Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Love and Be Loved

Angel of Love and Healing Light

I spent Friday morning working some Christmas magic for a friend of mine. She needed some magic. The truth is that I needed the magic too. As busy as I've been and as overwhelmed as I was feeling, I jumped off my crazy train and opened up to the possibility of making space to do something nice for someone. It was food for my soul.

So, afterward my fellow elves and I went out to lunch. We sat at a table across from a gigantic TV screen. I saw "BREAKING NEWS" flash along the bottom of the screen and didn't think much of it. All news seems to be BREAKING these days. I try to avoid the news. My eyes kept moving back to the screen.

I saw the story. I couldn't believe what I saw. Parents holding each other tightly. Panicked, grief-stricken faces. 20 children confirmed dead. Soon, tears were streaming down my face. We asked our server to change the channel.

After lunch I picked my daughter up from her pre-school. Then, my first grade son from his elementary school. The three of us headed home and waited for my fifth grade son to get off the bus. We drove home. I decided to check Facebook while my kids hopped around the kitchen - giggling over the multiple ways they found to torment each other after a long day apart. With each post I read my heart sank deeper into my chest. My oldest asked if they could watch a Christmas movie. I closed Facebook, thinking I might never go back. At least not for a few days. I scooped up my babies. We situated ourselves on the couch, weaving our arms and legs through each other's arms and legs until we were content in one tangled heap. I squeezed each of them. I wanted them close to me. We watched Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. They stared at the screen, our Christmas tree lights twinkling as the sky darkened outside. I wondered how I could keep us all together, safe and warm, until the end of time. Once again, tears rolled down my face.

Like so many, I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the tragic deaths that took place on Friday. 20 babies will never again fall into a cuddly heap with their mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers. My heart joins the many hearts broken for the families who lost a loved one in Newtown, Connecticut.

What happened at Sandy Hook is unthinkable. The pain is unimaginable. Those parents are living every parent's worst nightmare. To lose a child - it's not natural.

When I see the list of names of the sweet little loves who lost their lives on Friday, it is the age that most of them share that makes my heart stop. So many of them were just six years old. I have a six year old. He is in first grade. He is curious. He is silly and spontaneous. He loves to joke around. He might be laughing one minute and screaming the next. When I look at him, I cannot bear the thought that so many families in Connecticut lost someone just like him - such a big life in that small body, and so full of love.

How can life just keep going after such a horrific loss? Where do we go from here?

A lot of people say we need stricter gun laws here in America. A lot of people think we need to provide better mental health care and services to those in need. I'm sure both are true.

Here is what else I'm thinking though... In order to go on, we need something bigger than stricter policies and better care. I keep thinking about my kids and how they might wake from a nightmare. They are scared. No matter what I do or say, they are essentially inconsolable until they feel safe, until they are wrapped in my arms.

It is time for us to wrap our arms around each other.

Trying to identify the meaning of such tragedy is a fruitless effort. We can make it mean something though. We can stop fighting. We can put our egos aside. We can open up to our similarities, our humanity, and to our lives on earth together, and decide that we're just not going to buy into the fear that makes us think guns can keep us safe anymore. The fear that keeps us glued to violent shows and video games, the fear that keeps our leaders arguing instead of working together, and the fear that makes us think there isn't something more - something bigger and better and truer - out there. Love is the opposite of fear. It is time to love and be loved. To treat every day like the day after a tragedy. We can be raw, vulnerable, and quick to comfort our friends in need. We can wrap our arms around each other. We can love and be loved.

We fill ourselves with so much negativity - the news, the net, the aisles at Costco. Our souls are on a processed food diet. What if, instead of spending 30 minutes watching the news and surfing the Internet, we did that for 10 minutes, and spent 20 minutes praying? Or just repeating the word: LOVE, love, love, LoVe... What if we were quick to forgive each other? What if we hugged more? What if we smiled at each other? What if we looked up from our smart phones and stared into our children's eyes instead? We would see love.

20 little bodies are no more, but those beautiful spirits live on. They are smiling, giggling, dancing in the heavens, and they are whispering in our ears, telling us that love is the answer. They are telling us to love big and hard and real. To love like a six year-old.

May those sweet souls rest in peace. May their loved ones find the strength to carry on. May we all find ways to open up to love and being loved. xo

Monday, December 3, 2012

Loud, Messy Family Love

tangles used: poke leaf, perfs, and lots of flowers and variations of crescent moon.

It's Mandala Monday at Heart Connected. Here is today's mandala...the template comes from Erin at Zendala Dare. I decided to try a little color this week. I love the stark contrast of black and white, the Zentangle standard, but I have some new pan pastels that I wanted to dig into. The tones of the colors are more muted than I expected. I am okay with that though. I almost ditched the thing at one point. I wasn't liking the way it looked. But I remembered... it is about the process and I just changed my direction. I cannot say enough how much I love the fact that tangling, the method used in my mandala, mimics life in that way - not loving it, don't ditch it, change direction.

Over the weekend I spent a night with my cousins and aunties and my mom and sister. It is a tradition - the gathering of the Secret Pals! It all started with a gift exchange, but now I think the gifts are just a cover for a night of crazy family fun.

Through my mandala making process, my wandering thoughts kept making their way back to family. 

