protagonist(s) parting words


Throughout the duration Living Chapters, I’ve had countless conversations with my extremely patient and nurturing network of friends. Ironically, without this external support, I don’t believe I could have accomplished the amount of inner reflection and personal internal work achieved during this year. Oddly enough out of all the living chapters players and participating friends, it was actually someone I did not know who was able to fully understand and support me through this grueling year of digging in the dirt.  That someone is Shannon Twenter, the only other protagonist that I know living out chapters.

Shannon lives in Boise Idaho and contacted me the second month into Living Chapters requesting to start her own blog based on the “Living Chapters” model. This woman wanted to be a protagonist in her own story of self-development. I could not have been more excited to share the life experiment and compare notes. Read here for Shannon’s description of her Open Book Project . And read below for Shannon’s opinion on what the Living Chapters experience has done for me and for her.

Final Thoughts of Living Chapters AND Open Book Project’s Protagonists: 

Evidence, Beth: I see it in our phone conversations. As we compared our goals of journey at the beginning, we found synchronicity in letting go of control. But there was near scoffing at my larger goals of faith and love being your major outcome goals. It wasn’t in your trajectory at that time. Walking this journey with you, I am not at all surprised to see you explore love and faith as tools of trust. A perceivable change.
Deliberate. That is the power of Living Chapters. And for me, the power of Open Book Project.
In the deliberate focus on logic, environment, personal relationships, existentialism, purpose, and the body/kinesthetic, Beth made change. Change that was already within her and true to her core, but change that asked her to shift largely to explore the unexpected. And though her conclusion is fluid, I observe a result that is palpable and real. A re-alignment and steadfast reminder of her core while a movement, adoption, and commitment to further explanation of the sought shifts.
All in her amazing way of an artist. Who she is.
I, too, have been deliberate in being present with faith, love, purpose, creativity, all thrive not survive themes. And I felt the needed BEAUTIFUL shifts. So grateful for it, it urges me to keep at it in a consistent, lifelong way. As even I feel the value of the shifts and prioritizing my core, my tendency can be to revisit old habits, particularly in times of challenge. I want to instead choose my core and Open Book Project’s beautiful shifts.
Open Book Project’s goal was trust. And it was right. Trust is the key. Open Book Project, and it seems Living Chapters, has urged me to terrifyingly continue to choose and live through trust.
Evidence, Shannon: I love people. I love to understand them. My actions can veer to the opposite. I fear opening to others. The vulnerabilities of rejection or hurt have seemed larger than the benefit. I’ve opened enough to learn that the benefit is vastly worth more than the pain. A simple said or signed ‘I love you’ with sincerity makes the heart float.

– Shannon Twenter

Thank you Shannon! ‘I love you’ for sticking through this with me!

Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Pages to learn about the Living Chapter monthly challenges.

one LOVE


“Who is the true, deep down you? The you who you can feel when you are centered and grounded?” This may be a question that you answer through a feeling rather than through words.”

Chapter 11 wild card, Myra Margolin, poses this question in response to the Living Chapters experiment. I agree with Myra, this question may only be answered through feelings rather than words. Could it be possible to describe the deep down essence of who I am without leaning on the surface statements of what I do, what I own, who I am with, or what I consume? Try it. I have been working on this for the past 12 months and have failed to find  words or reason that surpass feeling.

During this year, I have noticed consistent occurrences in which I am completely centered and grounded. In these moments I lose track of time, I’m called to create, engaged in conversation, engulfed by nature, dizzy by dance, and am fully being myself without filter. I lock in – connect and WHOOSH everything else disappears. All worry, fretting, questioning and doubting fall aside. I feel aligned, focused, validated and supported in this place. Here I know that every choice and action I’ve taken allowed this to happen and every effort to stay open and giving has allowed me to recognize it. What is this “it” I am talking about? LOVE of course.

I reflected upon the topic  in Chapter 6 “Interpersonal Relationships”. Reading the French philosopher Luce Irigaray, I got lost in her abstract metaphors and lengthy emotional prose. Maybe I wasn’t fully understanding because I was not yet ready or open to?  Somehow though, by the end of this 12 month story, I have not only come to clear understanding and definition of what Love means for me, but I have also met someone who I believe has helped me redefine my whole concept of Love. Its true, just weeks before reaching my final chapter, I encountered love!

To me love is not a mere romantic attraction or the feeling of being complimented or acknowledged. It is about living honestly, fully being yourself – and sharing it openly. Not only giving, but also receiving what is given. Love lives in the moment of the exchange, letting go of all but trust and faith. It is the dissolving of separation, struggle, fears and doubts. Love is the place I am, when I realize I am one with my environment, I am the melody of the music I dance to, and I am the self created pieces of the puzzle I put together. The feeling of love is the friction and the energy created when reaching the mutual understanding of this exchange. Simultaneously giving while receiving unconditionally and involuntarily.

So how did I come to my defined meaning of this fleeting feeling? It may have something to do with consciously spending the last 12 months of my time focusing and reflecting upon my inner self this year. Who am I? What do I believe? What makes me happy? Through the Living Chapters structure, I gave myself the time, trust and faith that I could only lead to positive change. I gave myself the love and care needed that leads to growth.

My past patterns of giving to and for others before myself are changing. Living Chapters was an effort to become accountable to my friends in preparation of becoming accountable to myself. I created the rules and guidelines in the hopes of forming better habits and having new experiences. I never knew it could also lead to stronger intuition, confidence in my decisions, clarity in my mind, and allowing both open love and romantic love into my life.

