different measure of success from my dreams 5 or 10 years ago. For Ruby, walking one mile, being able to fit in a car, try on clothes in a retail store, having mobility is a huge dream. No goal is too large or too small to envision, and what matters is that they are meaningful to you.

#2 You don’t need a Hollywood intervention or win the lottery to change your life 

It appears that Ruby initiated this show, and she is the one who created a team around her. She didn’t apply to The Biggest Loser to lose weight in an artificial setting. She started this from her own home, while on disability, and with help from her real-life community. Now I have no idea if she was paid for the show itself or if she got sponsorships from the businesses featured, but the point is that it was her flipping the switch, not someone swooping in to make this change for her (well, aside from the doctor telling her she could die). She is not doing this in a vacuum either, the goal is a lifestyle change in her real life right now, not an intense isolated program outside of her normal environment.

#3 Surround yourself with supportive people

What I like about this show is that she is not losing weight in a vacuum. She has a team of experts helping her with nutrition and exercise and psychological support. She also lives in her regular home with roommates who don’t diet, but who are fully on board with her program. They spur her on, they keep watch over her, and they celebrate her achievements. Later in the show some enabling dynamics are revealed, but again, that is real life.

#4 Celebrate the small things as much as the big milestones

Ruby being able to walk 1 mile, to fit in a car, to go on a trip all made me realize how blessed I am to do each of those without a second thought. Small moments should be cause for big celebration. Our abilities are a blessing.

#5 Don’t judge 

Ruby’s concern about prejudice are universal. We all compare ourselves and judge those un-like us, merely just by one look at a person. We presume things about people who do things differently, look different, don’t act according to our conditioning. Anything strange/unusual is subject to ridicule. When really we ought to step back and examine why we are making those snap decisions.

#6 Achieving big goals takes time and effort and determination

Ruby’s weight loss occurred over months. For the times she celebrated another milestone, there were also days of frustration and annoyance. Tragedy happens and can throw you off course, and then you need to find ways to get back on the path and find new motivators.

#7 When the big goal takes longer than anticipated, remember how far you’ve come already

We all reach plateaus at times. When big efforts turn into routine our body and lifestyle adjusts, the effects aren’t felt as vividly as at the beginning of the journey. We need to adjust our action plan and maybe seek for deeper answers. However, a plateau should never negate where we came from, and we should still honor the effort it took to get to our current place of being.

Plus Size Beauty was my favorite episode, just because it showed how much one young girl can be impacted by having believers in her life.

Have you been surprised or inspired by lessons from a TV show?

Zer0-degree 0uting

Last week we had zero degree weather—not counting the windchill factor. I tend to forget the ‘realfeel’ notification and regret that a lot this time of year. Best to be overdressed than underdressed. On Tuesday I heeded the notion and set out for my little downtown venture.

First I saw Backyard Monsters at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on its closing day. We’d walked past the robotic creatures in the dark before Pinning Class, when I thought I’d have lots of time to go see this. Time sure flies when you’re living the good life.

backyard monsters at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

I learned more about insects (such as wasps being able to make paper) observed some critters, drooled over the morpho display case, pushed buttons of  the fun mechanical demonstrations, and posed by the giant monarch.


There are so many more butterflies and moths to discover!

 thousands or butterfly species

Then I perused “A Meticulous Beauty” which is up through May 2013.

Meticulous Beauty by Jennifer Angus

Who knew a wall covered with pastel-colored insects could be so beautiful?

Meticulous Beauty Wall

Having some time to spare, I also spun through the Judy Istock butterfly haven, to warm up in rainforest temperatures.

orange wings

One the three Atlas Moths that had recently hatched was still there, and it perched waaaayyy up high.

Atlas moth

There are still more to come, though. 🙂

Atlas Moth hatchery

This lace-edged longwing was new to me.

lace longwing

The smiley-faced Zebra longwings always make me happy.


The Cairn’s Birdwing had a butterfly spot on its wing.

