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.

Thanksgiving Reflections

10 things I am grateful for this year:

EmilyOaksPond

1. The deepening of relationships and appreciating each person in my life for their unique qualities

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2. Embracing opportunities instead of shying away from them

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3. Seeing myself through other people’s eyes and liking their reflection of me

Spirit

4. Being encouraged to challenge myself and enjoying the growth it brings

FaerieBonzai

5. Joining small communities and savoring the spirit of acceptance and camaraderie

PumpkinsandGourds

6. Living in this day and age, and learning from all the inspirational ladies present and past

longlegsshadow

7. Being an empath in spite of the emotional challenges that brings

FallRose

8. Resilience in spite of the disappointment, sadness and loss that comes with living life to the fullest

EmilyOkasReflection

9. Living in a beautiful world that holds so many wonders and joys every day

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10. The knowledge that love is always around me and within me, which makes all things possible

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Savoring small blessings

I heart my life.

3hearts by Maike's Marvels

The past few weeks have been filled with planning and creating and pushing myself.

newRoll

So it is good to step out and put life in perspective by inhaling the fragrant air and observing nature for a spell.

bliss by Maike's Marvels

New life is emerging throughout the neighborhood.

babybunny

A day trip also reminded me of life outside of the Custer-preparation-zone. Sometimes you have to stop and savor a cupcake.

White Russian at Geneva's The Sugar Path

Along with taking goodies to go.

Geneva goodies from Peaceful Parlour and The Sugar Path

In ‘you are what you eat’-speak, it felt great to ‘be’ a Cowboy Pie on Memorial Day.

cowboy pie from Geneva's The Sugar Path

And an Irish Bomb.

Irish Bomb from Geneva's The Sugar Path

Unexpected and expected presents arrive at my doorstep.

mail

Plus I wake up to this every morning.

Awakening Decal by Single Stone Studios

Life is really really good.

heartstringed by Maike's Marvels

Contentment

“There is no feeling better
than realizing
you are living the life you want to live.”
~ Maike’s Marvels

It’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I am filled with gratitude every day. The beauty of blogging is that it provides a chronicle of one’s life, and looking back through the pages I realize how full and rich and blessed my life has been—especially this year! There has been a tremendous momentum that ties back to letting go of planning and just going with the flow.

Last summer I was desperate to craft a business plan, to form a roadmap of what my artistic life would look like, and yet I kept getting stuck doing the exercises. So finally I just ditched the writing (while thoughts are still mulling in my head) and started creating wall decor and responding to calls for art. From each exhibit I gained confidence, and with each show came another opportunity, a new connection, another idea, and more support.

Rather than decipher market demographics for a target customer, it has proven more beneficial (for now) to just be out in my community, to pick a few groups to be active in, and to let those relationships build over time.

The funny thing is that I didn’t set out to gain customers or show opportunities that way. I was just seeking to improve myself and contribute my energy to a good cause or event. But somehow in having that intent of support, I have received an exponential amount of encouragement back.

“Curiosity is the most powerful thing you own.
Don’t put limitations on yourself.
Other people will do that for you…
failure has to be an option
in art and exploration because it’s a leap of faith.
 
In whatever you’re doing,

failure is an option, but fear is not.
~ James Cameron discussing Avatar at TED 2010

One key element has been openness: to saying yes instead of “I’ll think about it (and talk myself out of it)”, to giving something a whirl even if it doesn’t have an aspect of ‘profitability’ attached to it, to allowing my intuition to weigh in, to learning new things and re-learning what I thought I already knew (but learned more about).

There has been growth on many levels. There is more spontaneity in my life, and more ‘out-going-ness’. I no longer tremble at clicking ‘send’ for an art show submission. I do want to be accepted, but a rejection doesn’t come with a sense of ‘discredit’ anymore. Each workshop I’ve attended in the past year has introduced me to new techniques and ideas—many of which I yet need to implement—that have fed my creativity and are helping my art develop. I know that my business is growing too, even if I can’t show big numbers for it like the ‘overnight’ success stories touted in the media. For my current operation, slow and steady is the way to go.

