Tag Archives: Motherhood

My Other Project: Tricksters


I’ve mentioned my love of writing before, and writing has been my major focus this week. I’m giving a talk in Illinois this coming Sunday, which is one of my favorite things to do.  My emphasis is the trickster character, a fascinating figure present in many traditions including Native American stories and Greek mythology. Since I share pictures of my physical creations, I thought I’d share a few excerpts of my talk.

First, my introduction:

As we approach holidays that blur divisions and boundaries, such as Halloween and the Day of the Dead, I thought it would be fun to play with an ancient figure known as trickster, a character who does not recognize divisions and is often found with one foot on either side of boundaries. Tricksters are delightful characters because they weave in and out of reality. A trickster is interesting because he exposes rules by defying them and turns what seems to be inevitable and necessary into the ridiculous. Tricksters are useful because they model a playful approach to the world that can enable healthy and positive change.

It’s important to know that trickster is not a good or bad character – think of a trickster as being like a curious and adventurous toddler.

Here’s my favorite part thus far when I explain why it’s important to challenge boundaries and labels:

Motherhood has heightened my sensitivity to the use of titles. The common phrase for what I do is “stay-at-home-mom”, but that does not accurately reflect who I am or what I do at all. Yes, I’m a mother. I’m also a yogi, an artist, a friend, a writer, an aspiring minister, a private English tutor, a reader, a want to be drummer, a wife, and, as many of you witnessed during my last talk, an occasional dancer. Those labels don’t really do me justice either, and I can say this with absolute certainty: you are more than your title. You are more than the title of teacher, doctor, retiree, psychologist, lawyer, artist, librarian… You are a uniquely complex creature with hopes, dreams, experiences, and personality traits that cannot be summarized in a word or two.

Recognizing that we are more than our labels is one thing; the idea that other individuals are just as complex as we are can be difficult to grasp at times – that is when the act of putting in a trickster’s eye becomes useful. It’s not an eye of judgement, it’s a way of looking at people and situations that allows them to be more than they appear to be at first glance.

I’m almost done with it – I’ve enjoyed working on it a great deal, and I’m looking forward to learning what it sparks in others.

Playfully Yours,

Free Range Al




Katy Trail Sky photographed by the Free Range Artisan

Katy Trail Sky
photographed by the Free Range Artisan

This marks the season in which I’ll be focusing on developing my craft as a writer and as an artist. The final weekly market was last Saturday, and I have no major events that require preparation except for a talk I’m going to give on October 26 at a very special place in Illinois.

Next week, I’m going to see what classes are being offered by our local gallery, call a nearby college to sign up for drum lessons, post new pieces on my Etsy shop, and begin writing my talk. For now, however, I’m going to let myself breathe – to take my time in organizing my studio while listening to music that lifts my soul and programs that invigorate my mind, to browse through books for inspiration, and to just do things because they serve me, not because I have to… until it’s time to pick my son up from school, of course. 🙂

What about you? How do you make sure you take time to really breathe so that you feel restored and ready for a new season?

Peaceful Thoughts to You,

Free Range Al

The Blank Page – or Adventures with Fecundity


Fecundity is my favorite word. It is the ability to produce. When I am at my best creatively, I am relaxed, comfortable, and feel free. This state of being does not come naturally. I have (as do you, I suspect) what feels like A TON of things that must be done. I have roles of mother, wife, and friend that are important to me to fulfill. It is easy to feel very limited.

Yet, when I see a blank canvas:

behind the scenes 124I can’t wait to gather my paints:

behind the scenes 130

And fill it with color:

behind the scenes 129Don’t get me started when it comes to what is possible with polymer clay:

behind the scenes 126I can begin a piece feeling discouraged or sad, but it’s nearly impossible to hold on to those feelings when I play with colors and design:

dream onjourneywhat a lovely dayfeel betterjoymay find yourself smiling oftenbeloved let us love

As some of you know, I occasionally work with students in English. Yesterday, I spoke with a mother who needed guidance in how to help her daughter with her writing. She said that one of her assignments simply asks the student to write a story and provided a blank page. For the reluctant writer, a blank page is overwhelming. We discussed ways in which she could help her daughter brainstorm and organize her thoughts, which is really an amazing process when I stop to think about it.

