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 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.