What I am most grateful for is the relationships, however. This year I am truly connecting, meeting people who are intelligent, worldly, and have an understanding and interest in art, who have high aspirations and who have giving souls. There is a depth to these connections, souls meeting and marveling at the kindredness of spirit. It started a few years ago, but I feel this year my network has expanded quite a bit, like a warm group hug.

Whatever is going on this year, it is making me happy. And from that bliss more momentum and opportunities will spring forth, with targeted strategizing, intention setting and thoughtfulness, but also simply by being, embracing the moment, and just trying things out.

‎”There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening,
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one you in all time, this expression is unique.
And, if you block it,
it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
~ Martha Graham via David Bromstad’s Facebook page

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday, which I have been celebrating for quite some time. In reality, this entire year has been a celebration of life.

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

The official birthday kick-off was with Crowns, the evening before the beginning of August. But I also splurged with the Geneva trip, and treated myself to some lovely art work by a friend (more on the personal gallery in a future post).

 photo copyright Maike's Marvels

Art Work by Bridgette Guerzon Mills

On Friday I tried on Ferragamo Shoes during the WIN Innovation Circle, but my wallet isn’t ready for that kind of splurge yet.

Photo courtesy Women’s Innovation Network

However, I did sell one of my pieces to my friend, which is very exciting and helps toward the newly implemented Ferragamo fund.

 

Dancing Heliconiiae encaustic collage by Maike’s Marvels

In the evening I perused the Hot Wax in the City Opening, while enjoying catching up with all my FUSEDChicago friends. It was lovely to examine their new works and close that evening dining with a friend.

Hot Wax in the City Opening

Saturday was spent at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, where Il Dottore offered advice to passers-by.

 

We also played with hats, and watched jousting, whip crackers and a mud show.

Sunday was spent relaxing and reading.

photo copyright Maike's Marvels

This week I get to see the Six Dead Queens and an Inflatable Henry show again at Piccolo Theatre.

 

The fun just won’t stop!

Friday Fun: Supportive Surroundings

“Artists are very dynamic members of society” 
~ Katie Keller, Graceful Works

Last week was a lovely blend of restoration, inspiration, and encouragement.

be brilliant sign on michigan ave

After absorbing edible and visual local artistry in Geneva, Thursday evening was spent discussing the need for Creativity in the Chicago area. I attended the quarterly Create. Innovate. Repeat. Happy Hour sponsored by The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship. This happy hour provides a forum for local creative entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses, ranging from actors to musicians to fine artists.

The brief Q&A sessions turn into brainstorming on how to monetize or expand on business ideas. Between presentations there is the opportunity to mingle and network with everyone in attendance.

I admire the bravery of the presenters. Some had just started out in their businesses and were already up front promoting them. I still need to work up a ‘spiel’ for mine a year into planning my venture! But I do plan on presenting at one of these quarterly events in 2012.

“Creativity can change the world”
~Lisa Canning, founder of The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship 

Friday morning I attended another Women’s Innovation Network Innovation Circle. I reconnected with ladies I met at the last event, and had very encouraging conversations with new supporters. After being discouraged about my networking efforts in recent weeks, being listened to, receiving tips and engaging with energetic and inspirational people boosted my confidence and has me looking forward to future events.

Angel by Chagall on a plate

Marc Chagall‘s Angel served on a platter

“I love being an entrepreneur.
You can be yourself and not be fired”

~Valerie Beck, cofounder of WIN

We discussed five ways to attract customers authentically, including:

  1. Decide who your ideal customers are and tell them
  2. Use Social Media to go where your customers are
  3. Be persistent because fortune is in the followup
  4. Get yourself into the media and then publicize your publicity
  5. Think big and then double it

Hosted by Furla Chicago on Michigan Avenue, we had the opportunity to shop for purses, shoes and jewelry after our brainstorming. The lovely purse I really liked wasn’t in my budget, but it was fun to browse and be in such supportive company. I’m saving up for membership so I can be part of WIN-member perks soon.