I read this blog post today, by Glennon of Momastery. I really love her and her message. The gist of today's post was that the family we see, on Facebook or on a person's annual Christmas card, isn't the whole family. There is the family we see, and then the family that exists beyond the picture. The family that can be messy and loud and sad and angry and not always clean and smiling for the camera.

That loud and messy family is CERTAINLY my family, even though I do enjoy our annual photo shoot for our Christmas card. My husband and I figured out that the secret to getting our kids to smile all at once is to make fart noises. It works every time. It only took us about 8 years to figure out that little gem. He stands over my head making fart noises and I snap like crazy. I take a ton of pictures for the photo shoot and then we narrow it down to the one that says LOVE the loudest. It's hard to depict love, of course, but we can usually find one picture that captures the sparkle in each child's eye and the endearing look that says, "I love my dad. He makes the BEST fart noises!"

Shortly after I read Glennon's post, my mother-in-law called. She had seen a few pictures of my aunties and cousins and me on Facebook and said, "It looks like you had a good time this weekend!"

We were all smiles. I did have a good time with my cousins and aunties, my mom and my sister. We laugh a lot when we are together. It is lovely to spend that time with them and beautiful to capture our joy in being together on camera. It is fun to post the pictures on Facebook for the rest of our very large and spread all over the country family to see.

While we had fun and we are indeed smiling for the camera, and without a doubt, there is so much the camera can never capture. That's the stuff I kept thinking about today as I tangled within the bounds of my mandala. I kept coming back to the fact that in the near future my aunt will undergo a stem cell treatment. The fact that the oldest auntie, my Aunt Maryann, has already passed on and her absence is always obvious at our Secret Pal gatherings. And, of course, that my grandma, who was there when it all started, isn't with us either. That in the group of ten of us, we have experienced many, many losses, divorce, anger, lots of anger, heartbreak, devastation, tough times... all that loud and messy, sad and angry stuff that life is made of.

And yet, we smile. 

We have a great time. We laugh and we love each other, even though we are a loud mess sometimes. Okay, in my case anyway, we are a loud mess a lot of the time. 

Today, if you do these things, take a minute to look closely at the mandala... look closely at the round boundary of this circle, and consider it a warm, sweet hug around your neck. Feel the hug and know that whatever is happening in your life, whatever it is that the rest of us cannot see, it doesn't change the fact that you are loved. Loved like family.

Take care! xo

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What it Really Means to Keep it Simple

tangles used: Fife, Fescu/Opus variation, and Socc (sort-of)

This morning I was thinking about everything I need to do to prepare for Thanksgiving Dinner at my house on Thursday, and Pierogi Day (an Oginsky Family tradition) here on Friday. The list is a little daunting. I have been resisting the whole thing and having flashbacks to the sheer exhaustion I felt last year after this series of events took place at my house. It is all delicious, glorious, joyous fun, without a doubt, but it is exhausting.

I thought about my vow to keep it simple this year. I thought if I can just get through this weekend, THEN I will keep it simple. I took a deep breath and I kept moving. I noticed something strange. Even in the midst of my resistance and fear of exhaustion, I wasn't feeling even a little bit nervous about the coming days and my list of things to do to get through them. This is odd for me.

Then it clicked. When I vowed to keep it simple, I thought about taking it down a notch or two in the volume of what we do...what I buy, what I wrap, what I bake, what I prepare... What I realized today is that while those choices play a part in keeping it simple, the beauty of keeping it simple, lies in my ability to SIMPLY BE. No nerves, no worry, no fear of not meeting everyone's expectations, just showing up to stuff the turkey and put it in the oven. With my intention to keep it simple, I must have let myself off the hook a little. I gave myself the gift of being different this year, in addition to doing things differently. Being. Doing. There is a difference.

So it seems that keeping it simple has less to do with all the variables, all the stuff that gets in the way of really enjoying the holidays, than it does with SIMPLY being present. The turkey essentially takes care of itself. Why worry? What matters most is not what we eat or how the table looks, or even how I look, but who shows up to share it. For me, keeping it simple means showing up as-is and pouring myself into the people who showed up with me. My people. My sweet little, lovable people. Now, I am even MORE excited to keep it simple!

For Mandala Monday (which is actually Tuesday, I know), I invite you to take a minute and think about the plans you've made and all the variables that those plans encompass. Now take a deep breath, and blow it all out the window. Think about your loved ones and what they care about most this holiday. It is not really what you do or how you do it, but that you are there with them. No worries. Simply show up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

p.s. I LOVE this Zendala. I wasn't going to participate this week, but when I saw Erin's template, I knew I just had to do it anyway. I tried the tangle, fife, which was inspired by the Flower of Life and I think I might have experienced some enlightenment. Wow. More about that some other time...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tangling: Food for My Soul

tangle used: a variation of Pixie

Mandala Monday was almost Mandala Tuesday at Heart Connected.

I had one of those days... I woke up late, which was very unfortunate because I had no time to wake up late. Fortunately, my husband took my oldest to his bus stop. But then, my two little ones and I were late getting out the door, making them late for school. I was late all day. And, there was an emotional tornado of sorts striking at my heart today, stirring lots of muck right up. It wasn't a bad day, I just felt heavyhearted. And late.

