Invisible work

It’s a week of invisible work. I have a number of blog posts in my head but real life keeps me from writing them.

Valentine’s Day is looming and before I could start making I had to do some organizing. So much happened in the jewelry bench drawers and yet it seemed like I spent hours in the studio clearing nothing.

Tools are cleaned and back in their spots.

My high school friend was nominated for the Grammys and I watched as I continued organizing my studio. He won!!!

I will always remember this piece that I dropped mid-bend to take screenshots of the live stream.

I had some fun social time with friends, including visiting Ayla’s amazing $1 sale (ends tomorrow!). Pro tip: Go with a friend so you can split up the strands and get twice the projects!

I am also sofa shopping, and pondering the options, along with debating how big it should be after reading about furniture free living.

For Christmas I gifted myself a craft cart that I had always wanted since spotting it on Kelly Rae Roberts’ blog. I am super excited at how much it stores and worked with box lids to layer the tiers up with project ideas.

There is still a whole lot to be done, but I feel somewhat accomplished.

I also threw some old clothing into my trunk to enable the donation drop-off. My plates were so faded it was high time for new ones, which came in the mail this week. Putting those on is also part of the ‘stuff people don’t see’ list.

On a lovely Saturday afternoon I came upon a twitter gathering.

Then I worked on my closet shelves for a bit. They’ve filled up quite a bit since the closet makeover.

After the Grammys I carved out a space to make some Valentines which are headed over to the Evanston Pop Up Gallery soon.

We’ll see if the big table gets before and afters in the near future.

Art Journaling for Relaxation

This week I am trying to create order in my studio, which is hard to do after sifting through storage units last week. I seem to have reached my organizing quota.


I am looking forward to replenishing my musical pendant inventory and creating some Valentines for February when order is restored.


Next week I hope to refresh the shelf at the Pop Up Gallery. Until then my ornaments are still $5 off.

Meanwhile, I am part of an art journaling Facebook group that has been fun.

Mostly I see my pages as backgrounds for future musings, but some might remain as standalone art works.

We get various prompts, like drawing circles, doodling on strips of collaged paper, stamping with various random items found around the house, using colors we don’t normally choose etc.

It helps me to settle to do something like this, and is also fun to do with friends and family.

At a The Collage Cafe drop-in I made a collage from paper scraps.

It got me to dig out some templates I had never used.

Sometimes it is good to have a project that takes me out of solopreneur mode where the outcome doesn’t have to be sellable.

Plus it is fun to see what everyone else does and how other people express themselves.

I had fun with the word cloud challenge when I was in Houston.

Self care is good, and pausing from the daily grind with a bit of coloring is therapeutic.

Some collage snippets even offer wisdom and humor.

We’ll see what these two get embellished with in the future!

Easing into 2018

Weather is interesting. The deep freeze has made it more tiring to go outside. Just bundling up is an effort, and then dealing with the cold another. So I’ve limited my outdoorsyness, and also learned that I am not crazy to think this has been my frostiest winter yet. I had never seen my studio windows completely frosted over.

Now my windows are finally defrosting, I don’t have to wait hours on end for AAA to jumpstart my car, and I am actually heading to warmer climes for another post-Harvey purge trip.

I am taking steps to get some accountability with my new year’s goals, but am also realizing that I need to pace myself a bit. Instead of implementing wellness steps January 1, it will have to wait until the 22nd, and that’s OK.

It is so easy to want to do ALL the things right at the beginning of the year, but truthfully I haven’t finished processing the past year. So both administratively, physically and mentally there is some house cleaning to be done before I can genuinely launch into 2018.

Meanwhile, I am also looking at the Q1 opportunities and have applied to those of course. So several things are on the books for February and March that I will start promoting in the near future. But this week, I am still allowing myself to absorb life, rather than rushing ahead.

Several sources are telling me to chunk out my goals, instead of tackling every single one at once. It is also about picking what genuinely motivates you, rather than focusing on external factors for living the best life. I know from experience that unless I enjoy it, a goal will not have staying power. That goes for eating healthy foods, for exercise, and for other activities.

