Monthly Archives: July 2014

Already At It


In my last post, I mentioned having projects that were waiting for me. I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to complete a few of the items on my creative to-do list…

One of my far away friends will be receiving some company while she recovers from surgery:

Almost ready to go...

Almost ready to go…

Ready to go with a newly designed card!

Ready to go with a newly designed card!

I also began working on what I call flower globes, which I plan to bring with me to this Saturday’s market:

Flower Globe

Flower Globe

If you know someone hoo (I know, and I’m not really sorry) might enjoy an owl, there is a small flock of them at my Etsy store:


I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on my outgoing mail, posting my new card on my Etsy shop, and making another globe or two before calling it a night.

Creatively Yours,

Free Range Al


Receiving and Giving


“How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it!” – George Elliston

My chickadee and I returned from visiting people who are very dear to us last Friday. Our visit included kayaking, attending a baseball game (which I normally do not enjoy, but our companions made it delightful), and the general enjoyment of good company. On Wednesday morning, I rode a mountain bike trail at a wonderful location called Two Rivers in Springfield, Missouri. The beauty and the challenge of the trails made it an amazing experience. I completed a slope style course two times! I was tempted to take my camera to share the view with you, but I wanted to be sure to stay present in the moment – and to stay on my bike!

We visited in order to spend time with loved ones, but I also needed to have a small procedure to complete the process of having a dental implant. Usually, I’m put under sedation for such things, but this procedure only takes fifteen minutes. I was terribly nervous about being awake, but, thanks to a generous amount of Valium, nitrous oxide, and The Black Keys, it went as well as such a thing could go for me. While this was a really stressful experience, there was also an element of beauty to it thanks to a wonderful nurse who took such gentle care of me. I’m full of gratitude for the patient care she and my surgeon provided.

When we returned, we found my husband in a state of great discomfort. A friend of ours in Illinois, who happens to be an audiologist, was a source of great help as we realized the initial diagnosis we received in Urgent Care. The time he took to listen to me and to check in via texts to see how my husband was doing made me feel less lonely than I did in a city that still feels new at times. On Monday, our primary physician declared the cause seems to be a virus in the inner ear, and he prescribed medicine to help him function while his ear returns to normal. I spent every day after our return in a state of what felt like nonstop care – either for him or for our active six year old. At times, this was a frustrating state to be in. I had things I wanted to make, to read, to write. I wanted some time to myself. I felt as if it didn’t really matter what I did – my time away from my desired modes of creativity made the chances of me being on David Letterman before he retires even slimmer than they already are!  While there was no doubt in my mind that my husband and son were, and are, my priorities, it was hard to let go of what else I wanted to be.

Now that my husband has returned to work and our life feels more “normal”, I have no regrets in my decision to focus on caring for those I loved. The other things I wanted to do are right here, waiting for me, and I’m about ready to begin some exciting projects. I think about the nurse who helped me on Thursday. She will probably not be on late night television either, but she created a lovely memory for me during a time that initially began with great anxiety – I made sure to thank her while I was still coherent.

Sometimes, what matters most in this life receives the least amount of praise. While receiving positive feedback and accolades feels good, we are really the only ones who can make what we do meaningful. I like this idea, and I hope you take comfort in it too – although it’s also a call to meaningful and intentional action.

May you always see the value in what you do…

Free Range Al


Winding Down, Starting New


I participate in our local Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and I enjoy the opportunity to interact with customers. The heat is not something I care for, but there are truly worse things in life. It’s silly to commit to complaining about standing under a big umbrella surrounded by gorgeous fruits and vegetables and pleasant people while selling one’s creations, so I won’t go on about that.

I had some time to sketch during the market, so some new design ideas are brewing…

behind the scenes 025

I’d like to create some more greeting cards similar to my Joy postcards in the days to come:

Although a more reasonable expectation might be that I produce a finished piece in the weeks to come, because I’ll be out of town Tuesday through Friday. Still, there will be time for sketching, and I’ve come to embrace those moments!

Creatively Yours,

Free Range Al




July 17 Additions


The Free Range Artisan has fallen in love with making bracelets! My bracelets are some of my most popular items at the market on Saturdays, and I decided to add a few to my Etsy shop:


Mr. Rabbit Braclet

Mr. Rabbit Bracelet

Etsy Bracelets and magnets for twitter 015

Three Little Fishies Bracelet

Etsy Bracelets and magnets for twitter 022

Take Flight Bracelet

Rosie Bracelet

Rosie Bracelet

and last but not least, another owl buddy:



Meanwhile, after a morning of photography and posting, it’s time for a walk before picking my chickadee up from camp.