Early this evening, before dance class and Cub Scouts and kind-of in the middle of dinner, I began to tangle. With each stroke, my heart rate decreased and by the end of my Zendala, I felt brand new. I kept it simple with the tangle. It is some variation of Pixie that I concocted. It looks like a poinsettia to me. Could it be the influence of the holidays fast approaching? Maybe. One thing is for certain though, tangling is good for my soul.

For Mandala Monday, I wonder, what might be good for your soul? What could you squeeze into your day - something little that might make a huge impact on your mood or your state of mind? Could you whip up a colorful meal? Bake some cookies? Tangle. Figure it out. Then, fit it in. You deserve it.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

Zendala Dare #30, tangles used: pinwheels, intersection, eke, poke pumpkin, and ennies

For this week's Zendala Dare, the challenge was all about Thanksgiving...PIE! In my opinion, along with the stuffing, cranberry-apple crumble, corn casserole, and bread with real butter, the pie is the best part. I'm getting a little hungry here now. In the name of PIE, the challenge is to use tangles that start with the letters P, I, and E. Plus, a tangle we have never used before.

Easy as... pie!

Well, not so easy, actually. I am not in love with the way my Zendala turned out. I'm not loving the tangle - Intersection, the one on the sides that comprises a bunch of lines intersecting. I tried to embellish it with a swirly tangle, but I don't know, there is just something about straight lines that rarely appeals to me. But, I tried something new and in the process remembered the importance of seeing tangling as a practice. The point is to try new things, to fall into the process, and to practice, practice, practice.

For the last several years, I have practiced gratitude each day for the 30 days of November by posting something I am grateful for on Facebook. When I first started it, in 2009, I was in the midst of a bad news storm. It seemed like all I was hearing from friends and family was bad news. I decided to bring some positivity into my life by focusing on the things that made me happy. I was amazed by the response. Several of my friends joined me by doing the same thing through November. This year, so many of my friends are practicing gratitude on Facebook and I love hearing what people are thankful for each day. It is always a great reminder that no matter what is happening in my life, there are truly so many things for which to be grateful.

For Mandala Monday, let's all reflect on the ways in which we practice gratitude. A real shift in energy occurs when gratitude plays a part in our daily lives. Practicing gratitude is like medicine for the soul. It heals our hearts. And, there are no adverse side effects! If you haven't already begun a daily practice of gratitude, I highly recommend it.

Thank you!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Afraid of the Dark?

Tangles used: Twilight Zone, Flying Geese, Flutter, Flora, Fescu, Nipa Droplets, Yincut, Printemps (variation)
Sakura white Gelly Roll pen on black card stock, with white charcoal pencil

Here it is! My second official Zendala for the fabulous Erin's Zendala Dare! This is Zendala Dare #29.

I did it on black because it is Halloween week, after all. As I began to tangle, I started thinking about what this week's Monday Mandala might invite us to think about. Because of Halloween, I think, I went straight to fears. In addition to fears like snakes and creepy spiders and ghosts on Halloween, our deepest fears can paralyze us. They keep us from moving forward. They keep us from moving altogether sometimes. What are your deepest, darkest fears? 

Darkest fears.

Our fears keep us in the dark. What I love about this mandala is the white ink coming out of the darkness of the black background. White symbolizes the LIGHT. In the midst of darkness, just a little bit of light can guide us out and into a brighter place. So, let's not dwell on fear. What lights you up? What moves you from the darkness into the LIGHT?

Today is a gloomy, windy day in Michigan. I am thinking about my east coast friends and Hurricane Sandy, praying that she spares the coast from disaster. Weather can be so scary. At the same time, there is a shooter on the loose in my area. He has been shooting cars at random on the highway. Whaaaaat?!?! Scary.

I am trying to keep my eyes toward the light today. For me, that light is my family - my husband and our three children, our extended families, and my sweet friends who lift me up and carry me out of the dark. At the center of my mandala, I used a tangle called The Twilight Zone, it seems to be swirling. I imagine the swirling effect could launch us right up and out of the darkness, into the safety of the light.

I love the way this simple dare turned into something so much more meaningful for me. I think that is the power of the mandala + Zentangle. It is the Zendala at work.

Wishing you safety, peace, love, and light today. xo

For my tangling friends, oh my gosh! The Gelly Roll pen was driving me nuts with its thick tip. It was fun to try something different though. Thanks for another great dare, Erin! I can't wait to see everyone's creations!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Cost of Comparison

I think this is what joy looks like.

Comparison is the thief of joy -Theodore Roosevelt

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is one of my favorite quotes. When I see it though, I'm not filled with a warm and hopeful feeling, like I am when I read a lot of other quotes. Instead, it feels more like a mobster type guy came up out of the blue and pushed me against the wall. He isn't scary at all because I know, despite his rough exterior, he is a teddy bear on the inside. He grabs me by the shoulders and leans in so close that our noses are almost touching. He smells like Ivory soap and Altoids. He says, "Comparison is the thief of joy" in a tough guy voice. He doesn't add "Got it?" at the end, instead he searches my face, he lands on my eyes to make sure I got it.

My eyes say "Yes. I got it." He slaps me on my shoulder, like football coaches slap their players after a great play, and walks away.

Comparison is the thief of joy gives me goose bumps, but I love it because almost every single day I need that reminder.

I used to love taking my first baby to his well-baby exams. I was so proud of my healthy boy. I loved hearing how he had reached all the important milestones he needed to reach between then and the last visit. I left feeling like a superhero. It was blissful, really.