Cairns Birdwing butterfly at Istock Haven

When the museum closed it was time to head on over to the next adventure, a Skate & Sip outing with the Women’s Innovation Network. We warmed up on hot cocoa before heading out to the rink, which turned out to be closed after our sipping and chatting. So we’ll just have to do the skating another time.

Cloud Gate looked pretty, and it was a lovely ending to a joyful day.

Chicago's Bean

ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

Creativity burst

Why we play as children
is not because it is our work or
because it is how we learn, though both statements are true;
we play because we are wired for joy,
it is imperative as human beings.
John Thorn

I’ve got a lovely outing to report, but yesterday inspiration struck, so here’s what took priority while flowers were frosting on the window.

frost flowers photo by Maike's Marvels

I made an angel pin for a precious young girl.

angel pin by Maike's Marvels

Earlier I created some fun girly pendants for another young girl. Rainbow commissions are such fun.

I heart little girls

One of these pieces is a gift, but the rest will be on Etsy soon.

studio time

It’s always fun to see where the wire takes you. I had a mission with some of these shapes, but the wire is just as stubborn as I am.

Wire wrapping at Maike's Marvels

Thinking of meaningful words and quotes is a way of making a talisman of each of these pieces.

cutting out quotes and words

Let the collaging begin!

Mother's Heart by Maike's Marvels

Ready for Valentine’s Day, anyone?

Love pendant by Maike's Marvels

I’d say my favorite creature turned out alright for a first wire attempt.

butterfly maraviglia by Maike's Marvels

Spring came through in the midst of snow flurries.

Flower pendant by Maike's Marvels, Maike's Maraviglia

It’s only layer 1, more to be added over the weekend.

Layer 1 of new Maraviglia

I also tried a photo shoot with my Painted Ladies pets (a blog post for another time), but that failed.

Painted Lady NOT posing

Have a lovely weekend.

Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.
It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy.
You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.
Ray Bradbury

a non-post

Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
Francis of Assisi

I’ve been busy tending to my offline life, and don’t have a write-up for today.

There are lots of thoughts mulling in my head, draft posts to be finished, but calls for art, taking down Christmas decorations (I know!), household chores and fun outings take priority right now.

Have a lovely week and stay warm!

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff.
Most fails. Some works.
You do more of what works.
If it works big, others quickly copy it.
Then you do something else.
The trick is the doing something else.
Leonardo da Vinci

Inspiration from Shea Vaughn

“When I started making better choices and setting examples,
all of a sudden you feel so good and warm about yourself.”
~ Shea Vaughn

On Friday the Women’s Innovation Network had its first 2013 Innovation Circle. We revisited L.K. Bennett, where I had a lovely morning last time as well.


Learning about Spring fashion trends

Shea Vaughn was our guest speaker this time, and related her life story along with the Five Living Principles. The mother of Vince Vaughn (had to drop in the brush with fame) founded Sheanetics, a wellness and exercise practice that combines various workout disciplines into a combination of cardio and resistance training, along with addressing the mind and our internal scripts.

“We as women are givers.
Sometimes we forget to give to ourselves.”
~ Shea Vaughn

Shae’s Five Living Principles are Commitment, Perseverance, Self-control, Integrity and Love.

  • Commitment signifies that you “want something so badly that you are going to sign a contract with yourself,” she said
  • Perseverance is about not giving up, said Shea: “It’s not an option to give up or to abandon it.”
  • Self-control means standing up and taking responsibility. “There is no magic pill, no magic way to do it,” she said.
  • Integrity “is giving to yourself,” Shea said.
  • Love involves loving, and hugging, oneself.


Shea told the story of her father making a promise he didn’t keep, and when she called him out on it he told her that although she might want a relationship with him, he was not interested in a relationship with her. Shea discovered that “I can’t make it what it’s not, and I can’t change it.” Calling this her moment of ‘getting it’, Shea realized “It freed me, because I knew what the answers were. It allowed me to take my energy and time and share it with the people who loved me.”