And even now, as I find myself in uncertain times, about to make new choices that will re-direct the course of my life. I am feeling centered and grounded. By placing deep trust in myself and all writers participating in the process, I have been led to this place that Myra speaks of. I am ready for anything that will come and will welcome it when it arrives.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about. Check out the Chapter Summaries Pages to learn about the Living Chapter monthly challenges.

journey into summer


Walking through Walden’s web…

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary…” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

In response to my request for feedback on the Living Chapters year long project, chapter one writer Joe Gallo forwarded this quote to me from Thoreau’s “Walden”. Joe said, “I do think that this is the essence of your adventure – To live deliberately.” He also noted, that the last sentence of this quote is normally cut off when the quote shared. Joe included the last sentence commenting, “I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant except that one has a responsibility to resist resignation as much as possible. But if circumstances make resignation a necessity, let it be a conscious choice – an act –  rather a shoulder-drooping reaction to a sucky situation.”

Joe’s reflection and Thoreau’s quote struck a chord in me. Both describe what I believe to be the two of most profound gifts I received through living out the experiences of the past year. The first, being the strong desire to live a more mindful, intentional and deliberate life. The other gift being my new awareness and ability to meet, address, and accept resistance as an opportunity when necessary.

The Living Chapters structure planned the focus of my path monthly. It relieved me of the question of “what” I was going to do and presented me with the question of “how” was I was going to do it. Taking this time to specifically explore “how to live” has placed me not following Thoreau’s path of desired deliberate living but creating my own path.

Letting go of what I could not control this year, I followed guidelines and accepted suggestions while at the same time conjured my own personal energy and beliefs to breathe life into the written chapters given. This process revealed an alternate and interesting way to live. Day by day, I brought my focus back to the present challenge at hand and felt a shift occur.

Slowly over the months, I noticed the change from directing my life previously through vague instinct, external expectation and available opportunities to directing my choices through a set structure, stronger instinct, internal trust, external loyalty and the exchange of love. It has been a delicate balance between “letting go” of my old patterns while at the same time developing new intentional ones that work for my present life.

“I did not wish to live what was not life,” says Thoreau. It seems a simple desire, but in fact is not an easy thing to do. To live life deliberately cannot be accomplished in 12 months time; it must be put into a daily practice and nourished over a lifetime.

In the defined space and time Living Chapters allowed, I merely began the exploration of self and the understanding of others and our environment. As if I were left out in the woods, I slowly discovered what worked or didn’t work for me in every chapter. With each challenge I took a closer look at what I believed, how I felt and what I was capable of. Setting the themes for chapters, before starting set the intentions for my year. Showing me where and how I wanted to grow and develop.

Each player in Living Chapters pushed and supported me by dictating tasks that illuminated my strengths and addressed my weaknesses. They stretched boundaries and sparked fears challenging me to make and break new habits and banish old patterns. The chapters that fueled my resistance were most beneficial. Through the resistance I began to understand and accept that discomfort and confusion can be the first step to clarity and contentment. Understanding what was holding me back was, for me, the key that is allowing me to move forward.

I will leave you with a couple more quotes from Walden that resonated with me.  Thanks to Joe for bringing me back into the woods this summer.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden


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 learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.

epilogue: independence day


“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”
      –  William Faulkner

Ask and you shall receive…

I asked for self development, growth and transformation. I requested change and challenge in the form of written chapters that could help guide my story forward. The Living Chapters structure and its players generously provided, giving all that and more. Trusting my initial intuition, I let go and put faith and trust in the ones I loved to guide my path.  Now it is “Independence day”.

Just a few days into freedom from the structured chapters and how do I feel? It’s as if I just finished a 12-month marathon, or a 12-step program? Either way – an intensive mind-body and soul makeover.  I’m a bit sore, in shock, and invigorated at the same time.

Now that the year has addicted me to the process of reflecting through writing, I feel the need to take at least the month of July to wean myself off the program by responding (in writing) to the feedback, questions, critique and comments I have been given from the Living Chapters participants and readers.

This “Independence day” post is directed in response to question #1 from radio producer/interviewer extraordinaire, Aaron Henkin.  Aaron played the wild card for chapter six and also invited the Living Chapters players and I on his popular Baltimore radio show The Signal. Today Aaron asks me, what many have been asking all along, what will I now do with my new-found freedom? Freedom! A scary thing to many – a blank slate and abyss of choices!  Just what will I do?

IMG_5219    “What’s it like for you now that LC is over and done?  Do you know what to do with yourself when you wake up in the morning?”

Well Aaron… yes, I actually do know what to do each morning! Even without a monthly chapter prescription!  It seems these days, there is rarely a moment when I don’t know how to utilize my time.  And as far as mornings, I am very specific about it!  After waking, I have, for once in my life, become remarkably consistent. Chapter 4 brought a new meditation practice into my life: 15 min in the morning and 15 min in the evening each day.  I have kept with this practice and am now averaging 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening.  Meditation isn’t the only thing that has stuck with me through the roller coaster existence moving through one month to the next.  But it’s one of the most helpful and useful tools I’ve picked up.

I was inundated with a plethora of requests filling each month. I thought it virtually impossible to accomplish them all in four week’s time.  I tried though and merely scratched the surface of many tasks attempted. I am now eager to dive in and try some out again. Returning to the past chapter tasks will not only help me understand how the LC process has changed me, but will be a good way to test and try on the lessons learned.

In addition to meditation, the major transformation occurring, now that the project is over is my love of writing.  Writing for me was the main physical goal of this project – an act that I had been avoiding both personally and professionally for years. This task, before June of last year, seemed incomprehensible and made me anxious. Instead of writing, I would grab my camera, or my audio recorder as a means to reflect, express or document my world.  Through Living Chapters this has now changed.