My second baby was very sick when he was born. We had no idea it was coming. Every little fantasy I had about nursing him right away and holding him close, skin to skin into the wee hours of the night, flew out the window when they whisked my purple baby boy away. I felt like a failure. Fortunately, he came through like a champion and it wasn't too long before the trauma of his birth didn't define him and his life here on earth. Soon, he was meeting all the milestones he was supposed to be meeting. It felt different though. I never felt like a superhero.

When I think about how we compare ourselves to one another, the first thing that comes to mind is those milestones. From BIRTH, before we even have a chance to prove ourselves, in our fresh little, sweet-smelling bodies we are compared to one another. It only makes sense that as parents we learn to determine how well our children are doing by how they compare to other children. And then it goes on. We get graded in school, we compete in sports, we interview for the same jobs as our peers. It never ends.

That's just on the outside. On the inside, we actually begin to tell ourselves we are not good enough because we don't measure up to the people around us. We are not healthy or strong or thin or athletic or smart or sweet or aggressive or pretty or handsome or rich or humble or generous or frugal enough. We are never enough. OR, we are too much - too sweet, too thin, and so on.

We can't win if we listen to what we hear, all around us, even when we think we're okay, because an "expert" will tell us that he can get us where we should be. Or, an advertisement will tell us there is a product that will help us get to where we could be. Slowly, over time, we begin to believe the messages all around us that tell us if we just had this or that, or did this or that, we would be happy. Even when we really are happy, we hear these messages and we have to decide whether or not to believe them.

It is helpful to gain insight into our growth and development by comparing where we are with other people in similar circumstances. It is completely natural to gather data about people and our environment by making comparisons between what we experience around us and in other people and who we are to ourselves. The thing is though, making comparisons rarely leads to feeling good. Even when our comparisons make us believe that we are actually better or stronger or thinner or prettier or smarter or more enlightened... than the person to whom we compare ourselves.

Comparison truly robs us of our joy. We cannot be joyful in a place where we are comparing ourselves to others, or even to our former selves. I could not be joyful in the birth of my second son, not only because of the sheer trauma of fearing for his life, but also because I couldn't stop comparing his birth to my first son's birth. I felt like the superhero mother I once was, was no longer.

In the process of comparing, we are looking for differences. As we identify differences between ourselves and those around us, and differences between who we are today, and who we once were, we forget about the qualities that remain the same. We forget about the ties that bind us. We forget about the ways in which we are connected.

At each of our cores, in our souls, or in the depths of our hearts, there is nothing but goodness. Were we to distill ourselves to the essence of who we really, truly are, we are all - each and every one of us - love. We all want to live well, in whatever form well takes for us. We all want what is best for our children. That we forget this in the course of comparison, that we fail to see the divine goodness in one another, is the biggest tragedy of all. True joy comes when we feel connected - to each other and to ourselves.

For me, I invite discontent when I compare my work to other people's work. I will always find better, more refined art and writing than mine. I will always find people who run more lucrative businesses than I do. As I focus on the ways I don't measure up to others and their accomplishments, I lose sight of one of the most exciting aspects of life, which to me, is that there are so many different ways to express oneself.  How wonderful to see how other people's inspiration takes form - to see and read and hear what moves other people. These discoveries can be so inspiring. I want to embrace that inspiration and that sense of community and connection that comes from understanding and even taking pride in the fact that we are all in this together. We may have our own individual lyrics and our own unique moves, but we are all dancing on this one stage called Earth together.

I invite us to make notes about one another, if we have to, to learn and to grow, and to celebrate our differences. After all, what would the world be without big, soft women to hug us? And thin women too? Boring. What would our lives look like if we were all the same color, with the same eyes and mouths and hair, and we spoke with the same voices? Dull. We can't all be athletes. Who would be left to cheer? We need to have different strengths and weaknesses. We were meant to have different gifts from one another. Differences are good. We are all exactly as we should be - different. And, while we hold space for our differences in one hand, at the very same time, I ask that we hold space in the other hand for all that is the same: the essence of what we really are - all goodness and pure love. I ask that we recognize, at the end of the day, we are all made from the same stuff. We are all bound by that which makes us human.

Nothing compares to the joy we experience when we embrace that we are connected.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Truth, Dare, Double Dare

Wow! I tried something new today...

I am participating in a blog challenge! From what I understand these challenges are a pretty big deal in the art blog world. This one is really neat. It is called The Zendala Dare, and this week is number 28 in the series. I learned about it from a fellow CZT (Certified Zentangle® Teacher) graduate. I will admit, last night when I saw some of the artwork people posted, I was very intimidated. I started that AWFUL comparing thing and knew my work would never compare. But, as I was so kindly reminded, it's not about that. At all. It is never about that. IT is about the process and the process was really fun!

So here it is...

I'm especially excited about The Zendala Dare in particular because I am really drawn to mandalas. These little works of art pack a lot of power. To actually create one is quite remarkable, and is becoming a bit of an obsession. The meditative aspect of Zentangle in and of itself is so relaxing, but then to be making mandala, which can be used as a meditation tool, is like cruising into DSW and getting two pairs of awesome shoes for the price of one. Euphoria!