“Sometimes the ‘getting it’ isn’t what we expected.
But it provides freedom, clarity and truth.”
~ Shea Vaughn

Her Sheanetics program led to a new grassroots project, the Healthy Initiative a strategic partnership that aims to prevent diseases with awareness, education and solutions for building healthy and joyful lives. The goal is to defeat obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and other lifestyle diseases with transformational ideas and sustainable programs. The program began two months ago and the 40 participants will share their progress at Celebrate Yourself Healthy, March 9th from 7 to 11:30pm at Germania Place, 108 W Germania Pl., Chicago.

“Each of us makes a difference.
Paying that back is what we need to do”
~ Shea Vaughn

Join WIN tomorrow (January 22) for a Skate and (or just) Sip evening at Park Grill in Chicago’s Millennium Park, for outdoor ice skating, indoor happy hour, and connecting. Ice rink admission is free, skate rental is $10. Drinks and snacks are pay your own way. We will meet at 6 p.m. in the bar/lounge at Park Grill, located at 11 N. Michigan Avenue under the Cloud Gate sculpture, fronting the ice rink at Michigan and Washington.


WIN Innovation Circle at L.K. Bennett 

“Do not give up on your dreams.
Stay in the moment;
because we learn so much when we are present.”
~ Shea Vaughn


ADDENDUM: As of March 10, 2013, I no longer support the WIN Board and its actions. However, I do support small business, women-owned businesses, and the gracious hosts of past WIN events.

The Wunderkammer Self Portrait exhibit of Lauren Levato

“Lauren Levato is becoming one of Chicago’s favorite daughters,
drawing, collaborating, assisting and teaching other artists.
In her new drawings she looks at herself with hybrid possibilities,
while staying in touch
with her poignant animal instincts and sympathies.”
~ Paul Klein

As one of Lauren Levato’s drawing students, it has been a pleasure to watch her Wunderkammer show evolve into the gorgeous exhibit it has become. The Wunderkammer exhibit opened on January 11, with much press coverage prior to it, and numerous visitors swarmed through and responded to each piece.

Lauren Levato Wunderkammer Show

But first, let’s look at the artist’s opening night outfit! What a powerful yet whimsical ensemble of her sheer blouse (offering a peek at the trademark Hi-Octane Redhead tattoo, the awesome pin-striped skirt, the black-ribbon stockings and the super-cute shoes.


Hair: Vanessa at Art + Science Wicker Park (photo by Rory Coyne)
Earrings: Italian antiques from Lauren’s collection
Blouse: American Apparel
Skirt: Ali Wall at Vile & Valiant on Grand Avenue in Chicago
Stockings: A Costume shop in Albuquerque, NM
Shoes: Shellys of London 

Working primarily in black and white since 2007, Lauren began adding color to her drawings in November 2011. Since last year, Lauren’s vision of her show at Packer Schopf Gallery has shifted from large scale drawings that included a combination of insects and anatomy to the Wunderkammer self-portraits now flying off the exhibit walls.


Me with Lauren and her portrait as St. John the Baptist
photo by Rory Coyne

Having resisted self-portraits for years—they made Lauren angry—over the summer a breakthrough came and Lauren drew Self Portrait as St. John the Baptist, which references her family’s religious background as well as St. John’s subsistence on locusts. Inspired by historical anatomy flap-books, Lauren ‘outlined’ her body, with embellishments and symbols focusing on her head and her womb (which has me reviewing Carolyn Myss’ Anatomy of the Spirit and pondering logic vs. intuition as well).

“The sophistication of the work results
not from visual grammar, but from linguistic grammar.
Each of these paintings is a sentence:
‘I am Lauren Levato, and I am [ ] and [ ] and [ ]
and that involves [ ] and [ ].’
They are elaborated reflections on
the consequences of a series of self-recognitions.”
~ Daniel Maidman

The self portrait series references Lauren’s relationship to her nuclear family and family history, which also gives rise to the broader spectrum of communal lore, his(/her)story, legends and the symbols associated with those. The second portrait, Self Portrait as Thief in the Night emerged from the loss of Lauren’s nephew, who was stillborn.