So what will I do now that it’s over?  All I can say is that I will continue to write.  In what form, I don’t know yet. Living my 12 chapters and writing about them this year helped me find my voice and use it in a new way.  I had always felt my strong sense of intuition and inner guidance but now, after living out my chapters, I can honestly say that I hear my voice more clearly and trust it more fully.  As I continue to live on my story, the logical next steps are, of course, to hone my skills in using my voice more frequently. Time to put more trust in myself and start learning how to write and sing my own soundtrack.


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 learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.

confidant conclusion


Beth, I have few parting words for you as you start your next chapter. I don’t know how this will unfold, I don’t know your next chapter or if there will be a sequel. I do, however, know what you taught me over the last 12 months. I hope that might be useful to you in your journey and as you live your chapters to come.  

In the past year, while you explored the unknown, and bound yourself to the challenges, structures and limitations given to you by others, I have been building my own walls, setting foundations, making things happen, creating boundaries, schedule and structure that I never had in my life. There was a place for this and a need for it. Some of it has been necessary, but likewise some of it has been limiting. What I realize is that you have given me my next chapters to live through your example. I have been intuitive in my life at times, reacting rather than choosing, learning and shifting with people and opportunities that come in and out of my life, but slowly, over time, I have disconnected from those instincts. I want to reclaim them. I need more balance. So, I choose to challenge myself for the next 12 months to be less logical and structured, less tied to obligation and convention, and more willing to accept what I cannot change around me and listen to the universe. Control, planning, logic, can be frustrating and narrowing, as much as useful and expansive in the way they make you think. I ask you to consider how these tools may balance your fluid life, as much as letting go of them may challenge mine. 
As with everything, you well know, the key is balance in life. A balance of trusting the universe and the relationships and people who influence you, and pushing and shaping your life to make your world all that you want it to be.
I recently visited a friend of mine, in DC, and on her wall in huge letters she had written, “You are living your story.” What a statement to have over your bed, and to see every morning. So much pressure! But, there is truth in it. Every day we add another page to a book that gets longer and longer. How can we make sure that every day we make our lives as interesting, balanced, and fulfilling as we can, but still control, guide, and shape the book we end up with when all the pages are bound together? 


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 learn more about what happens when you live your life through chapters.

and back again: the completion of beginnings


Lovers, haters, readers, followers, those who have listened and given any care or attention to what has unfolded in the past 12 months… lend me your voice. You’ve been listening to/reading my words and have acted as great motivators and a generous audience. I’d like nothing more now than to thank you publicly and also hear and read what you think or have to say in response to the past 365 days. The yearlong experiment officially comes to an end this week and like any program creator, director or implementor, I can’t walk away without an assessment of some kind. Has a year really gone by? What the heck just happened?

As in everything I do, I am always looking for feedback – the good, the bad, the kind of critique that makes me question everything I’ve ever done. Bring it! Now it may seem strange that I’m asking for your honest opinion on my personal-development model (ie: the way I’ve lived my life for the past year) but hey the whole process has been strange – no? Are you really surprised that I am asking? I am open and eager for your comments or questions.

Many are already asking me… “What’s next?” “Will you continue to let others lead your life?” I think I am more compelled by the questions like “What came out of the experiment?” and “Why did you actually follow through with it?” – “What did it do to/for you?” As I start out the next chapter of my new story it may lead with those questions, rather than jumping just yet into the “next”.

A year ago, my main goal of carrying out Living Chapters was to help me achieve the act of “letting go”. Honestly though, did I really know what that meant? And do I know any better or feel any clearer today about the concept? I thought “letting go” meant being a little more flexible, changing up a routine and letting go of controlling and planning every little thing. I knew it would involve loosening the reigns and questioning the direction and guidance that I have instituted over my life until now. I didn’t expect it to be life changing.

What I am beginning to understand is this – “letting go” is more accurately defined, in my mind, as the adoption of living a life with some kind of faith and trust. (not just simply becoming less of a control freak). It is not only about the faith and trust I put in my friends who have guided me, but the faith and trust I put in myself to make all things work for both myself and others in my life.  And the faith found in the unknown that replies back to us “Yes, you DO know what to do and things WILL fall into the places that they need to”. Throughout the year, I learned how to trust fully and become at home in this “unknown”. I learned how to sit with resistance and fend off fears. I consciously stopped trying so hard to force a future or figure it all out. And I gave a valiant attempt at focusing more on setting intentions and making mindful decisions. (still diligently working on all this!)  So yes, the year has changed me. If you’re interested in how…just ask.  Be specific as you’d like… I’ve been living my life as a semi-open book for the past 12 months.  I think I’m finally ready to share almost anything and have already experienced more honesty from myself and others than I thought humanly possible.

Your suggestions and support this year have given me a constant forward momentum and your questions can and will only motivate me to be accountable in living out the lessons learned from the entire Living Chapters experience.

(Please do respond here on the blog or leave your questions and suggestions on the Living Chapters Facebook Page) Your thoughts are important to me.

So what is next? I don’t know exactly? All that is clear is that I have come back to yet another “completion of beginnings”; a time to start fresh, build upon foundations, expand outward. And where I am physically, spiritually, mentally emotionally? All huge questions not able to be answered and edited into this last June blog post.

Here and now, I find myself in suburban Pennsylvania, a place in which I have not directly planned or chosen, facing what seems to me the most uncertain time of my life to date.  It is fitting to be here where I grew up, living with my mother the person who has made me who I am today and who has shaped and challenged me the most.  She has written more of my chapters than maybe even myself.  Here I am, living out what may be the last of her days, while simultaneously scheming my own departure for the beginning of my new unknown story. Right now, locked in position, ready to choose a new place to live, create a new job, direct a new life experiment to live out, develop and foster new relationships to commit to and dig up new adventures to navigate. In this completion time, I feel the most ready and open I have ever felt before such a beginning. I no longer have questions of what, where and when the next something will occur, Living Chapters has taught me that the how is more important. New chapters themselves will come and go throughout life but the way I choose to live out the story will remain the most important thing through any given plot twist. It is the choice of continuing to read between the lines that will ultimately lead my story onward. Thanks to all who have been witnesses of my story.