And, like most things I love, I want to share! So, I've been thinking that Heart Connected will feature a mandala each week on Mandala Monday! Fancy, huh? I experimented a little bit with the idea last Monday with this fall themed mandala on Facebook...

So, for Mandala Monday, I'd like to invite you to take a moment to really look into the mandala. Think about the seeds you planted throughout the year and ask yourself what growth needs pruning? Maybe, to make room for new growth. And, what needs to be nurtured so that it will continue to grow? And what isn't working at all? What can be pulled and recycled into the earth for the benefit of something or someone else? No judgment, just sit with these questions for a bit...

It is already October 22, 2012. I can't believe it! This year is flying by and I think I might still be tired from last year's holiday season. The stores are ramping up to do it all over again. I'm thinking a lot about what I've done in the past how that will change now that my kids are a little older, I'm a little wiser (and older), and life is a little shorter. I'm leaning toward keeping it all really simple this year. What is going to work for YOU? I wish you all the best as you pursue whatever it is!

If you want to participate in the Zendala Dare, click the Zendala Dare button on the right-hand side of my blog. The button will take you where you need to go. 

Take care! xoxo

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This morning I tackled a collection of piles I've been keeping in my bedroom. Every little piece of laundry put away and everything else relocated. I'm so proud of myself, I don't know what to do next! The day is flying by now and I'm feeling a little lost in the wind.

My eyes keep wandering back a little project I just finished, so I decided to tell you about it.

I have been practicing yoga on and off for years at a wonderful yoga studio in my town. The studio is run by one of the loveliest women in the world. When I first shared some of my art with her, not long ago, she graciously invited me to try selling a few things in the yoga center's boutique! I was completely blown away by the idea. Then, before we had even placed everything on the shelves, someone bought this sweet little piece...

I was so amazed that someone would buy something I created. I am still amazed. It is the most incredible feeling to know that something I made touched another person. I am trying to think of a good word to describe that feeling. I keep coming back to, surprise surprise... CONNECTED.

So, I didn't realize it at the time, but that same lovely someone contacted me the other day and asked me to do two custom pieces for her. Again, I was amazed. Then, scared. To. Death. As she told me what she wanted, I nodded and visions danced around in my head and slowly, I became so afraid of screwing it all up. I didn't want to disappoint her. I wanted her to love it. She seemed so confident in me though, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe she was right, and maybe, just maybe, I could pull it off. Then, she said she wanted me to incorporate the symbol for OM.


I didn't think I could do that.

But, guess what? I did.

 I started with a red background...

Then I used a stamp to embellish the background.

Eventually, I painted that OM sign! Painted. P-a-i-n-t-e-d. 

I know, right? I can't believe it either. I practiced quite a few times before I actually tried to paint it. I still can't believe I did it. Crazy.

And, now, it's all finished! Custom made art for a woman named Anna (great name, huh?)

I added some extra angel love, just for her. I hope she likes it!

Art is such a great metaphor for life. Art provides endless opportunities to try new things. To practice when you don't get it right the first time. To start over. To trust that IT, whatever IT is, is not about the outcome, but the process. Life is art, really. I do believe that. It's part of what I need to believe in order to support my belief that we are all artists. 

A year ago, I was still drawing the same stick people I began drawing when I was in kindergarten. No joke. Now, I'm painting angels. I'm excited thinking about how my angels might evolve, wondering what they might look like in another year, hoping they will reach out and touch even more people with their messages of love and hope and glitter, and all the while... I am trusting in the process.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Can See Straight

For about a year now, my left eye has been very sad. It looks like I have pinkeye, but I don't. Not my optometrist, nor my doctor has been able to figure out how to make the redness go away. We've tried a few things. Today I saw a new guy - the opthamologist. He has a hunch and I have some new eyedrops. AND, I can't wear my contact lenses. Until further notice.

I've been wearing contact lenses since I was 15 years-old and I received my very first eyeglass prescription. I'm a little disgruntled. I can't see as well with my glasses and I run into things. Okay, so I run into things with or without my glasses, but I do see better wearing contacts. I told my mom I wasn't sure how I could do art wearing glasses (I admit, that was just a little dramatic...). She laughed and said, "I can only do art wearing glasses." Moms are funny.

Me, in glasses.
I know wearing glasses is not a big deal. My dad wore glasses. My in-laws wear glasses. My ten year-old son wears glasses and he doesn't complain. A lot of people wear glasses. I just need to get used to them. Maybe I'll never wear contact lenses again? The thing is, I was already feeling overwhelmed in my life.

I'm taking two amazing on-line classes and learning so much that my head is spinning most of the time. As of last night, I think I spent about 24 hours looking for the "perfect" blog background. It may have been a delay tactic on my part (delay making dinner, delay folding laundry, delay putting the kids to bed...), but I really wanted to spruce up my "kitchen table." That's what we call our blogs in my over the top filled with amazingness Flying Lessons class with Kelly Rae Roberts. I want people to feel welcome here at Heart Connected, so creating the right ambiance is very important to me. I found this one first (the one you see here on the blog), compliments of Shabby Blogs, and liked it right away, but that didn't stop me from continuing the search. It sort-of feels like it was made for me.

Okay, so then I've got my mom gig. I think I just this week finished completing and returning all the back to school paperwork. And, I'm getting ready to start teaching Zentangle®. YAY! It's all good, but it can be a lot sometimes. Simply having to take care of myself seemed to be getting in the way today.