Today, I think about how, even though a blank canvas, page, or a glob of clay doesn’t phase me, staring into the face of the unknown is daunting – just as a writing assignment with no real prompt and only white space was daunting to the reluctant writer. Jean Paul Sartre writes of this sensation in Being and Nothingness. To have nothingness can be ideal in that there is great freedom, but it can also be the source of great existential angst. Great power lies in the ability to create – and great responsibility accompanies that power.

I think, in the midst of experiencing some uncertainty in my own life, that returning to the metaphor of the artist is one that can inspire me to push through the angst and toward the sensation of hope, wonder, and playfulness. In the words of Fr. J.J. Lakers (who I write about in my post on Journeys), “I claim a certain right to expound a vision… by analogy with artists in a theory of artistic creation… when artists meet insuperable limits on the full and free expression of their longing in this actual society, they feel the limits intensely. Yet, where others who meet these limits may repress the longing or adjust to the reality, the artists refuse to surrender. They therefore set out to create new forms of life and interaction, if only in imagination.”

Here’s to the artistic spirit that dwells within us all – waiting to be unleashed. Here’s to fecundity.

– Free Range Al


PLEASE NOTE: excerpts of this blog using Fr. J.J.’s words may not be used without written permission.

behind the scenes 124


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



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:

Katy Trail and Garden Pictures 014

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


An Introduction: What’s In A Name?


In short, I think a lot can be in a name – ask any character from The Odyssey … then again, it’s easy to put too much into one’s name, or title – ask Romeo or Juliet.  When someone asks me what I do, I have to quickly decide if I will keep it simple (stay at home mom while adding that I do not like that phrase), or if I’ll avoid a label and provide a quick summary of what I do (write, create, mother, work with English students, support my husband, support those who are dear to me). As you can see, a quick summary is actually not possible, and each part of that summary has a story behind it. We all do a great many things, and our activities and areas of emphasis vary from day to day. That is how The Free Range Artisan came into being. It’s my attempt to have an identity without being limited by it. There are so many ways in which I love to create:


Dream On

Polymer Clay

Owl Buddies

Mixed Media

Mixed Media Purse


Heart Felt Bottle

I could go on…

The world of ideas is also really important to me. Reading and writing has always been part of my life, and an objective of mine is to be published. I daydream about being a published author and respected thinker as often as I daydream about being recognized for my artistic creations!


I wouldn’t mind being a professional drummer either…

Behind the Scenes

Sometimes having a great many interests and passions can be painful – it actually hurts when I do not have the time I need to write to the extent I want to write, or when I cannot stay in my studio by myself all day to make sure a drawing is just right – but these interests are also sources of great joy, especially when I can incorporate them into my current life as a mother. My son helped me prepare my business cards while I stamped bags today…

business card prep

… and it was a joy to share my love of nature with him during yesterday’s bike ride. I think my experiences of motherhood and the opportunities I have to build and maintain meaningful relationships will enhance my work in the future when I’m able to devote more time and energy to my writing and design.

What about you? What are your passions? How do you honor your own desires while being sure to care for those you love?

Take Care,

Free Range Al

One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” – Nietzsche

An Inspiring Ride


Oregon is wonderful in that, among other things, it is very bike friendly, which was one aspect of our life there that I thought I would really miss when we moved to Missouri. Fortunately, we are very close to the Katy Trail now. While riding the trail is one of my favorite activities here, preparing to ride the trail, particularly when it comes to trying to carefully put my son’s bike in the trunk of our car, can be a bit laborious (although I’m not really sure why – when I think about it logically, it should not be as difficult as it feels). Anyway, I am really glad I put forth the effort, because we saw beautiful sights, talked, and just enjoyed a pleasant time together.

Our stopping point was a bridge, where we took a water break and enjoyed the view.

Bridge View

I had to take this picture on our way back to share with you:

Trail View

Flowers are among my favorite things to draw (I know I’m not alone in that). We stopped to take pictures of flowers we want to print and use to inspire future projects.

Katy Trail Pictures for Blog 015

Yellow Flowers

Write me if you know what this is:

Katy Trail Pictures for Blog 019

I’d love to see if these pictures inspire something within you – or if you have some of your own to share!

We rode next to a corn field, which was pretty cool for a little guy who likes to eat corn.


Our final treats were seeing this fellow:









… and practicing tree pose by a tree!

Tree Pose

We have a library event to attend tomorrow that involves making rockets, but we also plan to use our pictures to draw a bit. I’m hoping I can do something tonight – there are a lot of ideas waiting to be released!


Free Range Al