gratitude and inspiration

Sometimes we get lost, sidetracked.  Sometimes, even when we should know what we want our lives to look like, what sorts of things we need as part of our lives, we don’t see the truth clearly.  The stars get obscured by city lights.  A year ago, the life I was living was not quite the life I had been dreaming of.  The things I truly enjoyed doing were squeezed into my days (or weeks or months).  Often I didn’t feel creative or I was too emotionally drained to do much about it.  But were my dreams just fantasies?  Unrealistic?  Subject matter for short stories (that weren’t even finding their way to paper anymore) but not reality?  Those dreams kept nagging at me.  And I began to see more and more examples of others’ stories – real stories, not fiction – that gave me hope.

I want to share some of these stories with you and share my gratitude for the inspiration they have awakened.  I want to start the new year in a state of thanks.  I have found inspiration in so many places and from so many people, but today I want to focus on just a few.  These women have helped me to believe that dreams can come true, that we are responsible for making our dreams come true, that we have an obligation to listen to those dreams, to hold onto them and never forget that the lives we are living are the lives that we create for ourselves.

One of the most influential of the stories that found me is the story of how Kelly Rae Roberts became an artist.  I found out about her a few years ago when Amazon recommended her book to me.  I constantly receive recommendations from Amazon, but this one caught my attention in a way that was different.  Her light, her spirit, her energy reached out to me.  I visited Kelly Rae’s blog and began reading through the archives.  I was captivated by the story of how a social worker with no art training had become a thriving fulltime artist. 

photo of Kelly Rae used with permission

I love that Kelly Rae calls herself a possiblitarian.  What a beautiful concept.  Believing in possibility.  It’s so easy to get bogged down in negativity.  To listen to your inner fears saying “that’s not possible” or “you could never do that.”  But here was a shining example of someone who had believed and whose belief and hard work opened up the realm of the possible.  I wanted to believe, too.  I wanted my dreams to go from impossible to possible, from imagined to real.

After Kelly Rae's story found me I began to dream in a new way.   I became convinced that I needed to work toward change.  I wasn’t quite sure what that change would be, but I knew that I needed it and began to believe that whatever the ultimate change would be, it really was possible.  Reading her blog these last few years, I've watched her skyrocket into further and further realms of success.  So inspiring and so joyful!

A bit before I first read about Kelly Rae, I had been researching lavender farming.  I’m not sure what made me think that a lavender farm would be something I wanted to attempt.  Perhaps it was harvesting lavender from my garden.  Maybe it was something else.  But there it was, a dream.   As soon as I started thinking about it I saw articles in two magazines about lavender farms and suddenly I couldn’t get the thought out of my head.  I had only just started reading blogs (before then they had annoyed me, truth be told) and I decided that finding blogs about lavender farming would be a great way to learn more about what life would really be like on a lavender farm.  It was then that I first found out about Apifera FarmKatherine Dunn’s story captivated me in a way the other blogs I'd found had not.  I was enchanted, smitten. 

Katherine is an amazing artist, a writer and a farmer.  Her blog is a view into that life.  Photos and words and artwork all intertwined, capturing the day to day, whether it be beautiful or heartbreaking or just arrestingly ordinary.

photo of Katherine Dunn used with permission

Her life is full of hard work and she does nothing to hide that fact in her blog, but it's also clear that she is living her authentic life.  Her art, her animals, her lavender complete her.  She gives homes to unwanted senior goats, presents a yearly pie day with her donkey, Pino, in order to raise money to adopt abused/unwanted donkeys.  She adds beauty and hope to a world that sorely needs both.

I can relate to Katherine’s story.  She did not grow up as a farmer, but visits to her uncle’s farm throughout her childhood brought on dreams of having her own farm.  It wasn’t until she was 45 that her dream came true.  A broken heart and a move across the country led her to meet and fall in love with her next-door neighbor.  Together they started Apifera Farm.  Lavender + Animals + Art + Love = Apifera Farm.  Katherine proves that a self-made life like that is possible.  (I can't wait to get my hands on her new book, too.  From paging through it at the bookstore, it looks like it's full of lots more inspiration).  I think that finding Katherine's blog, seeing the life that she created for herself, made me open to receiving other inspiration, open to believing in possibilities, more sensitive to the magic in the everyday.

The fact that Katherine was inspired by her uncle’s farm resonates with me in a special way.  Starting when I was 4 years old, my family made yearly visits to my great uncle's and aunt's farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  These yearly visits were some of the most influential experiences of my childhood.

my and and me at Uncle Dan's and Aunt Gladys' farm

My great aunt and uncle moved to the Upper Peninsula when I was a baby.  Uncle Dan was a carpenter and Aunt Gladys, a homemaker.  They had no farming experience but they started raising cattle when my aunt was in her late 40s and my uncle was 50.  They were partners who together were capable of anything.  Once we visited them when they were in the middle of building a road through the woods.

Uncle Dan and Aunt Gladys at their house on Ice Lake

They had a house on a lake (which was in a terrible state of disrepair when they bought it) and farther out of town, a farm.  I was fairly young when they were actively farming and although my dad helped with the haymaking during at least one visit, I was too little to do much more than absorb.  Aunt Gladys was a can-do sort of person.  A make-do sort of person.  She cooked, sewed, gardened and played the accordion.