The day my nephew Leo died was the first time I ever saw a red fox and I was captivated. It was in the back yard of a home in Evanston and was so content and playful and it stopped me in my tracks and made my brain stop the active process of confused grief. It was an astounding moment in the middle of true pain, though not as much pain as my sister was feeling to be sure,” Lauren said.

“With a stillbirth you expect to come home with a warm, cooing baby and instead you are planning a funeral – it’s the worst kind of grief, frankly. It’s very thief in the night kind of stuff, a fox in the henhouse: you go to sleep with a full roost and wake up and everything you cared for and expected is ripped away from you.”

“This is one of the only pieces that directly
makes intentional reference to pregnancy/womb.
Most of the pieces are more about psychological/emotional states.”
~ Lauren Levato

Self Portrait as My Sister’s Keeper was an extension of that grief and the emotions surrounding Lauren’s sister, which led to Self Portrait as Forgetting, another expression of grief.

“The undone ribbon, well that’s a direct reference to the ribbon tattoo on my arm, which is the ‘death madness’ tattoo and is about the grief I had when my dad died. So here we go again, coming undone, ribbons on the loose, tethers cut, into grief,” Lauren said. “Now the goat, that’s always a reference to my dad.”


To complete the triptych of goats, Lauren experimented with a larger size drawing (which also led her to decide on a favorite scale for her drawing process) and also a different imagery of the goat. Self Portrait as Capricorn “was the only piece that came to fruition as I went along. All the other pieces are pretty much 95% worked out before I sit down to draw them. So I decided to just push it with that piece and I made the hair so huge that it visually needed a background element and I spent a few days sketching around on the piece itself to work out the exact elements in the ‘hair universe’.”

“By taking the goat OUT of the body (removing dad)
and presenting him externally;
now we can get a good look at you/
now I can control this thing instead of it controlling me. “
~ Lauren Levato


I personally did see a shift from the Capricorn to the subsequent drawings. There is an evolution from just adding a single color to each portrait to adding more range as the portfolio evolved. From Self Portrait as Siamese Saints, each subsequent portrait has at least two colors, up to four.

The drawings also evolve from the microcosm of nuclear family to referencing broader historical myths and art. Self Portrait as Siamese Saints references a painting of Saint Lucy by Francesco del Cossa, and Self Portrait as Capricorn represents the tapestries Lauren loves, from the ones currently on display at the Field Museum’a Maharaja exhibit to the medieval Unicorn tapestries.

“The self-portraits are loose and fluid,
the work of an artist just discovering a subject
and giving herself plenty of space to evolve.
But while much of Levato’s work can
be read as an effort to edit and control,
she is also an exemplar of the dizzying freedom
that awaits when you simply let go.”
~ Sarah Nardi

Self Portrait as Siamese Saints actually preceded the Capricorn drawing and references Lauren’s best friend Skye Enyeart-Rust and their joined histories with their fathers. “She’s St. Apollonia and I’m St. Lucy, who were both martyred for their devotion to God and refusal to marry/have sex. So the rabbit is then a reference to the old ‘rabbit done died’ kind of medicine–inject a woman’s urine into the skin of a rabbit and if it dies, she’s pregnant,” Lauren said. “I love quackery throughout time. And the reason for their deaths is religious quackery at its finest.”

“I like to work in threes.
There’s something very literary about it
but also very maiden/mother/crone about it as well.
You can really tell a story in threes.”
~Lauren Levato

Self Portrait as Prophet is the most personal of Lauren’s drawings, reflecting her love of her canine companion, and also referencing a dream, which she explains on her web site. “The animals/symbols have a system of development, each one is different but it follows the system: What story am I telling? Is this animal/symbol/gesture communicating that? And, usually, what do I need to cut out (what is too much visual information)?” Lauren said.