So I will focus on tailored plans for me, and will follow my intuition on what is the right path to pursue for wellness, work, and life.

Reflecting in Ice

We’re entering another deep freeze here in Chicagoland, which is perfect for holing up. This week I am doing a writer’s retreat in my own town, since the unpredictable weather had me leery of driving up to the White Pines.

I am looking forward to focusing on my September plans which were derailed by Harvey. While the trauma and drama of this weather event was uninvited, I also saw a lot of good come out of it, and am grateful I had the time and means to assist my family in the aftermath.

My heart goes out to those who dealt with devastating events, and I am well aware that while ‘the news’ moves on to current headlines, the impact of one day or one week in time has repercussions that continue to ripple.

I wish strength and comfort and faith to those still struggling to recover from their personal devastation.

Meanwhile, I strive to focus on the positive, and will continue to do so. There is a lot to be grateful for.

So live joyfully, find the good in life, and know that you have an impact beyond your own perception. You are in this world to brighten someone else’s life, and whatever you feel called to do is indeed your purpose here.

Here’s to a fresh start in 2018, and a continuation of all the good you are striving toward. Keep on keeping on. The universe will make a way for you to achieve your dreams.

Holiday Hibernation

It’s funny how you think you have loads of time to do things after the holiday shows, but then a week of holiday prep just flies by and your aspirational to-do list still sits there. Meanwhile the books you picked up from the library are tempting…

Then I slowed down for a minute, and now the to-do list isn’t as urgent…

My friend brought a mini tree and a present that I enjoyed looking at in anticipation of Christmas Eve.

We had a lovely white Christmas here in Evanston, and I enjoyed watching the snow fall.

Soon I was eager to go outside and explore the winter wonderland.

It was fun to re-walk the streets after an earlier evening of Christmas lights exploring.

On Christmas Day the windows started frosting over.

So I took a cue from Hygge and read.

I also indulged in holiday movies, and binge watched Zumbo’s Just Desserts, which led to some sweet snacking,

Half of my Holiday Cards are now written, though my native language is getting rustier each year. I will get to the last few by New Year’s.

Now it is getting even colder out, so apart from a few pre-planned outings I plan to stay in for the week.

Next week I will do a writer-hibernation staycation, and am excited to get started on that. But for now, I will take the rest my brain and body crave, and marinate in the holiday for a little longer.

The time between Christmas and New Year’s is perfect for reflecting and taking stock of what life has brought, along with hope for what it has yet to bring.

It’s fun to live in my own Narnia, and to enjoy being where I am at without wishing for anything to be different.

In spite of all the shifts that have happened over the past year and the drama that came along with some of it, I am glad to be here in the present, and quite excited about what the future holds.

Social Week

Wow, first Advent barely registered with me, I did second Advent on a Monday, and third Advent completely slipped by. It is 9 pm as I write this post because Monday and Tuesday breezed without my writing anything. I do however want to give you one blog post this week, even though my mind is oversaturated.

My computer is too. Instead of writing my regular Tuesday blog that time was spent troubleshooting memory issues, scanning drives and Googling how to declog my mid-2012 laptop. One factor is that it is my 800th blog post today (since October 2010)!

Congratulations to me! I learned to congratulate myself on milestones at Sergio and Yanina Gomez’ Goal Setting Webinar earlier today. I recommend the replay.

I learned from my web helper that I need to change the way I set up photos, and a revamp is on the way. Meanwhile, you can ‘shop’ for my ornaments on Facebook, although shipping them in time for Christmas is nigh impossible as of this afternoon. Still Evanstonians can claim them and I will meet them at Brothers K for caffeine and a handover.

Meanwhile, Sacred Art featured my angel in their Grandma gift-giving video. The whole series is a blast to watch, so check out the rest of them.  

I had a blast at the Evanston Pop Up Gallery on Thursday and angels are steadily fluttering out of the Downtown Evanston Store.