Afterwards I strolled Michigan Avenue, where I found various encouraging signs in windows as pictured above.  I attended the Chicago Chocolate Tour’s 6th Anniversary Holiday Party on Tuesday, where I mingled with more kindred spirits. My Thanksgiving plans changed to having dinner with friends in their lovely home instead of holing up with DVDs and pie.

Support is all around you when you know to look for it. Challenge yourself this week to interpret the signs around you as a booster to your life.

“Somebody out there needs you.
The day they find you is their lucky day.”
~Valerie Beck, cofounder of WIN 

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.

Days of Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year it has really snuck up on me. It feels surreal that everyone will be gathered around Turkey and trimmings tomorrow. After the Halloween push it seems the stores are skipping straight ahead to Christmas. One distressed little girl asked her mom if they were skipping Thanksgiving this year: “Why does the [Joann’s] store not have Thanksgiving? It only has Christmas.” Her mom assured her Thanksgiving was still going to be celebrated.

Turkey display at the Field Museum

Turkey display at The Field Museum’s Nature Walk, installed in 1910

Having been on holiday all year has made me less eager to count down to each celebration. It does not really mark time off for me this year, nor will I be traveling. In spite of my intentions to write some Thanksgiving cards that has not happened either. In that regard I will be skipping to Christmas myself!

Turkey display at the Field Museum

Turkey display at The Field Museum’s Nature Walk, installed in 1910

Top ten things I am grateful for this year:

  1. Having the guts to claim this fabulous year of reflection, journeying and exploration for myself
  2. The ever-present support of family and a core group of very important friends
  3. Being offered opportunities and encouragement ‘out of the blue’ that affirm my decisions and keep me motivated
  4. Learning from some challenges that have helped me establish a more authentic self
  5. Taking a fantastic trip to Greece that inspired, educated and invigorated me
  6. Slowly building more community in person, which is stepping out of my introverted comfort zone
  7. Discovering more educational, inspirational and beautiful gems my home town has to offer
  8. The (sometimes overwhelming) abundance of resources available to help me establish my own authentic business
  9. Becoming more flexible and optimistic in my approach to life (= less of a worrying control-freak)
  10. The faith that I am where I need to be and that I will have the means to keep on moving toward success

Turkey cookie from the All Chocolate Kitchen

Chocolate Turkeys from Chef Brody’s All Chocolate Kitchen

I look forward to picking up or baking a pie, selecting a DVD marathon, and reading and reflecting in my cozy home.

May you be surrounded by love, joy, warmth and the aromas of good eating on your Thanksgiving day.

Electricity Appreciation Week

Summer has officially begun, and quickly turned into electricity appreciation week.

Last weekend the Evanston Art Depot held the 40th Annual Custer Street Fair.

All the street performers, the variety of merchandise and its convenient location around the corner of my home make it my favorite fair of the summer. I’ve collected numerous adornments for the self and the home over the past few years.

My favorite theater in town, Piccolo Theater recruits their thespian friends to perform mini comedies.


A magician truly wowed the crowd.

Luckily the predicted thunderstorms held off from setup to tear-down.

Unfortunately, the weather could not hold back on Tuesday night when severe Thunderstorms and a few funnel clouds along with Tornado warnings caused severe power outages across Chicagoland. I certainly flunked any sort of evacuation readiness, and will put an emergency kit together this weekend.

One day of intense reading was great, but the second day I had to go to a cafe and charge my phone and computer up. After the fact, reporters were quick to provide tips. The storm and outage also had me thinking about a business emergency plan.  I realized that some of my crafting requires power too, along with needing sufficient light. My bright studio isn’t so bright with overcast skies. I can’t have this happen with a big order on hand, right?

I’ve been so lucky throughout my life with tornadoes, flooding, sandstorms, monsoons and blizzards. Our family experienced a flood evacuation once (the water stopped at our front step), I safely drove my car through knee-deep water with my mechanic on the phone a decade ago, and this is my longest power outage ever. Having two emergency workers in the family, I am always aware of the “it could be worse” adage, and appreciate every day of health and safety that I have.