As I left the opthamologist, feeling a little blue, I thought about all the people who receive serious life-changing diagnoses each day. I know life is like that - it can, and it does, change in an instant. I am grateful that for today, I left the opthamologist with just some eyedrops. 

I have also proven to myself that I can do art in glasses! Here is something I've been working on...

I love playing with the funky flower techniques I learned in Brave Girl Art School

Here's a side view:

It's all crackly and cool. I love the way the sides turned out! 

These particular flowers are especially meaningful to me, but I can't quite figure out how to articulate that meaning...Perhaps that will come in a future post.

So, the only real problem I've had with my glasses today is that they fogged up at the bus stop. That's what happens when you sweat while blow drying your hair, then go to the bus stop in 31 degree weather. I'm sure a wearing glasses learning curve can be expected. And, that's what I get for blow drying my hair!

That is all from me today, your Heart Connected, Grateful Artist in Glasses. 

Sending love... xoxo

Monday, September 24, 2012

Too Tangled, the Conclusion

As it turns out, trying to update my blog from my iPad is nowhere near as awesome as it is infuriating. I must keep going though...

So, as you recall, my mom and I were holding hands in a pew in a church dedicated in 1816. I was thanking any Spiritual entity who would listen for every thing and one who came before us. I felt connected to all of it, from the dawn of time to the sweet voices singing on the lawn at that moment. I was feeling heart connected.

Today, in our Certification Seminar, Rick Roberts, former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Zentangle, talked about this connection and the ways in which we feel it when we...tangle. Zentangle is a simple method of creating beautiful, artful images by repeating patterns. Anyone can do it. If you don't believe me, I will teach you. After Wednesday. Rick said that making these patterns, these patterns we are learning here as "tangles" but really are the patterns found everywhere in life, is part of our human heritage.

We are entitled to these patterns...the bricks laid one by one to hold the dreams that built this land, the flowers and trees and blades of grass that were planted long ago and grow here now, the lines that make our fingerprints...all of these are the patterns of our lives. These patterns are both our inheritance and what we will use to build the future. Recognizing and repeating these patterns connects us to all that ever was and all that is yet to come. What I love most about these patterns, though, and what excites me about the opportunity to teach with them, is that these simple, complex, plain, and beautiful patterns help us to build and follow a path right back into our very own hearts. That is what this is all about for me and I just cannot wait to share it with you.

Too Tangled To Be True

First, a "housekeeping" issue: I am blogging on my iPad! I've never done this before. It is a little scary and a lot flipping awesome.

Okay, so my mom and I arrived in Providence, Rhode Island Saturday night. When we leave on Wednesday we will be Certified Zentangle Teachers. Yahoo! There is supposed to be a registered trademark symbol after "Zentangle." Pretend it is there.

When we took our first Zentangle Basics class in May, I had an epiphany of the "my life just changed for forever and for good" variety. Zentangle swooped me right up into its beautiful, magical, mysterious arms and begged me to learn it, to practice it, and to teach it. How could I resist? I could not and that is why I'm here. Despite my enthusiasm, I spent the days leading up to this trip thinking I was delusional. I was scared.

Now that I'm here, I am way too excited to be scared. 

Yesterday, I woke to church bells from the Grace Episcopalian Church across the street from our hotel. Beautiful. My mom and I took a walk.

Any time I have ever walked the streets of a place like Providence, the kind of place that was settled around the mid-1600s (that is 1-6, as in SIXTEEN!), I swear I can hear horseshoes clomping and carriage wheels rolling along the road beside me. I feel the presence of something powerful, something like Roger Williams, an advocate for religious liberty, and his cohorts laying the foundation on which hundreds of years of dreams were built. It feels as if no time has passed. It feels like Roger Williams and I are in this, whatever this is - the mosaic of life, I suppose - together. For me, that feeling of being connected, to something bigger than me, to Roger Williams and the settlers who walked the roads I walk right now almost 400 years ago, is an incredibly powerful feeling.

We walked to the First Unitarian Church of Providence to meet my dear friend, Emily, and her family. Lucky us, they live near Providence so we got to see them. Joe, Emily's husband, and his band were playing on the front lawn of the church. Emily's daughter sang back-up. It all added up to a Norman Rockwell-esque scene.

I was completely overcome with emotion. I had never met Emily's beautiful daughters. It was so great to see Emily and Joe, and that sense of connection intensified. My mom and I stepped into the church. My grandma, her mom, always said that when you entered a church for the first time, you could make a wish.

I slipped into a pew. It took a lot for me to stop myself from sobbing. Okay, I admit, I am a sap, but, sitting there, in this magnificent building, which was dedicated in 1816, I was moved to the core. 
Had I a singing voice, I may have belted out the Hallelujah chorus. All I could manage was a chorus of thank yous in my mind. I thanked God for all the people in every congregation that came before Emily's. I have never been a religious girl, so when I say God, I mean Love. I thanked Love for every bucket of blood and sweat shed to build the church and every tear shed in grief and in joy. 

My mom snapped pictures. We held hands.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Just Be You. Seriously.

Oh. My. GOODNESS! I am in love with Brave Girl Art School. There are no words.

Oh wait... there ARE words. Lots of them!

