Category Archives: Wild Card Post

May wild card



Hi Beth!

What I read in your posts at the start of this month is a desire for both structure and action at this time.  I see that, as the month has progressed, you have created your own assignments, similar to those that others have created for you over the last 10 months.  That’s really cool! In some ways, you are exploring how this practice might be sustainable or incorporated into your lifestyle after this project is over.

In considering that this is your penultimate month, I’m going to draw back a little to return to Dena’s request for reflection.  The rest of this month can be an opportunity to encapsulate or sum up for yourself some of the things you’ve learned throughout this entire process.  So, for the Wild Card, I’ve designed an exercise to help structure the reflection that Dena proposed.

The Wild Card:

I’d like you to make a list of the things that you have learned about yourself while going through the Living Chapters process.  It may be that you learned that you hate something that you thought you might like.  Or you may have learned meta-lessons, such as, “It’s hard for me to follow someone else’s vision.”  What have you come to understand about your nature, who you are, what is important to you, what is not important to you?  My goal is to have you walk away with a solid understanding of what this process has brought you.  I would imagine that looking at these assets, after you’ve written them down, can tell you a lot about purpose.

By the end of the month, I’m asking you to produce a solid list, not of questions moving forward, but of things you know for sure about yourself and what is important to you that you have taken from this last year.  Again, these are not universal lessons but things you know about yourself.

So here’s the wild card – to provide some structure to the worthy goal of reflection:

  1. Find a time every weekday to spend at least 30 minutes on this.  Find a quiet place to do this where you can really feel yourself.  In order to explore what you’ve learned, you can either do some writing for yourself or write letters one or more of the participants in the project, reflecting on what you learned in relation to their month;
  2. After some written reflection, either through personal writing or letters, create the list of things that you know about yourself and what is important to you that you’ve learned over the last year.  Find whatever form is comfortable for you for the list (e.g., phrases, paragraphs, etc…);
  3. [EXTRA] If you finish this list before the end of the month, create a cohesive way to present what you’ve learned. Maybe you want to create a written statement.  Maybe you want to make a series of photographs.  Maybe you want to make a short video.  The form is up to you but it should encapsulate what you know about yourself now as you near the end of this year.  Only do this bit if you go through the rest quickly.  Follow your own pace;
  4. Share the list (and the thing you make from the list) with us!

Have fun.  It has been beautiful watching this process unfold for you and I am really proud of your ability to follow the process through with such dedication and sincerity.  You have a lot of people supporting you!

With love,



Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.


April Wild Card



This month’s mission has been about getting your heart rate up.  I think that it’s time to make that heart sing!

Your assignment is to dance. Everyday.

All day if you’d like, but for at least 10 to 15 minutes every day. Dance with a friend, dance with a stranger, dance with an enemy, dance by yourself!

What kind of dance you might ask?

Any kind! Modern, classical, ballroom, whatever mood happens to strike you at the time.

I know you have a good playlist to choose from, or just hum a tune to yourself. Is that all you ask? It sounds so easy!

Well, there is one other thing.  Take a class, a for real class where you learn a dance; it could be a Tango, or a Foxtrot, or Swing Dance, or some obscure tribal ritual.  But it must be an actual class where you must interact with an instructor, or a group.

That is your Wild Card assignment for the rest of this month.  I know you will swing into action!


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

March wild cards


Hi Beth!  We are excited to be part of this month’s Living Chapter focusing on spirituality/existential. As you comb through sacred texts and reflect on your religious self, we want to add to the meditative component of this month’s chapter. During Alexis’ yoga teacher training a couple years, she learned about chanting as a way to lead-in to meditation. Chanting is recognized as a spiritual practice in many religions, and we hope it will add to your reflective experience for the rest of the month. So the Wild Card is quite simple: for at least one of your twice-daily meditations, start with chanting for a couple minutes. You can  increase your chanting time as you like. Chants can take many forms and you can use any phrase or mantra you like. Perhaps a line from one the texts you’ve read, or a meaningful song lyric, or even just a single calming word. For your reference, we’ve recorded some examples of chants that we like. These have even come in handy for calming our baby! We hope they have the same effect for you. As you build chanting into your meditative practice, try to focus on your breathing and allow the chant to serve as an aural broom, sweeping away any thoughts and worries. We think that sound can serve a unique role in spiritual reflection and we hope it brings additional clarification and calming to your day.

