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On Dreams and Making them Come True

My husband Dan and I are die hard Spartans, as in Michigan State University Spartans. We met at MSU when we were sophomores and fell in love there so I tend to think it is where our family started. MSU means a lot to us. 

About 12 years ago we began attending MSU football games with some of our friends. Together we have literally weathered pounding sun, pouring rain, and sideways falling sleet to cheer on our team. We have sat shivering in Spartan Stadium filled with dismay as we watched MSU lose in the final seconds of a "big" game and endured the frustration of hearing the opposing team's fans drown our stadium with their cheers. We might have been bitter once or twice along the way... So, when MSU won the 2013 B1G Championship game against Ohio State to secure a spot in the Rose Bowl, we were over the moon with excitement. It felt like our time!

All that said, the football is secondary to my love for seeing my hard working husband let loose at the games and have a riot with his friends. My zest for the win pales in comparison to my enjoyment of spending that game time together as a couple with our friends, and now that our kids are getting older as a family. 

Unlike a lot of kids in America, I didn't grow up with an attachment to a sports team. None whatsoever. I don't remember my parents ever watching sports until Dan came into our family. Making the decision to follow the team to Pasadena, California for the Rose Bowl game came easy for Dan. When the question arose of whether we would also attend the Rose Parade, I couldn't believe it was even in question. Of course we would attend the parade! How could we not attend the parade? We may have watched not a single second of college football in my home as a child, but we watched all the parades. We LOVED parades! 

I can remember sitting in front of our small television completely in awe of the floats, the flowers, the beautiful people, the sparkling trombones, and all of it. I don't really have a bucket list, but I think if I did attending the Rose Parade would definitely be on it. Along with attending the game with a group of some of our favorite Spartans, attending the parade seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As I sat, filled with excitement, remembering my awe as a child and feeling it multiply there as an adult face to face with all of it, I was surprised by what I saw there...

The first float - all flowers! Unbelievable.

I will admit there was a part of me wondering about the purpose of it all. It seemed way over the top and even wasteful to put on such a spectacle. It was so beautiful though and this was the 125th Rose Parade. The parade is an American pastime and the magnitude of this one in particular was not lost on me. I let go of doubt and tried to soak it all in. I even took a few deep breaths to smell the roses...

This year's theme was DREAMS COME TRUE so many of the floats followed this theme with little sub-plots of their own...

I absolutely LOVED this one... WE CAN DO IT! Complete with Rosie the Riveter!?!

The floats seemed to be telling a story. A story of hope. Perhaps the hope that inspires a dream?


I thought "Yes!" That is my job and all of our jobs - to bridge our children's dreams.


I was in love with the butterflies!

Even the sky had a message: CHOOSE GOOD.


Yes again! Connection is the key to making our dreams come true. Connecting to each other despite our differences. Connecting to our own inner guide, following our very own inner compass, and using our own unique True North as our guide.


All the drums wore this cover. With each boom we were reminded of the limitless potential of music - to inspire, to heal, to help, to cheer, to celebrate, and even to help make our dreams come true.

How do dreams come true? With FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, AND TRUTH...

So, why not?  LET'S BE NEIGHBORS... Let's do this together, shall we?


Isn't that scary though? To light up the world? To pursue a dream? To follow your heart? A little, but you know what?


It may even sound trite at this point, but I know it is true that love wins, love trumps, all, and when in doubt or darkness, it is LOVE TO THE RESCUE...

The crazy thing is, you really don't need to look too far for support in the pursuit of your dreams. Nope, the Universe is PROTECTING YOUR DREAM RIGHT IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD...

(It's true).

RELISH YOUR DREAMS... Hold them tightly. Keep them close to your heart. Don't. Let. Go.

Get it? RELISH, like a relish tray! Clever Trader Joe's
You know what else? If you really want your dreams to come true, be grateful for what you have already called into your big, beautiful life. Be grateful for all of it. And, THANK A MILLION TEACHERS...