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 find out the rest of the story.

with and without: logic


Is it logical to let others lead my life choices for 12 months?  Is it logical to share long journal entries filled with personal emotional and physical details via the internet each week?  Was it logical to jump rope insanely until I  sprained my ankle or was there logic in the days of silence communicating only in written post-it notes?  What about the time I spent an hour floating naked in an isolation chamber in a random New York City apartment? Hmmmm now that’s a hard one to find logic in! I really haven’t been working too hard on sharpening my “logical living” skills this past year. I’m not worried though.  I feel pretty good about what’s unfolded thus far and am beginning to believe putting faith in the act of letting go is in itself it’s own form of logic.

It’s not surprising that I have resisted my final Living Chapter’s task  – the life goal logic model.  I have always felt strongly and have vehemently stated that living one’s life can not really be “modeled” and that life itself does not fit into a box.  I don’t believe that filling out a quiz can depict my personality and I have problems creating “profiles” that upload my lifestyle in Instagram images.  I find myself checking the “other” box frequently on forms and cringing when people ask me to choose a “genre” that suits me best.   I have looked outward from this perspective and fought my way through 37 years defending my sentiments.

Oddly enough, as driven and motivated as I am, I have also fought the idea of creating “life goals” or “life plans”.  I felt as if setting these end points or lists of things/desires or accomplishments would limit me from becoming who I was or could be without restrictions.  But what is really limiting me? Could it be my resistance in general? Is it the fear or dislike of wandering down this particular “scary” logic avenue that may be keeping me from my chosen destination?  Is it a fear of choosing what I really want? These questions have agitated me to the point of action so I have finally decided to stop resisting and just dove into my last chapter challenge of creating the life goal logic model.

So what is a logic model? Good question! Take a peek at these images  And if you want to learn more after being (inundated by these graphs and charts) read up here on what Wikipedia has to say. I went directly off of Elizabeth’s guidelines in her chapter outline. My logic model consists of rows each holding a “life goal” and four columns each outlining the steps taken to achieve those goals and the impacts and outcomes of accomplishing the goals.  The columns are as follows:

  • INPUT: what do I have to put in (or be) to make this goal reality?
  • ACTIVITIES: what things to I need to do to make this a reality?
  • OUTPUT: What is created when I do these activities?
  • OUTCOMES: What is changed, disrupted or benefited from these actions

Elizabeth would be very proud to know that I probably spent at least 3 – 4 hours organizing my life desires into the little boxes of this chart.  She may not be proud of my poor chart making/design abilities but the good stuff came out of the thinking and feeling that went into filling these boxes.  Doing this tedious exercise now has me seeing through some slightly different logic lenses.  Doing this not only helped me move beyond the fear of stating and deciding on the things I want in life looking forward, but it even forced me to map out some definite plans to achieve them.  However, I am still not convinced that this process on its own is enough for me.

I believe that the “life plan logic model” seems to be missing one VERY important column.  It’s called “unpredictable out of our control LIFE”.  If we were really to assess our life goals and create a plan to achieve them, would we not have to account for LIFE itself? All the unexpected miracles, disasters, and chaos that comes along with it.  Would we not have to account for our environment and others in our lives that also have life goals and ambitions? All of which is something that can definitely not fit into a box and often can not be predicted.

Yes, I must admit that logic is a useful and necessary tool in the task of planning and presenting a future goal. It is a great guide to get started, motivated, even organized! Its like planning your garden and planting the seeds. There is no harvest without the initial efforts.  However, in addition, I also believe in becoming highly attuned to the changing tides, weather patterns, and the seismic shifting plates of the earth. Without the preparation and the ability to accept and adapt to life’s next curve ball, all life plans are lost on their own.  What seems logical to me is learning to understand the importance of and the logic behind letting in the bits of logic that work for you and letting go of all the rest. You know what they say “the best laid plans”…

For those that are interested in charts: here is my attempt at the “life goal logic model” I took my two list of goals “TO BE” as the main goals and “TO DO” as the activities to achieve the main goals.


Life goals:

to be, to do, to have, to let go of


What I have to put into the goal


What I need to do


What is physically produced


(anticipated or desired) Changes or benefits that may occur


1. To be: HEALTHY 

Attention to diet, exercise and spiritual practice Move: dance, hike, walk, swim Balanced and mindful eating habits, movement and meditation practice More energy, stronger body, clear mind Less illness, less stress, positive attitude/life, better relationships

2. To be: LOVING

Commitment, follow through, openness, honesty, time, passion, devotion LOVE: self, life partner, family, friends, community Playing, talking, thinking, touching, working, listening, confessing, flowing, exchanging, sharing Friends, confidence, partnership, marriage, family, good work, art, beauty More love, strong relationships, commitment, strong values, whole self, whole communities, transformation

3. To be: OPEN

Ability to say yes, ability to not project, ability to be vulnerable, ability to accept others Absorb and learn Trying new things, talking to strangers, accepting challenges, being uncomfortable, being spontaneous New experiences, adventure, fun, strange days, full living new self knowledge, increased intuition, increased confidence


Ideas, time, focus, effort, drive, structure Write: blog, book, letters, articles Following structured steps, reading photographing, editing, thinking, sharing, Articles, blog posts, audio pieces, books, art, experiences, events, talks, letters, emails Exchange of ideas, inspired thinking, sharing of expression, stronger relationships, stronger values, more opportunities