On Friday I kicked off my Christmas ‘vacation’ at the premiere of Nutcracker on Ice, my local tradition. I love this production that showcases skaters of all ages, and had some Junior Olympian talent present this year!

On Saturday I paid a visit to Sacred Art to drop off my wine angels (and more) and did a visual inventory check. A few pendants and a keychain are available here too, so check out the plethora of gifts in this lovely Lincoln Square store.

After that I visited the Dank Haus for their Weihnachtsmarkt where many of my friends were vending that day (one borrowing a tree of mine). With my German roots tended to, I crossed the street to the Pannenkoekenhuis which I have passed for years but had never set foot in. My ham and cheese Pannenkoek was delicious!

Sunday the fun continued with an Artist Talk by Kelly Mathews and music by Heather Lynne Horton at TheNewStudio, which is a lovely intimate Evanston art venue. 

Yesterday I shipped what is likely my final Christmas package for the season.

Now I will take time to stroll the Main-Dempster Mile. It is so festive and I haven’t seen my small business friends since October!

I look forward to reflecting on the past year, organizing the home to refresh it, and then set some goals for the new year.

Ready for Advent

On Sunday Advent begins again.

When mom came to visit for her post-Harvey getaway, we spotted some lovely advent mittens at Ten Thousand Villages. We promptly decided it would be a fun craft activity for the family.

So after the Turkey feast we sat down and gathered quote books and coloring supplies. Together we lined up along the kitchen island and used quotes from our books that applied to each family member.  We also doodled and Zentangled.

Soon the boxes were filled with 21 messages, plus 3 mini bars of chocolate to sweeten the surprise.

We placed each paper in a mitten, and four of us now share a daily ritual for the month of December. The box comes with preprinted daily blessings as well, so we will be able to use those next year.

I helped mom hang hers.

When I got home I set up my Christmas Mantle.

This year I’m just using what’s on the mantle already, along with lights and a few small ornaments that were easy to reach.

I incorporated creations acquired at Chicago’s Sacred Art, and Evanston’s The Pop Up Gallery, Shaker Traditions, Secret Treasures, and Ayla’s Originals.

A few came from Wiesbaden’s Cuckoo Clock and famed German Holzschnitzereien.

Some angels are gifts from my family. They’ve come from Africa, Bali, Luxembourg and Germany.

My Photobomb Angel just turned two and I like having her hang out with these family members.

It is fun to rearrange the collection with creations by my friends, like Chai Wolfman.

After the Bucktown Holiday Fair I will set up a Christmas tree with my handmade ornaments.

Do you have an Advent Calendar?

Gratitude

I’m off to spend quality time with family for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Every 2 years my cousin flies from Germany for the Turkey Feast.

This year we’ll have a slumber party in mom’s new apartment and just spend time contemplating our lives. Each family member present is experiencing a re-set of some sort, and I definitely have a sense of new beginnings for everyone.

Life is full of flux, but we tend to try to control things with careerpathing and goal setting. Ironically, I feel more secure living this unpredictable solopreneurial life than I did in my corporate jobs. Even though the pay was regular and significant, the constant interpersonal strife made for difficult work. Opportunities for promotion were in other people’s hands and sometimes determined in non-quantifiable ways. Now I need to hustle harder to earn my keep, but I know that it is up to me to create income and to figure out how to grow my business. I don’t feel super-successful at it, but I do value the work I put into it and don’t feel like anyone is negating my efforts.

This year I am grateful for a sense of peace and contentment. Life isn’t perfect, but it is wonderful and full of opportunity.

I am grateful for the health and safety of my family. We’ve had quite a few scares this past year, so knowing that everyone is working on their mental, physical and emotional well-being is a good place to be. I also know that despite cultural messaging to the contrary, my body is healthy and flexible and in good shape. I have the resources and means to keep it healthy, and the opportunity to adorn it as I please.