Loka Samasta:

Om Mani Padme:

Om Shanti Om:


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

February Wild Cards


Hi Beth!

Here is my wild card for the Interpersonal Relationships theme for this month:

You are already focusing on “becoming” the person with whom you are engaging. The wild card for this month is to focus on a specific character trait held by the person you are engaging with. Name at least three traits (they can be from the same person or from different people). Think about the following questions per trait:
– Name the specific trait that jumps out at you
– Is this a trait that reflects your own character? Or is it a trait you wish you had?
– What is meaningful to you about this trait?
– If it is a trait you wish you had, what actions will you take to foster this trait for yourself?
– If it is a trait you already have, how does this trait affect your interactions with the world around you, including your relationships?
Write at least one blog post naming these character traits and discussing the questions above.
I hope you find this wild card helpful on the Journey of Beth Barbush!

january: wild card

Dave SchottIMG_6285

During the time that I began to know Beth, she was immersed in a number of projects in Baltimore.   These included: “Speaking of Silence”, “Middle East Baltimore Stories”, and “Remington Youth Community Radio” . These endeavors centered around uncovering voices and stories that had been purposely silenced or ignored as unimportant, or they were designed to give an outlet for those who don’t normally get to share themselves.  I remember spending time with Beth and plunging into questions around how these topics and people had been marginalized and silenced.  Something that I realized about Beth, was that as she was undertaking these projects, she was forging a connection to place, which helped to create an even deeper feeling of home for her in Baltimore.

This month you have been asked to investigate your new home of St Croix and share some of the things that you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.  As you make new discoveries, you are connecting in different ways with your new environment.

For this month’s wildcard I would like to combine this exploration of your new environment, with the exploration of silence and marginalization.  As part of your discovery process you have been instructed to conduct three interviews.  During one of these interviews I would like you to try and interview a Crucian.  Along with the general questions you ask about the area that will help in completing your field guide,  I would like you to delve into some questions that will uncover something hidden within the fabric of life on the island.  This could be linked to the environment, culture, history, etc.. but must uncover something that has been  marginalized or silenced (possible examples:  crucian language and people, agricultural resurgence, cultural heritage, diversity of climate, water scarcity, bio-luminescent bays, hovensa oil refinery).  As this uncovering process helped you during your Baltimore projects, the goal is that this exploration of silence on St Croix will be a way for you to discover the depth of your new home, and possibly even uncover a creative project or interest for you there in the future.

As your field guide continues and as you use one interview to uncover something hidden about your new home, I would also ask that you take one photo per day of something that makes you feel at home there and to publish at least five of these at the end of the month on the living chapters website.    You can add short captions to each one or leave them to speak for themselves.

As a final link between home and silence: try to take ten minutes per day (you are welcome to extend the length if time allows) for yourself where you calm your mind in your new environment and just breath and relax.  I know that in previous chapters you have been asked to take on similar awareness exercises, and this is just a small continuation and reminder of that, as I know from my own life that when I am moving around and adjusting to new places, I forget to take this time for me, and have to be reminded to do so.

It is clear that there is much happening with your settlement on St. Croix (long plane rides, unfinished living space, remote roads, hindered communications and/or internet).   Don’t let this month’s chapter or additional wildcard challenge overwhelm or add difficulty to your life.  Instead, continue to adapt to each moment as you have before to see what it holds for you and how it can further your integration there.