Happy Shopping!

Free Range Al

July 16th’s Creations and Views


My son is attending an art, music, and dance day camp this week, so I have been able to devote concentrated periods of time to various projects these past few days. Today is the day I set aside to focus on adding pieces to my Etsy shop.

I’m pretty excited about the new additions to my Owl section. Introducing:


Wilma - my husband says she looks very surprised

my husband says she looks very surprised


George - for dignified fun

for dignified fun

and Patricia

Pretty Patricia

very purple

Ever since an awesome artist friend taught me how to wire beads to make a bracelet, I’ve been hooked. They’re quite popular at the Farmer’s Market, so I decided to see how two pieces do in my Etsy shop:

Etsy Owl Necklaces and Bracelets 003

Etsy Owl Necklaces and Bracelets 030

There were quite a few more things I wanted to do, but the weather was so wonderful I could not resist the call of the Katy Trail. The ride was breathtaking:

Katy Trail and Garden Pictures 008Katy Trail and Garden Pictures 010Katy Trail and Garden Pictures 012

I could not help but be amazed by the sky today:

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Sometimes I have to remind myself to look up when I’m outside, and I’m always glad when I do.

I feel really good about what I was able to accomplish today, although the best part was being available for a hug from one of my favorite fellows:

Katy Trail and Garden Pictures 020

I may not be a published writer yet,  I have a long way to go before I can call myself a successful Etsy seller, and graduate school is still a dream, but I call this day beautiful and good.

Beautiful and Good Thoughts to You,

Free Range Al


Defining and Using Gratitude… with Chaos


When my son is upset that something is not going his way (which does not happen often, but he is human), we’ve started a practice of making a list of what he is happy about in his life. At first, this annoys him, but eventually his face lights up as he thinks about what he really likes about his world, and we are often able to move on to a more pleasant state of being.

I’ve decided to make sure I do this too when I start to obsess over something I want but cannot have, or if my day does not go just as I planned. My list of wants includes things that just are not possible right now, and sometimes I want to throw fits of my own to release the emotions that comes with that fact. Sadness and frustration still arise, but, since I started making a list of what is good and beautiful right now, I also feel a deep sense of peace and gratitude.

After writing my last entry, I began to wonder if  this practice was leading me to settle for something less and enabling me to not push myself toward a better way of life. I suppose it is possible to use gratitude as a way to settle, but I’m finding that it works as an anchor in my life. I will always want more time to write, draw, organize, read, whatever. I really want to go to graduate school and study theology. While it can be painful, I think that drive will serve me well in eventually accomplishing what I want to accomplish as an individual. Meanwhile, there are some really good things in my world, and it serves me to pause and remember them.

I’m going to define gratitude as the act of acknowledging what is good in one’s life. That does not mean that I ignore or dismiss whatever is bothering me or what I would like to change. It just means that I pause to recognize that which is good.

I think emotions we are quick to condemn can actually serve us. A Friedrich Nietzsche quote  I often visit is “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star”. Contentment does not prompt change, chaos does, so I do not really wish to be without it. I’ve heard many yoga teachers say to find peace in a position that requires great strength, and I finally realized that is really what so much of life is about. Finding something, it doesn’t have to be peace, in the midst of something that initially seems to be the opposite is something that requires practice, but it can bring a great sense of balance when it is found.

I’m  embracing the gratitude and the chaos today. I’m very grateful that my son is beginning a week of a music, art, and dance camp and that, if something happens, I’m only a phone call away and will easily be able to do what must be done. I’m grateful for the two English students I will work with today and am honored to be a part of their academic lives. I’m grateful that I can pick my son up from camp and learn about his day. I’m grateful that my spouse values what I do. I also wish that I totally had the day to myself to write out several ideas that came up last week, and (I’m not going to lie) I’d like to watch “The Queen” before practicing yoga. Finally, I’d like to spend the entire night designing cards. Actually, I’ve already written about one thought, and the little chickadee and I can do our warrior poses together. Maybe, if I’m not exhausted, I’ll be able to sketch while watching “The Queen” after tucking my little fellow in.

I really do love my present, and I’m excited about the future.

Wishing you peace… with a healthy dose of chaos,

Free Range Al

Climbing Mount Pisgah in Oregon

Climbing Mount Pisgah in Oregon


A Theatrical Break and a Practical Return


The past two days were absolutely wonderful for me and my little chickadee (thank you, dear husband, for making them possible). My son and I drove to Springfield, Missouri to see Tent Theatre’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with some very special people and enjoyed time with a dear friend the day after the performance before returning to our nest.