So while I hear people grumbling about this inconvenience, I am grateful to have running water, that the few items in my fridge and freezer are easily replaced, and that my immediate neighborhood didn’t suffer downed trees or other damage, especially injuries. It is actually fun to go out and support the merchants in my town by dining out.

Things I appreciate even more now that power is restored:

  • A functioning fridge — open cat food in the summer must stay cool!
  • Hot water — that was a cooooold shower
  • Ceiling fans — that circulation makes a difference
  • Old-fashioned gas stoves — I couldn’t cook because of the modern electric gadgetry in my gas stove
  • My hair stylist — even though I couldn’t blow dry my hair, it didn’t look too weird
  • Growing up before 3G and WiFi — (paper) books and journals are great entertainment
  • Our public safety personnel — they made extra rounds in the dark neighborhoods until power was restored
  • True darkness and silence — I slept quite well without the humming of gadgets and the lights shining in

I wish you much power in all your endeavors. Keep your safety kits at the ready!

 

Affirmations

Today was a lovely day, even though we had torrents of rain pouring down. I attended a NAWBO event that included an open house for a spa (my hands are nicely moisturized and massaged) and some yummy cupcakes. The best part was that I came away feeling supported. Networking is not my forte (it can be very hit or miss), and I didn’t have any expectations today since I’m still in a pre-start-up phase. Sometimes when you are more relaxed about something you can be pleasantly surprised.

I remembered to bring two sample cards, and when I whipped them out (it’s easiest to show: “What types of cards do you make?”) received some really nice responses. One woman said “I feel like I am holding someone else’s baby” and I really appreciated that reverence.  The scariest part about showing your work to total strangers is that they could completely reject it (friends and family always have a slight bias), but nobody did.

I was so encouraged and received lovely suggestions about resources and potential places to sell.

As much as I love the online world, I do feel that there is a need for local and interpersonal interaction as well to successfully launch a business. I draw much inspiration from other people’s blogs and their journeys and successes. Still, having someone handle your art and seeing their expression and feeling their energy when they are looking at it creates a dimension that the Internet cannot replicate entirely.

One of my wishes for this year was to have more local community, and this is happening both on a social level and a (pre-)business level. My family is scattered around the world, and for that social media has been fabulous. However, due to deadlines, class timing or locational logistics it was hard to cultivate regular in-person interactions the past few years. With the loss of coworker conversations, my life could easily become a ‘vacuum’.

Now Spring is drawing more people out for activities, I personally have more energy to go out and interact, and—whether because of my wishing or the “thoughts become things” philosophy—there is a ‘surge’ of new-to-me venues and groups just blocks away from where I’ve lived for 10 years. It is exciting to be part of newly developing social groups and to discover a vibrant local artistic community I can participate in. 

These glimpses of my new life are such a treasure. I look forward to developing these relationships further, adopting some mentors (they don’t necessarily know that they are) and eventually be an inspiration to others as well. If you need inspiration, check out this really fun list of joy-generators.

gratitude

It’s getting darker much earlier now which is throwing off my body clock. The dipping temperatures also mark the coming of winter. It was too chilly for my neighborhood walk this weekend. ☹ So you’ll see more inside photos over the winter season, and possibly some retrospectives.

This week, I’m busy giving thanks for the people in my life. These cards won’t be written and sent until December, but I like the thought of showing appreciation for a year of helpfulness and collaboration, instead of just focusing on the annual Food Fest.

A little thank you goes a long way, and one can never over-appreciate a hardworking, caring, dedicated person. It’s actually been fun to think of synonyms with gratitude, and I didn’t mind using an outmoded “benevolence”, and inserting character traits like “helpfulness” and “cheerfulness” that to me are part of the appreciation of that person.

I’m very much looking forward to the Feast with the “Roast Beast” surrounded by my family too. It’s an American tradition we’ve gladly adopted, and we discover new dishes that go with this holiday every year.

Aside from the yummy food the best part is our circle of thanks, where we go around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. I think it might take a while for me this year!

I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving holiday if you celebrate it, and even if you don’t, why not send a token of appreciation to someone who has been especially meaningful to you this year?

Thank you for reading!