As this is a busy time with adaptation and logistical considerations, let this also be a time of exploration, awareness and relaxation .

This chapter has set a direction and goals for you this month………but reaching the destination, as always, is not the important thing….


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Page to get caught up to date.

A word from a pair of wild cards

IMG_6293wildcard ch4

Agnes and Grace Lichtner were the first wild card duo adding their mid-month suggestions. In September, the existential chapter, Agnes asked me to take my meditation practice a bit further by adding days of silence while her daughter Grace asked me to not take my mediation practice too seriously by adding humor.  Their wild card final touches on this chapter along with Amy Rothstein’s thoughtful challenges helped make it one of the most rewarding thus far pushing me physically, mentally and emotionally. In this post, Agnes reflects on her and Grace’s role in the Living Chapters process.

As per requested for some insight from us Living Chapters “players”, my daughter, Grace and I would like to express our thoughts.

First, to be asked to be a part of this endeavor by Beth was a shock and an honor as we didn’t know Beth all THAT well but we were definitely drawn to her energetic personality.  We were curious, excited and anxious for the experience and are grateful she considered us an important asset to her experiment of living chapters for a year.

Grace thought it was fun and enjoyed being the wild card because it let her do something different and challenging.  Grace also comments that Beth is a great hula hooper, for sure!  The things we learn about each other!

As for me, I definitely feel I got a deeper sense of Beth as a friend, artist and human being.  I have learned that people are so much more complex with their interests but have the common ground of goodness.  It seemed to be proven through all of us who played a role that we wanted goodness to resonate through the experiences.  There was an effort with positive intent about decisions, interactions with others and nature, desires and aspirations that all of us in one way or another exuded.  Now, I don’t believe we all knew it would turn out that way but we DID want the best for Beth and with that came a bond we all shared and expressed.  Even the “strangers” whom Beth approached contributed a positive role for this experiment.  I was impressed that Beth was able to integrate unchartered players and it shows just how much influence and willingness is out there.  So all in all I feel more connected to the players that Beth is friends with and how we have more similarities than differences.

We didn’t have expectations more than we did curiosity and I admit the month of logging all our usage in daily activities stressed me out and at the same time reiterated how much we conserve and take care of each other and our earth.  Every little bit helps.

A lot of time and focus went into these months and it reminded me how much stamina Beth has and continues to keep for this project.  She’s much stronger than she realized and I’m sure she’s reasserted that into her head by now!  Every month has had a favorite moment but I’m happiest being able to keep up through the blog.

As for future plans for this project – I’m counting on Beth to come out with her idea and will support it’s manifestation.  Course having a get together to celebrate with all players involved would be interesting! hehe


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

November: wildcard


After being a guest on the Baltimore radio show “The Signal” in September of this year, our protagonist invited radio producer and host Aaron Henkin to be a wild card for November.  He submitted his wild card task through a recording this month.  Listen below to hear his mid-month challenge.

November Wild Card

making waves

Oxford contemplationPurpose of Easton Point

Last week I had the opportunity to visit with this month’s wild card Doug Sadler on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  There may not be a better place to contemplate the purpose and meaning of our lives than by the bay, rivers, and streams, on the Eastern Shore. It’s been a couple of weeks now since Doug posed his very simple, yet poignant and thought-provoking questions challenging me to pin-point my purpose.

I haven’t responded in writing until now because I just have not been able to wrap my head around any definite answers to his questions.  However, even unanswered these questions themselves have already begun to make waves in my  life.  Since reading the wild card requests, I have been consumed with dissecting my daily and life intentions. Are my actions honest? Have I been acting and reacting though self-direction or following external pressures? Do my actions add up to an overlying goal or purpose?  Well, I must step back and grant myself a bit of slack here; I think it should take more than a few weeks to figure out or to define this “super objective” as Doug calls it.