5. To be: BALANCED

Restraint, awareness, objective thinking, light and dark, silence and communication Absorb: listen and learn all that I have space for, nature, knowledge, energy Experience/accept resistance, give/receive equally, address hopes/fears, moderation, spend less/make more $ Healthy diet, healthy body, clear mind, more savings, less stress, less worry, less struggle healthy relationships, stable finances, increased mental focus and clarity, happier environment

6. To be: MINDFUL

Awareness, attention to detail, time, meaning, care, commitment, curiosity Meditate: center balance listen, be in present Think and assess before acting, make promises, keep promises, ask and answer questions Change of habits, greater understanding of others and the environment, More peaceful and positive environment and stronger relationships



Trust, courage, creativity, willingness, openness Move:dance,hike,walk, swim Create open life structure, say yes, compromise, focus on the moment, respond to the present actions not past or future Annoying reactions from non fluid thinkers, new ideas, experiences, mindfulness Confusion, clarity, present moment living, growth and death of experiences

8. To be:


Time, love, care, money, work, thought, acceptance, passion Love myself fully, Share: talks workshops, radio interviews be with others, talk to others, write, listen, think of others, volunteer, donate time or money or creations Confidence, friendship, partnership, good intention, gratitude Shared experience, model to follow, healthy relationships, healthier communities better businesses,

9. To be:


Awareness, humility, awe Collect and highlight others’ stories, audio, and imagesMake gratitude lists, say thank you, recognize others generosity Warmth, love, validation Increased giving, stronger relationships, validation, contentment amongst giver and receiver


Vulnerability, loyalty Connect: nourish and create relationships Seek the truth, avoid secrets, share openly, banish lies, make promises, keep promises More honesty, more trust Stronger relationships, quicker solutions, less drama


Time, devotion, commitment, organization,consistency Focus: hone skills in writing, audio editing Create structure, make lists, follow lists, set limits, boundaries, guidelines, make promises, keep promises Satisfaction, accountability, productive habitsGreater focus Higher productivity, Higher success rates, Greater self-confidence, Increased skills


Trust, confidence, curiosity, Explore: natural landscape, cityscape, new territories Take risks, push boundaries, break rules, be creative Independence,Adventure, confidence, new skills New opportunities, breakthroughs, transformation



12 goals & intentions: to be & to do

IMG_9259IMG_9260After nearly 12 months of translating pre-written chapters into my actual living, breathing days. I am being asked to lay out an outline to script the rest of my story. I guess I should be ready by now to set the stage and jump into the next 12 chapters.  After this intense programming of attempting to let go fully – living the part of the abiding protagonist, am I ready to take back the director’s chair and orchestrate some independence? I believe Elizabeth is prepping me to do so whether I am ready or not.

Last September I was given a similar challenge from chapter writer Amy Dehuff. While exploring my existential existence, Amy’s questions and tasks unfolded each week similar to this concluding June chapter.  Her requests drew me deeper into the difficult and revealing questions of the what, why and how I choose to navigate my way on my path.  Both writers laid out specific guidelines and instructions on how to arrive at potential answers simply by asking me to set guidelines, directions or goals to define where I was going.

In September, Amy blatantly requested that I make a 1 year, 5 year and 10 “life plan” as a way to direct my path.  This week Elizabeth asks me to state or name 12 goals in which I would like to accomplish in the upcoming 12 years. A bucket list of sorts?

For some reason both of these requests (although simple, and helpful) bring up a serious amount of resistance for me. For some reason I have always responded poorly to the notion of setting specific goals (or making the checklist of life) to lead my choices.

The business dictionary defines the word goal as being An observable and measurable end result having one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed timeframe. There really is something about the words “end result” and “fixed timeframe” that make my skin crawl. Maybe this is why I have dodged the process of setting goals.  To me if feels like traveling with a set agenda or cooking with a specific recipe; there is not much room for spontaneity or creativity.

But where is this intense resistance coming from is it the “measurable end result” that makes me nervous or the achievement expected in a more or less “fixed timeframe” that makes me uncomfortable?  Defining a completion has never been my forte.  I am not sure if it is the fear of negating all the potential opportunities and open avenues that inevitably arrive along the way.  (fear of commitment?) Or if it’s really just a fear failing (or worse yet succeeding and concluding!) arriving at the final end destination? (hmmm…fear of death?)

Either way, even with these rooted fears, I am not opposed to setting goals and am not unaware of the benefits of doing so.  I’ve had no problem in the past working hard or working towards defined outcomes.  Recently though, I have realized that setting intentions has become much more valuable, illuminating and important to me.  Looking, not at the far-flung future, but giving myself daily dose reminders of who and how I want to BE rather than where I am going to go and what I want to DO has brought new confidence and clarity to me.

I believe strongly in stating intentions – even writing them down.  Desires are really only dreams unless we visualize and physically live and breathe them into action.  Spending the time to write or state them directly manifests movement into the world making it real.   I believe in the true power behind consciously doing this.  Maybe that is what I am really afraid of? The true power of manifesting what we actually desire into being!? These few quotes keep echoing in my brain:

“Ask and you shall receive” – “Be careful what you ask for” – “If you build it they will come”

So why do I allow resistance to block my path when I can let it flow freely through me and just finish this chapter challenge?  If I learned anything through this project, it has been to closely examine resistance as a means to confront and conquer fears. Sitting with and in discomfort helps me understand what it is that is holding me back and what it is that could project me forward.

My core philosophy believes that yes it is important to set goals but first feel strongly about and see clearly what the intentions behind those goals are.  Examine and sit with that resistance! Is it coming from an external place or an internal source.  If I allow a goal to guide my way – it needs to come from within and grow with intention – not be pushed by external expectation.