I am forever grateful for my beautiful book bearing, pen holding, paper yielding band of teachers. They fill their paintbrush artillery with Mod Podge and acrylics and use blank canvases as shields. They wear gauzy clothing and flowers in their hair. They are dripping with rings and beads and cuffs and medicine pouches. They speak straight to my heart, inspire me, encourage me, and help me to see that my dreams do come true because as they teach they are also TURNING HOPE AND DREAMS INTO REALITY for themselves, their families, and for you - for all of us.  

So, there you have it. DREAMS COME TRUE.

I never expected that when I woke at 5:00 a.m. to make my way to the Rose Parade. A call to dream. It makes sense though - that among some of God's most gorgeous creations, the bold, beautiful, delicious blooming roses, I would be inspired to share with you what I found there on a highway in Pasadena... That dreams DO come true. 

Dreams are so frequently likened to flowers... you start with a seed, you plant it, you water it, you give it light, you watch as it grows from a bud to a blossom. It's no wonder the roses whispered to me: dream. It's no wonder that together the roses said: EVERYONE, please. Dream. From your backyard to across the country, and all the way to the moon...just dream.

Me and the man of my dreams.

Happy New Year! xoxoxo

Reflections on Making Art, Turning 40, and Living Life with the Man of My Dreams

Yesterday was Dan's 40th birthday (Dan is my husband). Dan is one of those guys who doesn't sit around and wait for his birthday for gifts. If he wants something, he will usually figure out a way to get it. This is great for him, but makes it really hard for the rest of us who like to give him gifts. We have a pile of papers from a few of his grandfather's businesses and I thought it would be really cool to incorporate them into a collage for Dan for his birthday. I knew he was going to love it!

Dan is a car guy, and his grandpa was too. Once I had the paperwork assembled, I searched for some vintage car ads online. Then I decided I needed some pictures. I didn't know where I was heading with this project, but I was having fun so I didn't think too much about the outcome.

Ready to roll...

An opportunity to be present in the moment and to not worry about the outcome - that is what I love about the kind of art I do. I spent most of my life worried about the outcome of EVERYTHING. I knew it would be lovely to live in the moment, but I didn't always allow myself that pleasure as I was worried about where the moment might lead. Or, not lead. What if the moment is leading nowhere? God forbid.

Honestly, when I'm cutting and arranging and gluing, and creating layers of color and texture and mixed media goodness, I don't think much at all. I am playing like my five year-old daughter plays make believe. She is IN THE MOMENT. Hours could pass her by and she probably wouldn't even notice. She. Plays. That. Is. All.

When I finished Dan's birthday gift it looked like this:

I loved it. And, I was mortified.

I loved this photo of Dan and his parents and the '55 Chevy that Dan adored when he was a kid.

I love this stamp - it is the word "celebrate" and the definition, but you would really have to be looking to see it. It's hidden.

I love this picture of our family on a beach in Maui. We took it on our last day in Hawaii this Spring. Actually, right before we headed to the airport to come home.

I was really excited when I found these vintage car ads online. These two dudes look so happy in their convertible.

I love Grandpa Joe's stationery and receipts in the background. I think this is such a neat way to enjoy a keepsake.

I love this little Spartan football guy playing the piano! This is from the cover of a football game program. Dan and I met at Michigan State and he is a die hard Spartan fan so it was only natural to include some Sparty love in his gift. This was perfect.

I could have gone nuts, trying to incorporate pictures of every significant person in Dan's life, but I was on a bit of a deadline, so I just made sure to include his grandparents. 40 is such a milestone birthday. It's kind of like a launching pad into real adulthood. Technically, we've been adults for a while, but I think the first 40 years were just a repeating pattern of being an infant, a toddler, a school-aged, child, and a young adult. As soon as you near the point of real adulthood, say around 18, you go back to being an infant again. You need to learn to talk, walk, and navigate life all over again, from an adult perspective, even though you're really still a baby! At 40 you can relax into adulthood. But you can never forget how you got there, or where you came from. Our grandparents are the links to that origin.