I love words. I have loved words for as long as I can remember. I have been lost and found in words. Over and over again, words have saved me, freed me, and taken me hostage. Words are powerful.

My sister has this quote, or maybe it is her very own mantra, but it is about how words can be more powerful than any sword or gun or weapon. I agree. AND, I so deeply believe that words can be more powerful than any medicine or balm or lotion or magic potion. Words heal. Words hurt. Words are sacred. Like the most treasured artifacts from the past and predictions for the future, words are so sacred.

So, imagine my DELIGHT in this week's lesson: Show Me a Sign.


On my birthday in 1992 (which is New Year's Eve, just in case you'd like to keep track...), my sweet baby sister gave me this journal.

I pulled it out after watching a few of the videos for this week's class. When I opened it, I was so touched by her inscription, "Sisterhood is something you can never outgrow. To my sister the thinker, wisher, hoper and dreamer. Let your mind run wild! Love always and forever, Sarah" Um, she was maybe 12 when she wrote that.

In this journal, I began to collect quotes. As I flipped through the journal, wondering what kind of wisdom appealed to me then, I was struck by how I seemed to really "get it" in 1992. As with many, many things, when I look back, I sometimes think, if I had just followed the guidance I was given THEN, I would have saved myself a whole lot of trouble... Sometimes, that is not the case, of course. But, in the past two years or so, I have been digging deep to get back to the voice that speaks the truth to me, the voice that urges me to listen when something speaks out to me. I found that voice and I vow, right here and now, never, ever to lose touch with it  AGAIN! I'll doubt it now and then, I'm sure, and that could be a good thing, but I will not lose it completely. I promise.

One of the very first quotes I collected in this journal is this one:

Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. - Richard Bach

I can only imagine the tears and time saved had I taken that to heart in 1992. Had I drilled it into my head and integrated it into my soul, what would have been different? Would I have lost so much sleep and sanity in the throes of wondering why I wasn't enough, just the way I was? Why I never seemed to measure up to those to whom I chose to compare myself? Who knows?

What I do know, is that my ten year-old son, James, when given a choice of potential signs that I would attempt to make to hang in our home for this week's Brave Girl Art School lesson, chose this one...


When I asked which sentence he knew to be truest, he said, "I am me." Good God, I love this child. Here and now, I also promise to do my very best to ensure that this sweet boy never, ever, loses touch with that voice inside him that tells him he wants a sign in his home that says: Just Be You. The voice that speaks on behalf of all the wonderful, beautiful things that make us who we are including, but not limited to, our hearts and our souls and the messages we receive from these places in the quiet of the day or night, when we are not running around like crazed PTO mothers from drop-off to pick-up and back again. Or, in a 10 year-old's case, the voice that says "the truest thing I know in this great, big, scary world is that I am me." Here and now, I vow to help James hear that voice above all the chaos, the running, the homework, the grades, the comparing, and all the other things that kids do - things that quiet the truth. I don't want him to ever lose his ability to listen.

Here is our sign (in progress)...

As I began working on it, I got discouraged because I am not very good at following directions or being patient when it comes to things like measuring and plotting BEFORE I glue things down. My sign is all crooked and funky and off-center.

My head started right in, giving me the business for not following directions and not being patient. And then my heart piped up! It said, "Anna dear, you are crooked and funky and off-center. Your sign reflects that which is you."

Man, I love my heart. And, I love my crooked, funky, off-center sign that will forever remind me, and James, that the very best thing in life is to just be me.

According to Richard Bach, it is actually our only obligation in life - to be true to ourselves. I would much rather be crooked, funky me than rule-following, measuring me. Not because following the rules and making measurements is bad, but because...that's just not me.

What is just not you? We all fight against forces that compel us to question whether we are just right exactly as we are. I think we need to stop.

I believe in the power that these words hold within them: Just Be You.

Be you and the rest will follow...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Meaning of Heart Connected

First, allow me to introduce myself. This is me, Anna (the one on the right).

There is an About Anna page on this blog that gives you some very specific details about who I am, or really, about what kinds of things I've done and what I am doing. For the sake of this blog, you only need to know that when I was a little girl I dreamed of someday being a writer. As it turns out, I AM a writer so I've since updated my dream. As it stands today, one of my dreams is to publish a book. A really good book.

You should also know that I recently discovered that I am an artist. I know!? Crazy. This was a delightful and EXCITING discovery! Since I became an artist, many wonderful things have happened. Lightbulbs lighting, doors opening, a business starting, and so on. The greatest thing about being an artist though, is I get to create pretty things. Like this...

This is my Funky Flower Collage. I finished it yesterday. It was a project assignment in an online class I'm taking called Brave Girl Art School. The class is taught by Melody Ross, an incredibly gifted woman. Melody and her sister, Kathy Wilkins, also an incredibly gifted woman, founded Brave Girls Club, which, in their words, means that they "are on a wild and crazy mission to find all of the brave women of the world...to help them find each other...then to change the world with good news, good ideas, good people, and good times." As big and bold as that sounds, it is really just the very beginning of what they do with Brave Girls Club. They do that and SO much more. They are changing the world. They changed my world, for sure.