In my response to life planning in September I stated these “goals”:

  • Create and nourish positive relationships
  • Do meaningful and useful work
  • Learn, create, and explore new things
  • Be adaptable to changing environments and new opportunities

Within 10 years I stated my life plan to “exit ambition and move to meaning”.  An ambitious task at hand! I guess I best get busy this next decade cultivating a mindful practice toward creation of meaning while working through and out any last seeds of ambition that have been planted along my path.  It seems I need to get busy pacing out my personal pursuit schedule and decide on the balance between how I really want to be and what is really important to do. I am hoping the following two lists of my 12 intentions and 12 goals will help guide me.

to BE:

  • Healthy/Energetic
  • Loving
  • Open/Accepting
  • Mindful
  • Productive
  • Balanced
  • Fluid/Flexible
  • Giving
  • Grateful
  • Honest/Trusting
  • Disciplined/Determined
  • Courageous

to DO:

  • Love: self, life partner, family/children, friends, community
  • Meditate: center, balance, listen, be in the present
  • Write: blog, book, letters, articles
  • Share: talks, workshops, radio interviews
  • Absorb: listen and learn all that I have space for, nature, knowledge, energy
  • Create: spaces, art, music, food
  • Move: dance, hike, walk, swim, be in fluid motion
  • Focus: hone skills in writing, marketing, media, organize ideas and projects
  • Connect: nourish and create relationships
  • Collect: stories, audio, and images,
  • Explore: natural landscape, cityscape, new territory
  • Live intently: choose and abide to lifestyle choices


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.


IMG_9045IMG_9041 From a young age, I have always used the phrase “mapping out my life” as a way of thinking about moving toward the future. I would pull out a napkin, a place mat or an envelope and start making random marks, circles, and connecting lines as if this act of defining it on paper would set my decisions and movements into action – (strangely enough many times it did.) Maybe this is why Elizabeth has asked me to create a mind map of sorts to represent what has transpired in the past 12 months of this Living Chapters project. She asked me to create a diagram that could illustrate what I have taken in and what I have given out over the length of this life experiment.

Thinking about putting the chaos of this self-discovery life experiment in an actual road map has left me feeling a bit dizzy, mixed with a bit of resistance. Something similar to what I felt when asked last July to pick only one symbol that would represent me as a person. How can all that has unfolded being distilled into one single diagram? I feel as if I am still working through this long involved equation, learning how the pieces that are coming together will ultimately affect the outcome or possibly come to some kind of solution?

Instead of getting completely overwhelmed and frustrated with this task, I decided to take my own advice from last July and simplify the request. Less is more correct? Could I come up with a diagram that could represent not exactly what I have taken in and what I have given out over the past 12 months but could it reflect or focus on the process of how I have shifted my process of taking in and giving out? Could determining the HOW help me pin point the WHAT?

So what am I talking about here? Well, it’s been a hard concept for me to put into words as well – I’ve been thinking about it all week and feel that Elizabeth’s task is on point. It really can more easily be understood through a diagram, a form or by using symbols. So I returned to the symbols  that I contemplated last summer when trying to find a visual to represent my professional work. A few particular symbols have stayed with me throughout the year and now seem to clearly represent the motion and meaning of the process that has evolved for me this year. Specifically the Rune symbols.  Runes, as stated by Ralph Blum, are tools (or diagrams) for assisting us to guide our lives in the present, runes assist us to navigate unfamiliar waters, a tool for keeping us on track and a training device for our intuition.


The power, movement and meaning behind these drawn lines has stayed with me since examining these symbols last year. How can the arrangement of lines guide our paths or how we live them? I am not going to dissect every thought about each symbol I have been contemplating currently in regards to this months task.  But I would like to bring attention to the exercise itself and I would like to share some notes, collections of images, drawings and mapping life exercises as a way to observe my own process in understanding the intake and output from not only this year’s journey but life in general as it has unfolded.

the below sketches were taken from journals 1998 -2004 thinking about the same issues that I am now

What I believe Living Chapters has ultimately helped me do  this year is learn to observe and practice balancing the external and internal input in life. Really looking closely at both the external and internal sources has helped me define and illuminate my core values which in turn is starting to hone my focus and navigation of my external and internal output outcomes, progression, and direction.

After doing last week’s time travel assignment/timeline of my prior actions, habits and patterns, I realized that I do not personally move in a straight line forward or backward or up or down. I am also not simply circling and retracing a path back to its beginning. The motion that most resonates for me is a radiating vibration outward and forward. And in order to do this, I feel there must be given an equal amount of focus weight and motion in all directions while standing firm and still on the core of my center and the present moment. Maybe the images shared here will distill my thoughts and ideas on this in a clear or different way that resonates more than words.

The below images and sketches were collected and made this past week: Special thank you to Jesse Price of The Quondam Tree who opened up his artist studio and workshop for me to explore and photograph in and created the set of beautiful wooden Runes displayed in the photographs above.


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.

travelling through time


In response to my first “logic and order” exercise, I was very happy to be able to be able to refer back to my website I created in response to chapter two. The hard work organizing my professional life in an online portfolio clearly laid out a good bit of my life from age 25 and on. But when traveling further back into my early years my memory starts getting fuzzy. I have no idea what I liked to wear or what I liked to eat! What the heck did I do on a day-to-day basis? What were my hobbies? I was doing something different all the time! Hmmm…. Have I really changed that much since I was 5? Well I guess that is what this exercise was set out to investigate. Is there something I can find in the core of myself that doesn’t change? Can I find a thread that runs throughout as I did in my professional life? We’ll see….