Grandma Mary

Grandpa Joe

Grandpa Jim and Grandma Pat

This is a piece of an old book. The start of Chapter IV to be exact. I thought it was fitting.

I love this little boy, investigating things, and I had an old date tag where I could stamp May 15 - Dan's birthday. I love assembling all these little pieces of Dan's heritage - where he came from, where he is, and where he might be headed... In creating this piece, I was having my own personal celebration of Dan.

One of the things I noticed right away about Dan when I met him was that he loved quotes - just like me! He also kept a journal. And, he was an artist. He was THE artist until recently, but that is a different story. I love how grounded Dan is in what he believes and in how he lives his life. One of my first favorite quotes, when I first started taking note of these things in my quote journal (I am a nerd and I am okay with that), was "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." -Henry David Thoreau. I remember being thrilled when I found out Dan loved that quote too. We came from very simple backgrounds. We didn't always have it easy, and so I love the image of us as young kids, living our separate lives, and both embracing the idea that our dreams were worth pursuing. 

So, of course I had to include this quote, and I think it is really the central theme of this birthday gift - the affirmation that in the course of pursuing his dreams with resolution, Dan has succeeded in ways he never could have imagined. I mean, look at the wife he scored! (only partially kidding) I never want to burden my children with the job of living the life I never had, or anything like that, but I do think there is something to be said for expanding your family's horizons. Dan has certainly done that, and I imagine his grandparents and parents are so proud of him for going beyond what he knew to pursue his dreams.

I love this picture of Dan looking out into the sky. I took it in Sedona, Arizona this winter. Nothing but red rocks and blue sky for miles. It was beautiful.

At this point, reflecting on all the love I poured into this baby, I can't even believe how mortified I was when it was finished. I couldn't breathe! It looked like a big, crazy mess to me! I was so afraid that after all that he wouldn't like it. I questioned my whole getting lost in the process approach and began to wonder if Grandma Mary was in the wrong place? Was that really Dan in that picture? Was Sophia going to grow up and be pissed that her face is covered? For the record, if she is, it's her own fault. And so on... 

I am a recovering perfectionist, you see, and sometimes those tendencies creep back into my head to torment me. Making art is my escape from all that though. Usually. I love the kind of art I do because there is no room for perfection. There is no right or wrong. It is all about the process. With all that in mind, how did I find myself in a place of true mortification?

As one of my friends mentioned, I'm sure it had something to do with feeling vulnerable. When I pour my whole heart into something I intend to share, I feel exposed. I really wanted Dan to love it, and I knew there was no way to know whether or not he loved it until he returned from a long day of meetings at work. It turns out, he did love it. I was so relieved. As he looked closely at it, I could sense his appreciation of where he stood in that moment, at 40, and where he had been, and where he was going. And as another friend said, it wasn't made in China. I know he appreciated that.

For me, gosh, what another great lesson about the importance of "trusting in the process." That will be something I say that I'm sure my kids will roll their eyes at eventually. The 11 year-old may already be rolling his eyes at that one. It's so true though, that I can spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about something that will most likely never happen. I love that making art keeps me in the moment, or in the flow of my creation. There is no space for worry or fear or doubt. It's such a great way to practice that, so I can try to apply it in other areas of my life. The "messes" I see in my art mirror life in so many ways. The layers and textures are just like the joys and struggles I experience each day. They are all part of the great big, delicious whole. It's not always neat, and nowhere near perfect, but it is colorful and meaningful and real. 

With Dan, I look forward to seeing what life after 40 brings, and I do hope it won't be much longer before I can completely relax into it... 

Happy Birthday Dan O.!