The last three portraits, (Hex, Caul, St. Ursula) have the most vibrant colors, a reflection of Lauren embracing the use of color more, and becoming bolder in her self-expression as well. Only two portraits have red hair, which was part of the process of adding new elements, whether it comes to Lauren in graphite or color, and how the composition and aesthetics play out. “It’s about the power of the piece,” she said.

“Levato, on the other hand, designs her work with a meditative calm.
Emerging from science, she applies an artistic equivalent
of the dissectionist’s practice: the bloodiest of matter,
the most methodical of excavations.
Her image-objects are partly defined
complex symbols representing internal states.
She has developed the ability to relate important visuals in her life
to specific aspects of her own state of being.”
~ Daniel Maidman

I do see the series of her drawings as an emergence from micro to macro. It is an evolution of Lauren’s relation to her nuclear family, to people outside her family, to the world and its cultural history at large. She explores and gives vision to her place in this world as a self-contained, empowered woman. As such, she is willing to embrace all aspects of her self—whether as legendary and glorified saint or prophet, or as the vilified hex and thief in the night.


Packer Schopf Gallery is located at 942 W. Lake St Chicago, IL 60607. The exhibit runs through February 16, in addition to three solo shows: Wilderness of Mirrors by Andréa Stanislav, Psychedelic by Bruce Riley, and Zodiac by Deborah Baker. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 5:30pm. The online Wunderkammer exhibit can be perused here.


“Our path with her art is an experience
of the intellectual and emotional texture of Levato’s journey.
We see her walking.
We do not see, entirely, where she walks.”
~ Daniel Maidman

This exhibit is the first part of Lauren’s Wunderkammer: A Year of Curiosities fundraising project in November 2012 (Which exceeded its goal at $12,243 with 108 supporters). Lauren will be working on the perks of Wunderkammer contributors in the coming months, as well as completing commissions. Her drawing classes are set to resume in March. Lauren’s website is www.hioctaneredhead.com, and you can follow her very active Facebook page.

Press coverage of the show and the Wunderkammer project includes:


back into the studio

I’m finally entering the studio again after a holiday hiatus. The other day I was brimming with ideas, and after getting my studio de-cluttered I can fire up the griddle again.

Princess Series

Playing with girly pendants

Here are the pieces that have found wonderful new homes, and I hope the wearers will be filled with joy and confidence each time they step out with their Maraviglia.

Maraviglia Sold

You look Mahvelous, darling!

A few wall collages also grace new walls.

Marvels Collages Sold

Maike’s Marvels collages adorning new walls

I shipped some new orders too.

shipping orders

New Year’s purchases

Which one will be yours?

for sale

Maraviglia still looking for a new home

I look forward to watching more creations flutter off to new destinations and adventures.

joie de vivre

A joyous studio day

2013 planning

A friend referred me to Leonie Dawson’s “Incredible Year” planners, which I ordered in December. After getting stuck on formal business planning, this has become a lovely alternative to kicking off the new year.

Critical to the process is closing out 2012. Leonie offers exercises to look back and determine what was accomplished, what could be changed, and even includes a rant session. Then she has us say farewell to the old, and get ready for the new.


It’s not that her exercises are new to me. I think the difference is that she makes it fun. We don’t have to plan in a linear fashion. She writes to skip pages if they don’t sing to us. And she acknowledges that life won’t sing to us sometimes, and offers lists to get us out of times ‘when everything sucks’.

I filled out some pages with ease, and others took me weeks to mull over. I still haven’t figured out what my dream vacation would look like, but I am determined to schedule one.

For the business I will supplement her worksheets with those of the $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, and experiment with other articles and exercises as well. But it felt good to have permission to do this at my own pace, in my own way, rather than pushing through page 2 to get to page 3.