During our visit last week, we spent hours crunching on and contemplating the “super objective” question, brainstorming the steps needed to come closer to it. I came away from the conversation without an epiphany but with much more clarity, and many more creative ideas and navigational tools.  As always, I find spending time with a like-minded individual to be valuable and rewarding.  The time serves as an act of reflection itself.  It brings me closer to articulating in words the meaning and intentions behind my involuntary intuitive actions and responses.  That specific space and time spent sharing and reflecting back to one another is definitely a large puzzle piece in picturing what my purpose may be.

On to Doug’s first question, “Define your ‘in the moment’ objective”. What am I attempting to accomplish day-to-day, project by project, minute by minute?

With each object that I created this month, I included a note or letter. In these letters, I wrote to the recipient of the object why or how they have made a difference or impact in my life. What was my intention in creating and sending this to them? My objective was to let those receiving know how they have impacted my life. Expressing myself through  written words in this way was not only refreshing but also came easily, in a way that doesn’t flow freely when speaking in person.  I wrote to many people who I have not over the past few years.

Moving onward to Doug’s second question, “Define your life purpose or super objective”. I tried to apply the same tactics and wrote my thoughts in a paragraph and then condensed it to a sentence and then down to a few words.  I had a hard time separating my personal life goals and my professional life goals. Especially in this time now, when I feel my personal and professional goals are transitioning and changing. I had the best luck looking at where the two overlap and came up with a temporary personal mission statement.

Stay engaged, continue caring, and keep sharing.

I tried it out in my letters to people – and although a statement like this feels a bit forced to me, it somehow does ring true with all that I believe in and have been working toward in my personal and professional world.

Now onto the third Wild Card challenge “ask and receive”.  I feel as though I have taken baby steps in this area, becoming more and more confident as I go with this “ask and you shall receive” territory.  This past year, I feel my “big ask” was to all of my friends who have participated in this Living Chapters project. I asked them to go out on a limb and take a hand in lending some navigational and directional advice for my future.  I asked them to assist in my self-growth and trusted them to guide me gracefully.  This “ask” has already helped me tremendously personally.  I feel like receiving my friends’ contributions and reflections through this process has been an enormous gift that is propelling me forward at a great speed.

The next step though, as another wild card noted in Chapter two, is – what will I do next? How and what will I choose to move forward ?  I think both the “super-objective” question and the “ask and receive” question will really help me focus in on the answer to this question.  And I do think that it will be an examination of both the personal and professional realms.

So with one big personal ask under my belt this year, I have made a pact with myself to make at least one big professional ask before the year is out as well.  Doug’s previous questions have all helped me come closer to devising the next big ask. I am feeling it is time to make a change, one in which I won’t be able to make without support.

Don’t worry Doug I’ll let ya know when I do and it will be big and it will be scary – please do have that beer waiting for me on the Eastern Shore, I may need it.


** Thanks to Doug Sadler for the great reflective photographs of our visit in Easton and Oxford, MD

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

October: Wild Card


It’s a sunny October day in New York city – delightful, peaceful, remarkably warm … but Beth Barbush is in my brain!  She’s filling the space with a swirl of ideas, an inspiring sense of possibility and idealism, frenetic, infectious creativity and a kooky sense of humor.  But why is she in my head, what is her purpose, and by extension, what is mine? Man, October seemed so far away when I signed up for this!

Okay, purpose and meaning … big ideas, big questions … all Barbush. Seeking safety in words, I pull out the dictionary (an actual paper one):


1) an object to be attained; a thing intended 
2) the intention to act 
3) the reason for which something is done or made.

Ah, ‘the reason for which something is done or made’!  I was struck by the elegance and simplicity of the chapter Emily Wheat wrote for Beth this month, including as it did contemplation (a walk in the woods), joy (treasure a day) and a core focus on creativity and giving (create something every day). But two weeks in, I think some deeper exploration of the ‘the reason for which something is done or made’ is in order. Not to justify or question the making or the giving, but to open a door to understanding the purpose behind making, giving and inspiring. And perhaps a touch of asking and receiving is in order too.