Aunt Gladys and her accordion (with my Dad in the background on the piano)

Her life changed drastically with their move, but she took everything in stride (even having to keep a calf in their kitchen at one point).  I don't know if farming was a dream of hers or not (she passed away ten years ago and we never talked about it), but as a child she had regularly visited her grandmother in the U.P. and I think she felt a special connection it.  Yet another whisper telling me one word: possible.

Aunt Gladys, me and my mom at Ice Lake

There is one more person, probably more than anyone else, who has helped to influence me and inspire me and make me believe in the possibility of my dreams: my mom.

Mom with me and baby Phil in Grant Park

She has worked hard my whole life to make my dreams a possibility.  First as a stay at home mom and later working outside of the home in order to help put me and my brother through college.  From her I learned the joy of making things.  Clothes?  She made many of ours and her own, too.  Cards?  Always handmade.  Calendars?  A yearly tradition to be made for Christmas gifts.  Jewelry?  Made for us and as presents.  Making things was natural in my everyday life.  And as a child I was always making things.  Sewing clothes for my dolls.  Crocheting a scarves for my stuffed animals.  Spending hours writing stories in notebooks.

From my mom I also inherited the love of gardening.

me loving the flowers in my mom's garden

We lived in a house with a small yard, but that yard was full of flowers and herbs and vegetables and fruits.  Inside, our home was full of houseplants, too.

Mom showing me an African violet

Throughout my childhood my parents talked about us moving to a farm.  That dream of theirs was mine, too.  As a child when I rode my bike I imagined it was a horse.  I convinced my parents (again and again) to let me have various pets, all the while wishing I could have pigs and horses and other farmy animals, too.

Mom and me at the zoo farm (she made both our outfits)

Although my parents never realized their dream of moving their young family to a farm, during the last few years my mom began to talk about dreams of pooling family resources and living a creative life of joined means and abilities in the country.  As I became more and more dissatisfied with the life I was living and began to believe in the possibility of my dreams, I began to believe in the possibility of that dream, too. 

Now here we are, beginning that life, taking the first steps of that journey together.

Mom during our first applesauce making endeavor
me on the lawn tractor
I am so grateful to be taking this journey, to be crafting the life that I have always dreamed of.  I wouldn't be here doing what I'm doing without the inspiration, the encouragement, the hope and the strength that I've been fortunate enough to have found through these women and in many other places, too (Thanks, Dad, Matthias, all my new bloggy friends and all my other friends and family, too!).  As I begin the year 2011, I think about what this new year will hold.  I dream dreams and imagine possibilities and find inspiration again and again.  I hope that all of you are dreaming dreams and being inspired, too. 


  1. Oh Anne, such a touching and uplifting post....thankyou so much for sharing the inspirations and the possibilities.
    What remarkable and inspiring women these all are, I especially love the tales of your mum and aunt.
    Amazing ladies!! Your mum reminds me exactly of my mum..I am also very blessed :)
    YOU are such an inspiration too (which you forgot to mention!!) I am so grateful to have stumbled upon your blog and be able to share a little of the life that you are creating.
    Thankyou! I so look forward to seeing what unfolds this year amongst the dreams and possibilities X

  2. What a beautiful tribute to so many dreamers, and livers, and do-ers. I am so happy you chose to keep dreaming.

  3. I am a huge fan of Apifera Farm and the magic that is created there. Thank you for this BEAUTIFUL post, I am smitten and will check in daily. I wish you magic today and always.........

  4. What a wonderful story, so lovingly expressed. I understand the allure of lavender, a magic plant.

  5. Fabulous story. You have an unique way of writing, which I like. And, your photos are sweet. aw!

  6. Such a lovely post - thank you for sharing some of the people who have inspired you.
    I hope 2011 brings more of your dreams to fruition. Best wishes for a great year :-)

  7. Wow, you have some great inspiration! Have a wonderful and beautiful 2011!

  8. What a wonderful blog post this was. I enjoyed it so much. Thank you for sharing this with us. I love the tribute to your mother and and your Aunt and Uncle. So moving. Thanks again Anne.

  9. Dearest sweet anna, beautiful and very inspiring post! I really love each and every words and photos! Thank YOU so much for your blessing, love and support you have given me in 2010! I look forward to more adventures with your this new year. Wishing you LOVE and JOY! Love to you!

  10. Anne, this post is so beautifully written and so full of inspiration, I have read it several times and followed each and every link. I don't know if you realize what an inspiration YOU are, but I'm really caught up in your dream and wish you great happiness. Your mom, too, is someone I have grown to admire and I enjoy her blog also.
    Sending you warm wishes and thoughts and a big thank you for this lovely post. I hope there is a book in your future - it would be a marvelous read!

  11. Thank you all for such encouraging, moving comments. It means so much to me to know I'm reaching so many people. I've found inspiration in so many of you and I thank each of you for that.

  12. What a wonderful inspirational post! Reading this did me more good than I could explain in this comment - but suffice to say thank you very much for sharing.

    Kat X

  13. What a beautiful post. I enjoyed every word. And I can really relate to what you've said. May all your dreams come true!

  14. I have found your blog to be so moving and inspiring. I love all the old photos you've generously shared, brings back memories for me too. I feel like we have many similarities. How fortunate for you to be able to be with your mother who is obviously so important in your life still. I'm a tad jealous, I had that with my mother too and now she's gone. Savor every moment.



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