Luckily both my parents were picture nuts (and I wonder where I got it from?) so I have tons of images to spark my memory and search for clues to these questions Elizabeth asked of me. Below is the list of questions she asked (some I tweaked and some I added)

What do you look like? (what are you wearing how do you present yourself?)
Where do you live?
What is your job?
What do you spend most of your time doing (3 favorite hobbies?)
What are you eating? (your favorite foods)
What do you consider “home”
What is the most interesting thing you did this year?
What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced
What are your closest relationships?
What are you most proud of? (What 3 things do you like about yourself)

5-year-old BB: circa 1982

What do you look like? Mom said I decided to stop wearing dresses at age 4. We made a deal that I would wear them for special occasions.

Where do you live? Dillsburg, PA

What is your job? Bothering my big brother and trying to stay quiet in the car. My mom paid us 10 cents every minute we were quiet (that was good money back then)

What do you spend most of your time doing Coloring in books on paper and sometimes on the walls, hanging out with our cat Sally, and digging in the sandbox.

What are you eating? marshmallows?

What do you consider “home”? My front and back yard

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Recovered quickly from an intensive operation that removed a tumor.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Accepted a new step dad and step sister into my home and then said goodbye when my mom got divorced

What are your closest relationships? My red teddy bear, my mom, my cat Sally and my brother Jason

What are you most proud of? My red teddy bear and drawings on my bedroom closet walls

10-year-old BB: circa 1987

What do you look like? A chipmunk kind of? I was very small and had big front teeth! I liked blue jeans and sometimes nice things in my hair.

Where do you live? In my family home in Dillsburg, PA with my mom and my brother

What is your job? Going to 4th/5th grade

What do you spend most of your time doing Listening to 45 records on my Smurf record player, doing arts and crafts, camping in the backyard, writing in my first diary, spotting monsters and setting fires in the woods

What are you eating? Fluffer nutter sandwiches (marshmallows) and spaghettios

What do you consider “home” My back yard and the near by woods of the game lands.

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Recorded the sound of rocks in the woods and in my metal mailbox on my portable tape recorder OR making rap songs with my brother on the same tape recorder

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? My brother was diagnosed with mental illness and left the house and our family for a long time.

What are your closest relationships? My brother, my mom, best girlfriends (Jenny and Leah), and my dog Molly

What are you most proud of? Beating all the boys in my class math competition, giving a performance lip syncing to “Another Brick in the Wall” and organizing recess craft activities for my classmates


15 year old BB: circa 1992

What do you look like? Similar to my 10 year old self – I liked blue jeans and sometimes nice things in my hair. I liked neutral colors and probably shopped at the GAP

Where do you live? In my family home in Dillsburg, PA with my mom and a foreign exchange student

What is your job? Going to School (9th/10th grade) and working at a “Greek” restaurant serving pizza and calzones

What do you spend most of your time doing? Hanging out with friends, doing arts and crafts, taking photographs, traveling with my family

What are you eating? First year drinking coffee and eating a lot of  “greek” pizza and calzones

What do you consider “home” Exploring the woods and hanging out in the graveyard near my house with friends

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Welcomed a foreign exchange student into our home, spray painted my shoes, and made button necklaces.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Gaining and losing a sister

What are your closest relationships? A small group of solid friends, my Spanish sister Maria

What are you most proud of? My artwork, my Spanish sister Maria


20 year old BB: circa 1997

What do you look like? Practical and simplistic fashion sense (yes more blue jeans)

Where do you live? Started out this year in Towson MD (Goucher College dorm room) ended the year living in an apartment with 4 women in Glasgow Scotland (Junior year abroad at Art School)

What is your job? Going to College (2nd and 3rd year)

What do you spend most of your time doing Exploring, making weird objects from dreams photographing new places, and developing the images in the darkroom.

What are you eating? College Cafeteria food, fish and chips and a lot of dark beer (first year cooking for myself – so lots of grilled cheese)

What do you consider “home”? Exploring new towns and cities alone, spending time in the darkroom alone

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Travelled to an Island called Eigg and stayed in a trailer in the middle of a field with no electric overlooking an island called Rum. That trip was almost as interesting as learning how to weld.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Adapting to living in a foreign country and city with a new structure of a European art school– developing my own structure within a new social, work and physical environment.

What are your closest relationships? I relied mostly on myself this year – but also had close friendships with Living Chapters player Gabe that supported me before during and after all my explorations. Living Chapter player Ashley who joined me in school at Scotland.

What are you most proud of? Changing my focus from sculpture to photography and hitchhiking without getting killed on the isle of Arran with my friend and Living Chapter player Ashley.

25-year-old BB: circa 2002

What do you look like? Different every month? I was into dying my hair, wearing wigs, hats and sometimes having to dress “nice” for museum work. When I was not wearing my wheels of wonder bright colors and silver glittery shoes – I was in my usual uniform of blue jeans and weather appropriate semi stylish shirt.

Where do you live? Started out this year in Boston, MA in an apartment with my boyfriend and 2 other room mates) end the year living in a 3 story house in Providence Rhode Island with a flower shop on the first floor and 6 rotating room mates sharing the 2 above floors

What is your job? AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer: Community Outreach Coordinator for the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. That is a fancy professional title, my real titles were: The Wheels of Wonder Woman, art on a cart children’s hospital patient visitor, and literacy through photography artist in residence. Check out my professional portfolio if you want to know more.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage youth around creating art, reading, photographing, driving a large bookmobile through every corner of the state of Rhode Island (my job)

What are you eating? I honestly do not remember eating? How did I survive on an AmeriCorps salary?

What do you consider “home”? Being in a group of kids spinning a large wooden colorful wheel, and sitting silently in the Buddha room at the RISD museum

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Moved to a city where I didn’t know anyone and had a volunteer job with an absentee supervisor. I created a new structure for my life.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Started the year leaving my first true love for an unknown city, job and future in Providence, RI. Ended the year with both of my grandmothers passing away in the same month.