I am grateful for the material gifts I have. The Abundance Mindset is still a work in progress, but I am well-aware that I am fortunate with what I have worked hard for and my financial management is sound. Feeling safe and at peace in one’s home is significant, as is being content with where one lives instead of looking for the next thing to acquire or upgrade to.

I am grateful for business growth. Each year has been better than the last for Maike’s Marvels. While generating life-supporting income will require an exponential burst through some side hustles, I am grateful for the organic growth that has occurred through the abundance of consignment opportunities and art fairs available to me in Chicagoland.

I am grateful for professional connections. Knowing that my skills are valued gives me the peace of mind that opportunities will continue to appear for me, and helps me feel secure as freelance gigs ebb and flow.

I am grateful for my community. It has taken a decade to feel at home in Evanston, but now I feel like I truly have neighbors and am pleasantly surprised to bump into people who know me by name as I stroll around town.

I am grateful for true friends. It is hard to maintain friendships when life is so busy and people are in different phases. Social media has both helped maintain connections but also a trap of superficiality. It is important to spend quality one-on-one time with people and also pick up the phone for a real conversation rather than rely on text messaging alone.

I am grateful for hope and joy and faith and love. This year has been so draining with so many disasters, the pandora’s box of awareness spilling over, and the call for activism for so many important causes. It’s been hard to play Pollyanna’s “glad game” at times, and even harder to hold on to sparks of joy during so much overwhelm-ment. But ultimately love still prevails, and if we can brighten someone’s day one smile or one act of kindness at a time, we can still change the world and make it a better place. 

I hope that you too are filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving, and wish you a sense of contentment and peace as life continues on this holiday season.

Disaster Fatigue

I definitely have disaster fatigue, and I am only marginally affected. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston I was tense waiting for updates from my family as the rains fell.

On August 28 I felt guilty for the lovely weather and listening to life-as-usual conversations. Meanwhile, friends and family were watching water rise into their neighborhoods. Facebook after Facebook update showed me the breadth of this disaster, with former high school classmates and families impacted greatly.

Each impending disaster piles on more of that stress. People want to help and try to find ways to donate, which then creates an avalanche of donation requests.

Then the criticism of aid organizations arises and whether the ones broadcast by the media are actually using the funds for good.

As the storm passes, opinions abound on what should have been done and which government agency got the disaster plan wrong. Polarization, greed, ‘not my problem’ reasoning piles up. Meanwhile, the aftermath of the storm is life changing for many, and coulda-woulda-shoulda does nothing to mitigate the damage.

At the end of September, I flew out to physically help with my mom’s move to a new apartment.

Even though she lived in a nice neighborhood, debris had not been picked up a full month after the storm. I was not prepared for the piles of personal belongings sitting on the curbs, swallowing up entire front yards.

In the house (which got 30 inches of water), the smell of mold is pervasive. No a/c can fight it. Airing a house out in a humid tropical climate is virtually impossible.

Various blocks of small business are closed. Banks have temporary ATMs set up in a tent on their parking lots. One street is full of debris, another a block away has no damage at all.

Greeting acquaintances is followed by exchanges of how each person fared in the storm. There is survivors guilt for those who had minimal damage. They refrain from saying much because others had it worse. Yet the grief still needs to be acknowledged. We can count blessings and cry at the same time.

I helped mom with her flood insurance paper work. This involved going through the house mentally to fill in line items for each room.

Thoughts were oscillating between big ticket items like furniture pieces to pantry contents to clothing to wondering if it is worth to put stationary and wrapping paper on the spreadsheet since in comparison that loss is not as large as others emotionally and financially.

When the trash was picked up, Harvey left its imprint on the grass.

Debates about standing for the anthem seemed malapropos. And yet people also crave normalcy. They want to resume their running routine on a trail that has now been diverted due to flood damage. Life goes on, and yet life is so different.

There is a lot to coordinate. People have short fuses trying to keep all the to-dos in their heads. Those standing by to help feel like disciplinarians.