My word of the year took a bit of internal arguing this year. I had a few, but the strongest emotion came from ‘magic’. It wasn’t a good emotion. Magic doesn’t feel actionable. Magic feels silly. It implies suspending disbelief, it connotes sitting back and watching things sparkle, it’s not something I can just ‘do’: I don’t have control over it.

Once the word popped up, every single day had a reference to magic, whether a quote or a song, an image or a comment someone made.


And maybe that’s the message. To not overthink this year. To do what I can, to fill out the 100-things-to-do list, set my goals and add the daily steps by which to achieve them, to improve on good habits, but to also let the magic in.

So let’s have a magical year, shall we?


So I started organizing my home in December, and it is taking much longer than anticipated.

“The ability to simplify means
to eliminate the unnecessary
so that the necessary may speak.”
Hans Hofmann 

This year the physical de-cluttering is also a very intense emotional and mental process. I wonder at the energetic pull of objects I no longer need or haven’t used in years, yet still have a hard time letting go of. I have bursts of resoluteness where I put a lot in the give-away pile, but then find myself needing a break away from that space to process whatever I just yanked out of myself, figuratively speaking.


Everybody on the (dance) floor!

I know part of it comes with the shifts in my thinking over the past year as it relates to other life events. Letting go of old mantras and conditioning that the Radvent process clued me into since 2011. There have been paradigm shifts with regard to aging (round birthday coming up), productivity, value (as an artist as well as from a material perspective), traditions, and my role in this world.

“Three Rules of Work:
Out of clutter find simplicity;
From discord find harmony;
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Albert Einstein

In shedding those old ideas, there are symbols I’ve accumulated in my home that need to go as well. After de-cluttering my living room for Christmas decorations, I just went through the sofa table again, because things were piling on yet again.

un-piling the pile-on

My studio has me wondering whether I am hoarder or if I will really implement those projects that I have lovely materials for. Like the to-read-in-2013 (or dump it)-bookshelf, some of my drawers will get time stamps, and whatever hasn’t been touched in a year (or maybe two) will need to find its way to someone else’s studio. Quilters joke about UFOs-UnFinished Objects-and I think a lot of us creative people are guilty of that.

So many scraps, so many ideas!

I really want my home to serve me as my life is now. Not as an aspiration for what it might be someday. That’s been another big shift in my thoughts. What if ‘someday’ never happens?

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness.
Just because they’re not on your road
doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”
~ H. Jackson Brown

What if this home is my final home, and my relationship status remains the way it is right now? (Thanks, Mayan calendar!) No someday cottage (in a fairy-tale forest with magical helpers shoveling snow and providing maintenance). What if this is it? Same home, same neighborhood, same car, same life. Do I have to strive for something ‘bigger’?

The shelves are feng shui’d 

There is still room for nostalgia. My ruthlessness does not extend to throwing out childhood books and comics. The photo-box I’ve been meaning to convert to scrapbooks for years will eventually become an actionable project.

“Do not spoil what you have
by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.”
~ Epicurus

But I am more conscious of whether other items reflect my values and lifestyle. I’m more aware of the energy I have in my sanctuary (which is what a home ultimately should be) and the energy I wish to exude on to the world.

Some boxes to tackle later

So as I process through all that, I’m extending the re-organizing project into February. My clothes will be a huge exercise in letting go of body aspirations, and there’s some real life to get back to prior to opening that can of worms.

“If you want to be happy, be.”
Leo Tolstoy

Soul-work cannot be checked off or catalogued the way a bookshelf or set of drawers can. The concept of Qi is certainly making itself known to me this month. Even though right now the process is difficult, the results will be worth it. Letting go is never easy, but unloading those bags of un-needed things to a charitable organization will feel very rewarding.


many bags full…

On that note, as I was having a bit of an existentialist crisis, Enlighten Up! did help me lighten up. We tend to put spiritualists on a pedestal for having figured out the ‘true meaning of life’ and this movie puts that in perspective quite well.


no regrets-or no rugrats?

What a wonderful life I’ve had!
I only wish I’d realized it sooner.