Brave Girl Art School is my fourth online Brave Girl Club class (I also attended Brave Girl Camp in July! Oh my GOODNESS! That is a whole other post entirely!). The other classes have mainly involved making collages and art journals. Really the classes involve so, so much more that than - like life altering, soul searching kinds of things, but as far as projects go, it's cool collages and journals and stuff like that. It is through my work in these classes that I began to think I might be an artist, or, at the very least, have artistic tendencies. In the process of selecting and cutting out words and images and carefully assembling these words and images into collages for my Brave Girl classes, I found that what I was really, truly doing, was re-assembling my SELF. I was broken. Through collage and writing and a whole bunch of other stuff, I put myself back together.

If you haven't figured it out already, yes, I do consider myself a brave girl. A very, very brave girl. Let's be honest, you MUST be brave to be a girl in this world.

Okay, so fast forward to yesterday. As I pieced together my funky flower collage and it neared what I thought was likely to be its completion, I was overcome with emotion. Just thinking about it again, I am getting choked up. 

I admired Melody's art from the first time I laid eyes on it. I love her style. I LOVE her flowers! I never ever ever in a million trillion years would have dreamed that I, would someday be making my very own funky flowers. Even at Brave Girl Camp, in JULY, I didn't think I could EVER make my own funky flower.

And so, as I cut and mod-podged and painted and very carefully lined up and clustered tiny beads together, I thought..


Being heart connected means listening to your heart's desires and pursuing them, no matter what. It is that light that comes on when you choose to follow your heart. It is the fire that ignites inside your belly when you are doing something that makes you FEEL ALIVE

When I finally stopped to listen, after years of pretending my only desires were those of my family and even my friends, I heard my heart whisper. 

My heart said, "Anna, you and I, together, we need to MAKE STUFF. You are a creative being. You need to create. As if your life depended on it..."

In the Spring, I took a class in the method of Zentangle. The instructor told us all about the time she spent in Rhode Island becoming certified to teach Zentangle. Briefly, in case you think I just made that word up, Zentangle is a lot like doodling. It consists of repeating simple strokes until you have created a work of art. It's really that simple (I'm sure there will be many, MANY posts to come on Zentangle). There I sat in a gallery in Fenton, Michigan learning and lighting up about it and my heart said, Anna, YOU could teach Zentangle! I said, OK, and I will be a certified teacher by the end of this month.

Being heart connected is not some kind of fancy trick that requires hours and hours of intense training. 

Almost 2 1/2 years ago my dad died out of the blue. It was a Thursday. He came to my house to take my son to his guitar lesson, something my dad did every week. They drove down on M-59 and talked about aliens and real estate agents and things that boys talk about with their grandpas. My dad dropped my son off at home after the lesson. A few hours later my mom found him dead in his shed. He wasn't sick. He was actually very healthy. He had just been to the doctor. My dad was my biggest cheerleader. He was my son's biggest fan. He was a huge part of my life and his death rocked my world. I still miss him. I missed him a lot yesterday, while I was making funky flowers. My dad's death made it crystal clear to me that in life, there are no guarantees. Tomorrow, the next day, none of it is promised to us. 

There are a lot of things I don't know, like what the future holds or how long the future will even last, but, also because of my dad's death and all the work I did to make sense my life afterward, I do know one thing FOR SURE: in each of us, there is a voice. You may think of it as intuition or God or just your gut - you know that saying, "trust your gut"? This voice speaks only the truth. This voice conspires with the Universe and together they make sure you run into the things that you are meant to meet in life. Together, they provide everything we need to be inspired. I know this is true with all my heart. I have experienced it and I have witnessed other people experience it too.

The voice is constantly sending you little text message like urges designed to steer you down your very own path.

It says thing like, learn to play the guitar, you love the guitar!

Or, learn to use your love for people and your discerning eye to take beautiful photos...

And, follow that pull you feel to spread the message you feel so passionately about...

Or, you love that product, SELL IT.

And, send flowers. 

Give that sad old man a hug.

Introduce yourself to that new mom over there.

Don't get mad just yet, this child needs your compassion.

The voice speaks to you. It delivers all the messages you need to hear. It wants you to know, if you do this, you will feel so alive.

I'm so sure about this voice. Positive.

Being heart connected simply means listening to that voice.

In our crazy, chaotic, amped up, super sized, HD, everything in an instant world, however, we hardly ever hear that voice! It is really hard to hear it sometimes. Sometimes, we hear a different voice. It says, "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? YOU CANNOT TEACH ZENTANGLE! YOU CAN'T EVEN TEACH YOUR KID HOW TO TIE HIS SHOES!" 

In our world, we receive so many messages telling us we are not slim or pretty or healthy enough or smart enough or fast enough or motivated enough. We started out as these fresh little gut-trusting beings and with so many negative inputs from all around, for so much of our lives, we became who we are today. We don't even need the messages anymore because we have our own big, mean, scary other voice, not to be confused with the kind and gentle one, that tells us we are not enough. We don't trust our guts anymore. We don't hear the truth of our hearts and our souls.

I have no business whatsoever starting a business. There are millions of people in the world who are smarter than me. There are better writers and better artists and savvier business women. But, my heart is telling me that I must start this business. That I must make stuff and share it and share my stories and share my heart. That I must create space for other people to do the same, so that they can slow down a little and listen to their hearts too. 

My heart is advocating for itself. It wants to stay connected. I want that for my heart, and for me. I want to do things that make me feel so alive I have no choice but to relish in that moment like it is my last. That is what it means to be heart connected.