What are your closest relationships? Fellow AmeriCorps partner and new boyfriend along with my students.

What are you most proud of? Making the decision to jump without a net to Providence and landing in the role of bringing art and photography to youth oncology patients at Hasbro children’s Hospital

30-year-old BB: circa 2007

What do you look like? The same but older? I wear glasses more than contacts now.

Where do you live? In an apartment in a row home in the neighborhood of Remington, Baltimore Maryland. I live alone with lots of plants and lots of neighbors!

What is your job? Program Director for Art on Purpose. I create, develop, implement and manage community art programs, workshops and exhibits bringing awareness to and advocating for social justice issues.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage people around creating art and telling their stories (working my job) photographing and making objects, hanging out on my porch with kids, gardening, volunteer work helping to create a community association and organizing community programs

What are you eating? Thai food and chili – fresh veggies from the garden

What do you consider “home”? Sitting on my porch with kids and whoever shows up to play games and make stuff on Porch Art nights and being in the garden

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Taught a map making community project with my neighbors  – This is tied with seeing the Dalai Llama give a speech on the top of a mountain in Ladakh India

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Getting over altitude sickness and finding time to breathe in general

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Gabe and Anita and Laura and my current boyfriend

What are you most proud of? Starting porch art

35-year-old BB: circa 2012

What do you look like? The same but happier! I stopped dying my hair

Where do you live? I started out this year living in an apartment above a garage outside of Cambridge Maryland overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. I ended the year living in a pool house connected to a garage overlooking the Miles River outside Easton, MD. (Both places on the Eastern Shore of MD)

What is your job? Program Manager for Practicing Democracy at The Maryland Humanities Council. Practicing Democracy uses the humanities to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of their communities. Focus project “Lets Be Shore”

What do you spend most of your time doing? Creating ways to engage people around community issues by telling their personal stories (interviewing, making videos – working my job) Driving for exploration, for work and to visit friends. Being in beautiful places, spending time alone.

What are you eating? Oyster stew and buffalo burgers

What do you consider “home”?  Visiting friends in Friendsville, MD

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Attended a Muskrat Skinning Contest/Beauty pageant/ interviewed Honduran children about their life and school/sailed from Florida to Annapolis with a world record-breaking sailor.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Getting use to being fluid and being comfortable with it.

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Cosmic Jim, Elizabeth, Emily, Myra, Moira and my sailor boyfriend

What are you most proud of? Living rent-free (and mostly stuff free) for more a year in extraordinary places

36-year-old BB: circa 2013

What do you look like? The same but healthier! I’m more active this year

Where do you live? I started out this year living in a pool house connected to a garage overlooking the Miles River outside Easton MD and I ended the year living on a sail boat in Annapolis, MD

What is your job? Program Manager for Practicing Democracy at The Maryland Humanities Council. Practicing Democracy uses the humanities to bring people with multiple perspectives together for passionate and respectful dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of their communities. Focus project “Defying Definitions”

What do you spend most of your time doing? Self-reflection, writing blog posts, making images for the blog, driving for exploration, for work and to visit friends. Being in beautiful places. Spending time alone.

What are you eating? Things I can make in one pot, veggie wraps, eggs, fruit.

What do you consider “home” Visiting friends in Friendsville, MD, sitting around a fire pit with Elizabeth and sleeping on the boat with the hatch open under the stars.

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Started Living Chapters

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Presenting my life online on a weekly basis

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players months 1 – 6 and Cosmic Jim and Elizabeth

What are you most proud of? Keeping my promises to my Living Chapters writers

37-year-old BB: circa 2014

What do you look like? The same but healthier and happier! Tropical climate and environment suited me when I was there. Spring and Summer on the East Coast is also keeping me happy.

Where do you live? I started out this year living in St. Croix Virgin Islands and am currently living in Mechanicsburg, PA

What is your job? Helping people make transitions (including myself) I am helping my good friend Jim move to a tropical island and am now helping my mother pack up her home to get ready to move to a smaller home.

What do you spend most of your time doing? Self-reflection, writing blog posts, making images for the blog. Before leaving the island, photographing, spending time with my 10-year-old friend Grace and appreciating nature, and exploring new connections and opportunities. After returning, helping my mom navigating the system for elder care and housing

What are you eating? On island: fruits, vegetables, home cooked meals. In Mechanicsburg some home cooked meals but more food from restaurants and take out places

What do you consider “home”? Connecting with friends

What is the most interesting thing you did this year? Tried to move to a tropical island and ended up in Suburbia PA.

What is the most challenging thing you’ve done or greatest challenge faced? Put my life flow (not my plan but my way of living in a flow) on hold as I try to help my mother transition. Attempting to create a new form or pace of my flow.

What are your closest relationships? Living Chapter players Cosmic Jim and Elizabeth and my mom

What are you most proud of? Learning how to live day by day and be comfortable without planning my future

Future years: 38, 39, 40

I must apologize but I cannot predict or answer any of the questions Elizabeth asks for the upcoming 3 years. I’m just not there yet. I spent the last week traveling backward through time, which took intensive reflection collection of images and awareness of where I have been. It did a number on my time travelling head – I think that forcing myself in the same short time to be thrown into the future would bring me something close to altitude sickness I had back in 20007. I am going to give myself a bit more time before making projections. My greatest achievement, I believe at this point in my life and what I am most proud of right now is my ability to be ok and even comfortable with living in the present moment. Being able to balance living day by day with out too much stress, anticipation, or expectation. I believe in preparing not planning for what may happen next. Not saying I don’t want to set some goals but HEY that’s my task for week 3 of this month right? I am taking the little time I have to let week one’s time traveling assignment sink in before I am thrown into the future in the upcoming weeks.