Involuntary purges of possessions lead to a reassessment of life, and for our family, we can see it as fresh start (and a little bit of humor helps with coping as well).

Houston is resilient and will come out of this. But many families are devastated. Not everyone can move on from this trauma the way my mom’s circle is able to.

Houston understands storms, and to realize how long recovery is taking there makes me worry for the storms that came after.

For regions hit by Irma and Maria, the cleanup efforts are more difficult than what I saw in Houston. Wildfires are burning, earthquakes keep happening, tsunamis and volcanos pose threats. And then there is violence. Guns, beatings, brutality, emotional violence.

We are all broken. We are all grieving. We all have damage.

The comparison of damage, the bargaining about it, the valuing of one disaster over another, the bragging about donations are all irrelevant tracking devices. Disaster is disaster. The order of magnitude has no bearing.

Comparing is ego-based. Giving, caring and listening is love-based.

As another Harvey garners triggering news, I am going to take a break from the media and from reading #metoo statuses and reading about devastation.

It is time for a bit of self-care before I launch into the holiday fair season, and to focus on my microcosm for a bit. The world will keep turning as I tend to those closest to me, and the activism and donating can be handled by others for a little while.

As the flight attendant reminded me on the plane home, I need to put on my own oxygen mask and take a deep breath before being able to help others out.

Ultimately, there is hope and faith and love in this world, and my aim is to focus on the joy rather than the pain.

Elmhurst Art Museum

Last week I visited the Elmhurst Art Museum, which has two lovely exhibits up.

The cartoon-like works of the Forced Field exhibit by Hebru Brantley seem cheerful at first, but have an underlying message that is more serious. Hebru’s Flyboy is a recurrent theme, based on the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II.

The collection is a vibrant array of 2-d and 3-d art, and the power of repetition is clearly illustrated in both his painted and sculptural works. His Lil Mama character is also featured in the exhibit.

In the exhibit notes, the works showcased at the Museum also allude to the way communities keep each other in check, not wanting a person to break out of the mold. It is interesting to consider that we want our younger generations to excel, yet if they get too adventurous those around them will over-protect and try to reel them back in.

The title “Forced Field” is a reference to South Siders not letting anyone go past a certain point of their neighborhood out of fear and/or ignorance.

The titles add a sinister dimension to the vibrant paintings on display. Some were over my head, but others indicated the state of the nation very clearly.

Not being American I am learning a lot about the history of race relations, yet I suspect that many viewers will be introduced to new ideas through Hebru’s art.

There is a graffiti wall by Hebru in the museum where people can add art and take selfies as Flyboy. I like the accessibility of the art work, even with the subtle messaging behind it. Forced Fields is up through November 26, and is definitely worth a visit.

I also perused Wesley R. Baker’s American Images exhibit, which closes September 22. This striking art work also addresses various political subjects, with artist statements going in depth about the meaning of each piece. Wesley’s love of motorcycles is evident in one half of the room, and I enjoyed his depiction of the freedom he and fellow riders experience while taking road trips.

The painter also illustrates his awareness of historic and political events. One sculpture serves as a stark reminder of slavery’s shackles. 

I learned about Ira Hayes through another sculpture.

His native American themed paintings evoke both the beauty and the struggle of indigenous tribes in America.

I didn’t realize that the museum also owns the McCormick House. Built by Mies van der Rohe, the building is undergoing renovation to its original state after being relocated to the Elmhurst Museum site in 1992. The house was originally built in 1952 for Robert Hall McCormick, Jr. and his wife.

Mies designed the minimalist house as a prototype for a proposed group of smaller, affordable middle-class homes in nearby Melrose Park. Unfortunately,glass, steel and brick on a concrete slab design proved unpopular and the project did not take off. The house has a framework of peripheral columns and ceiling beams, which allowed for an open and adaptable interior with movable wall partitions, now configured as storage spaces.

There are also some large scale sculptures on the museum grounds to interact with. It was a lovely outing prior to the Girls Nite Out event.