Missouri State University’s theater department puts up a tent every summer to showcase  fantastic productions. My parents took my sisters and me to see Tent Theatre for as long as I can remember, and I was so excited to be able to share that experience with my son. I’m delighted to report that he loved it, so this is a tradition we can easily continue.

Tent Theatre

Tent Theatre

Watching the performance sparked a great many thoughts that I’m itching to explore in the future – Happiness, Tradition, The Human Spirit – but today is a day full of errands and Farmer’s Market preparations.

My polymer clay owls are very popular, and I need to make several more this evening. I also need to replenish my polymer clay crops:

Carrots, Sweet Pea Pods, Strawberries, and Apples

Carrots, Sweet Pea Pods, Strawberries, and Apples

It is terribly easy to fall into a sensation of being overwhelmed with what I think “needs” to be done, but I think my yoga practice is helping me return to a deep feeling of gratitude. Of course I would have loved to have stayed in Springfield a bit longer, or to have an entire day to make what I want to make, but I am grateful that  I could be there when I was, and I am fortunate to have the resources to go where I need to go and replenish our cupboards and refrigerator.  What is ready will be ready for tomorrow’s market… sometimes creating positive experiences and a comfortable home takes precedence over creating material items. Okay – time to create some lunch…

To Life!

Free Range Al

Hooray for Hands!


When I was little, I designed “thank you” and birthday cards and wrote “ARTMART” on the back of each card. Now,  I still design cards, but mine now have “The Free Range Artisan” on the back.

Not only do I enjoy designing cards, I really like to use them for correspondence. Apparently, this runs in the family. My mom told me of a time she toured England, and my grandpa made sure a postcard was waiting for her at her every stop. Grandpa died when I was quite young, so the thought that we both share the practice of writing as a way to show care and support  makes me feel as if he is still very present in my life.

I prefer snail mail over the more speedy modes of communication. Whenever I learn that someone is going through a difficult time, or if there is something to celebrate, my first thought it to be sure to send a card. To me, it’s a physical reminder that they are special enough to me that I want to take the time to sit, think, and prepare something for them.  Sometimes this means that many of my mornings or evenings are spent writing. In a way, it’s a form of meditation in that it’s a time to pause and to be sure that time is devoted to something that truly is meaningful – reaching out to people and letting them know that they are in my thoughts.

Behind the Scenes 002

It also reminds me of what’s important in life, at least what I think is important in life. My relationships have been ongoing sources of comfort and learning, and taking the time to write friends who are geographically far away provides the opportunity to nourish our relationship so that we can still feel close.

My polymer clay creations began as an effort to send my youngest sister something little and fun when she lived in England. One of my favorite little things to make now are my owls, who always make me smile, and I love it when they make other people smile. After the summer market, I hope to focus on making more owls and other funny creatures for my Etsy shop. I really like the idea of being a part of brightening someone’s day.

Behind the Scenes 003

I also like to make moons to send as peaceful wishes:

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Trees for strength:

etsy charms 011

And raindrops for new beginnings:

etsy charms 016

I’m excited about this Saturday, because I used ribbon necklaces for my polymer clay pendants. I’ll have a rainbow of colors at my table!

Behind the Scenes 010

Obviously, this entry is meant to encourage you to visit my Etsy shop and to explain why I do what I do:

But it’s also celebration of hands! Pieces written and made by hand can be rare things to receive, and I think more hands on interactions would make this world a more beautiful place.

Keeping the Hands in Handmade,

Free Range Al



A Somewhat Poetic Cleaning Day


I realize, as I clean my studio,

Debating what remains, what can leave,

Experiencing the uncertainty and pain that accompanies the act of letting go,

I realize I’m in a metaphor – it’s time to sort my thoughts.

Newly Organized Shelves

Newly Organized Shelves


Happy Cleaning,

Free Range Al

Fourth of July: George Eliot Says What I Would Like To Say Better


I’m going to begin by using an ending – the last sentence in Middlemarch by George Eliot:

“… for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I think about this passage a lot. In fact, it is one of my favorite passages in one of my favorite books of all time, which is slightly ironic because I initially found the ending of the book to be infuriating when I read it in a Victorian Literature  course. I won’t go into English major mode now and dissect the text, but I will suggest that this passage honors the lives of those who are not mentioned in our history books and calls all of us to enhance our spheres of influence, regardless of whether or not our actions will be recorded or receive awards. In other words, all of us can use our creative abilities for good, and it is pretty awesome when we do.

To free thoughts and the ability to express them…

To being free to act in love and toward the betterment of all…

To the creative spirit everywhere.

Happy Fourth!

– Free Range Al