There are a few things that are begging me to be shared. I know, it's not like I have a gazillion readers, but I feel like I need to share these things because someone out there needs to hear them. Maybe I will have a gazillion readers someday and that someone will find exactly what she needed to hear in the Heart Connected archives? You just never know. So, I must follow these urges.

It is really that simple. What I need to share in a nutshell is simply that you must follow your urges
YOU MUST (in my most convincing Mom voice with pursed lips and squinty eyes).

Some people call them heart whispers. Some people call it your gut. They come in many forms with many names but in their simplest form, these urges, or callings even, are little (or big) signs directing you on your path.

The tricky thing is that sometimes when you see these signs, you might think "Hmmm...was that for real? Or, did I just make that up?" In the course of a fully developed practice of not following those urges, all the signs begin to look like this one:

What felt so right that it made you light up inside when you first thought of it begins to look a little risky. And the warning sign goes up: CAUTION! STEEP SLOPE - DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT.

There are lots of reasons for warning signs. Sometimes they are even warranted, and we can be thankful for them, but much of the time the warning signs are a scare tactic. Real signs, the ones that feel right they come from Source - the Universe, God, Goddess, our CREATOR, your divine self...They are the signs that whisper in your ear while you're minding your own business in an art class and say things like, "Anna, you could do this. You could help people to heal and grow with art..."

Then the ego mind starts with its scare tactics and says, "NO WAY! Who do you think you are? DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT."

It scares me to share this because for many years I was all ears when the CAUTION signs went up. Rarely did I go beyond this point. So even in writing this a little caution sign is rearing its ugly head, telling me that I am on a steep slope and there could be a landslide at any time. 

Thank you caution sign. Thank you for protecting me for all these years. 
I am grateful for your service. 
The thing is, someone needs to know that it is okay to follow 
the urge she had to day - the urge she had to quit her soul sucking job,
or to pursue a dream,
or to reach out to a friend,
 or something. 
I'll keep writing...

The honest truth is that when you do decide to listen to what your very own heart is telling you to do, the signs often look like this:


You will need to know that the curves are coming. You might not know how to handle them. It's okay, the important thing is to keep going.

When I first began my Heart Connected journey it was mostly because it felt right. It had very little to do with feeling prepared or equipped or qualified. It just felt like something I had to do. So I did it. I jumped in. I made business cards, a website, a blog, and a whole lot of other things. There have been several moments of sheer doubt where I have decided to just stop with the whole putting myself out there thing already. I don't know what the future holds. The only thing I know for sure is that there will be curves in the road. Things don't always go the way I hoped they would go. There are curves. I am learning to embrace them. And sometimes, the curves aren't so bad. In fact, sometimes what is around the bend in the road is downright DELIGHTFUL!

What I'm learning is that as I keep my commitment to show up, the road rises up to meet me. There are all kinds of new signs popping up in my life. Signs I've never seen before that tell me I am on the right path. And again, in all honesty, when I see these signs I'm not always sure I am worthy - I still think "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!!" It feels like magic, really. The more I put myself out there, the more I show up, the more I open to receiving these magical signs, the more they appear as affirmations that I am on the right path.

I was recently invited to participate in a bazaar at my favorite yoga center. As I was getting ready for the event I posted a picture on Facebook of some of the creations I planned to bring to the bazaar. That night I received a message asking me to participate in an incredibly inspiring yoga event on Sunday - YogaLove Detroit. WITH MY ART. YogaLove Detroit is an all-day offering of yoga intended to raise money for Gleaner's Food Bank. This is a dream come true for me - to be involved with helping my community doing something that I love to do! I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am SO grateful that I kept putting myself out there. So, so, SO grateful.

Moral of the story: follow the signs that light you up inside. 

Open to the possibilities that await you. Thank the caution signs - they got you this far, but you don't need to rely on the stories they tell you anymore. Listen closely to your truest, most deeply held stories - the stories in your heart. You've already got your wings baby - it is time to fly!