At the risk of annoying with a detour, let me share just a bit about what I’ve learned, first as an actor and later as a writer about the power that comes from distilling purpose to a sentence. (And yes, for those wishing I’d just get to the list of assignments already, this is one of them). In acting there is the objective (what I want now, moment to moment) and the super-objective (what I want in life / my purpose). In writing, these same ideas are applied to character creation and the purpose and meaning of the story as a whole, often as premise and theme. In story, the more active, idealistic and potentially unachievable the super-objective of a character, the more intensely the character will come alive and the more magnetic witnessing their seeking becomes – we love dreamers and strivers after all.  And, Beth, since you are a dreamer and striver and have cast yourself – literally as The Protaganist – and ‘hired’ (well, you know) writers to write your life script, I want you to engage with the tools and techniques of character and drama to define your purpose.  And I’m including an exercise to build asking and receiving to your repertoire in addition to giving.   Without further adieu, here’s the wildcard:

1)  Define your purpose (in the moment objective) in giving the gifts you make this month to the people you give them to. A sentence or better, a word or two. Include it with each gift. These can be fun, individual, whimsical.

2)  Define your life purpose (life goal / super-objective). Start with a paragraph, get it down to a sentence and ultimately to a few words that ring true … once you’ve arrived consider sharing it to reinforce it, give it power, perhaps as a signature on gifts you give this month, perhaps in other ways …

3)  Ask and receive – It’s easy for artists and creatives to avoid asking for or receiving the help and support they need, whether financial or otherwise. So, as you focus your life purpose, understand that to live up to that possibility you need and deserve support and to get it you must ask for it.  So, this month step out of your comfort zone and ask at least one person or entity for assistance / a gift to forward your purpose. It can be in any life direction – career, personal, whatever, but think big – this should not be small and it should be scary.

So, there you have it Beth. I think I’m within the bounds of wild card to include all this, but if not, well, call the referee, fire me, cancel my check etc. Oh and when you do #3, I will buy you a beer so you can tell me how and where you’re reaching out and up …



Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

September: Wild Card

chapter4wildcard ch4

My daughter and I have finally agreed on a wild card.  It was through much deliberation on my end to come up with an enhancement for this month’s theme as Amy has thoroughly covered all areas, which I fully commend.  My daughter, Grace, on the other hand knew right away what she wanted for Beth to do this month.  Leave it to children and their “free” minds to celebrate an opportunity.  We know Beth is going through a lot of changes in her life at this time so we believe these requests are reasonable and beneficial for her.  So here they are…

Grace says – Beth must wear a mustache every time she meditates.  Now since Grace and I saw Jim before he left for St Croix today, and will be meeting up with Beth, he promised to pass on to her a pair of glasses with attached mustache that Grace insisted upon.  Stick on mustaches just wouldn’t hold up and these glasses are more like wearing a disguise or a hat.  It’ll definitely keep her in the moment of her meditating.  These “must” be worn anytime she meditates, even if it’s in front of others.  Testing the strengths of limiting distraction.

Aggie says – each week Beth needs to take a “day of silence”.  Beth is able to choose which day but these days must consist of no talking…at all.  Only communication with others will have to be by notes – handwritten or typed emails are acceptable.  The objective is to pull within to the extreme of recognizing what truly needs to be expressed, overcoming expectations of others and self and exercising will power.  It’s very easy for us to speak without thinking and reacting to our environment, thus this will give her the time to silence her being, mind and allow clarity to come forth for the true desired expression.  Beth is encouraged to write down or log any thoughts which occur on a day of silence that need to be discussed at a later time but they must be succinct by the time she is ready to speak them.

OK that is it!  Grace & I hope Beth enjoys the rest of her month’s living chapter and that these are attainable without being stressful wild cards.  Let us know if any elaboration or clarity is needed and thanks again for the opportunity!

Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.