Dreams, Goals and Celebrating Where You Are Right Now

The other morning I was in my studio writing in my journal. The day was dark and dreary and I had lit a couple candles and turned on all my little lamps and string lights to combat the gloom. I usually start my mornings by writing in my journal. Sometimes only a hastily scribbled page, sometimes many pages of thoughts, ideas, nonsense or rants. No matter what I write, just sitting down with pen and paper creates an imposed slowness, a meditation, even if it's just for a few minutes.

That morning I was between words, sitting and thinking, imagining my future studio and my future life. I do this sometimes. Visualizing. I've even drawn sketches of my dream studio and the gardens that surround it. This time I stopped myself. I didn't want to look forward. I wanted to be present (oh, hello, word of the year, I'd forgotten about you) and I wanted to look back on my journey and see how far I've come.

So often we're busy looking forward -- making goals and dreaming dreams -- and we don't take the time to celebrate where we are RIGHT NOW. But I think that's important, too.

Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry, artist studio, workspace, studio

So that morning, instead of dreaming, I looked around my studio and I thought about my life and imagined what the Anne of 8 years ago, just barely beginning to take the first steps of this creative journey, would think about my space, my art, my life.

Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry, artist studio, workspace, studio, houseplants, orchids

Perhaps it was partly due to Joanne Hawker hosting March Meet the Maker on Instagram last month that my story was on my mind. Every day in March had a prompt and makers from all over the world shared parts of their stories.

I jumped in from time to time and shared some of mine.

Our stories are never simple, are they? Our paths never progress in straight lines.

When I started this blog in 2010 I didn't know how to paint and I certainly didn't call myself an artist. I had just quit my job and moved to the country in search of a more fulfilling life.

Before then I had been living and working in an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Matthias and I lived in a sweet little cottage of a house on a beautiful, tree-lined street filled with interesting old houses, no two the same. I worked in the neighborhood library only a few blocks away as the children’s librarian. 

houses, gardens, cottages, Cleveland

It sounds idyllic, but I realized, more and more, that things were broken. Crime and violence were seeping into our neighborhood. And there were more subtle signs of a lack of care and respect, too. Trash and litter. Empty houses. Demolished houses. Unfriendliness. And very little sense of community. 

My job should have been fun, but it was stressful. We had so many behavior problems. The library staffed police officers in the afternoons and when they weren’t there we often had to call them to help us deal with issues. Some weren’t serious, but others were. 

I knew that things needed to change, but I didn’t know how to make them change. 

So in my free time I gardened. 

gardens, cottage gardens, roses, lavender, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I cozied up our little house. I spent as much time as I could being creative... sewing, crocheting, cooking.

But I was getting to the end of my rope. At about that same time, my parents were looking to finally find their dream farm in Wisconsin and move from their house in the suburbs of Chicago. 

I took that first leap because I yearned to move out of the city and I also dreamed of fully committing myself to creativity.

So when my parents found a bit of land, I quit my job and temporarily moved there with my mom while we waited for both of us to sell our houses. 

sewing, Amy Butler, patchwork, bags, purses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I sewed and crocheted. 

craft fairs, sewing, crochet, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I opened an Etsy shop to sell the things I was making.

crochet, crocheted jewelry, roses, crocheted roses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I began to teach myself how to paint. Being an artist was my secret dream.

learning to paint, watercolor, roses

I also helped my mom get things established at their little farm. Raising baby chicks. Planting an orchard and a big vegetable garden.

baby chicks, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Nothing worked out quite as I had hoped and about a year later I moved back to Cleveland. It was challenging and stressful and in many ways I felt like a failure.

Failure or not, I stubbornly kept painting. And painting. And painting. No matter what else was happening in my life, I didn't let go of that dream.

learning to paint, watercolor, cyclamen

During the dark, difficult, uncertain times I also became focused on discovering the joy and beauty in each day. That's when I first started writing joy lists.

A lot has happened since then. Matthias and I now live in a small town in Wisconsin. My parents' live just outside of town.

I spend nearly every day making art.

watercolor, painting, painting process, orchids, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Matthias has a shop in town where he fixes and sells Macs and other Apple products.

computer repair, Viroqua, Wisconsin, Mac Help

Behind his shop is the library where I work part-time. The library is in a bright, beautiful 2-year old building, a bustling and vibrant heart of the town.

I am also an artist (and can call myself an artist without fear or doubt). I sell my art to people all over the world. I design fabric. I teach online. I've been featured in magazines and even a book.

I find joy and inspiration in the beauties that surround me.

watercolors, painting, watercolor painting, botanical watercolor, botanical painting, orchids, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I still have disappointments and face feelings of failure. I still have dreams that I haven't yet realized. My life, like everyone's lives, isn't perfect, but where I am right now is pretty amazing.

I'm not saying this to boast, but rather to celebrate my journey and where I am on my creative path. I want to encourage you, too, to look around you and see where you are and how far you've come in your own journey. Let's celebrate together!

Be proud of your journey. Be proud of who you are and where you are and where you want to go. Even if your dreams still feel very far away, hold tight to their beauty and let them bring you joy. Let them inspire you to keep pushing yourself and never give up.


  1. Your creative journey fills me with hope Anne. You steadily work towards your goals and you never give up. You have a beautiful studio and I would like an uncluttered space to create in one day. It is only me that stops me from moving forward. It is good to be happy where we are right now for it will set the foundations for the rest of our lives. Thank you for continuing to be a role model for dream chasers. Thank you also for reminding us to be joyful for what we have right now :)

    1. I'm so glad to know you are feeling hopeful and that I've had a small part to play in that. Believe me, my space is not always uncluttered, but I do feel better creating when there isn't too much chaos. You have to do what works for you! Wishing you much joy, my friend! Keep on dreaming and doing and savoring!

  2. Anne,
    I enjoyed learning about your path to Wisconsin. I did not know this part of the story. I thank you for your inspiration to all of us to keep on dreaming.
    Thank you for sharing your heart.

    1. Thank you, Carla, for being here cheering me on and inspiring me by stubbornly living your dreams. It means a lot to me.

  3. What a lovely and inspirational journey. It gives the rest of us hope. I hope you never reach the end of your dreams but always have new ones to look forward to. I can't imagine a life without dreams but it is wonderful to be able to appreciate the now as well.

    1. Thank you, Tracey. I think it's so important that we encourage one another. I love what you say about never reaching the end of our dreams. As much as we may want to "arrive", that's not really the point, is it? Here's to lots more dreaming! And here's to celebrating the now, too. :)


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