A Farewell to Blogs

A lot of things have happened since we talked last. The United States has elected its next President, who will take office in January. And stating that fact is the limit of the attention I can bear to give him. Because every time I see his face, or hear his voice, or think about him at all, my heart and mind and soul and body and spirit and guts do something like this:

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I continue to find much joy in my marriage to John, and any time I get to spend with his family. [We’re enjoying an extended visit to Portland at the moment, and have gotten to see them an unprecedented three times in one  year.] My own family and friends–terms I often find interchangeable–continue to be the joy of my life on this twirling blue spaceball that we call home.

I’ve been enjoying my work as a copywriter and blogger for professionals. I work with some amazing people who have great, strong voices; and I love helping them come through, loud and clear.

I get to write up a minimum of 35 blogs a month these days, as well as proofreading, copy-editing; and donating writing services to some awesome grassroots efforts here at home. If I were to blog about my life over the last several months, it would amount to: Guess what: I wrote a blog today.

So things have been awfully quiet here; too quiet, in fact.

Which brings me to my news: this will be my last blog post on In Case of Fire, Use Stairs (as far as I know now, anyway).

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I am leaving an open door. A couple, actually. The blog won’t be deleted. The Facebook page for the blog won’t be deleted. I don’t want to close myself off to the possibility that this blog, like so many things in life, may re-emerge–like a verbose phoenix–from the ashes of silence to imbue the Internet with newfound revelations.

But as you can see–from my multiple absences stretching for months at a time–I can’t give this the regular attention it deserves. I want creative writing to continue to be a joy, not a burden.

The fact is, writing for me now–creatively, or otherwise–doesn’t take the same shape as writing for me 8 years ago (when this blog began). I still love to write. But  I take solace in doing so more privately nowadays [especially for the creative, introspective expression that is so characteristic of good blogging]. I don’t feel as compelled to share my thoughts and opinions with whoever cares to hear them. Occasionally that does happen on social media. But even there, not often.

And I don’t want to feel an undue pressure, guilt, etc. about that. I want to feel free to dig into writing and see where it takes me. If it takes me back to blogging: wonderful. If it leads me to write a book: excellent. If it turns out that journaling and work are the best ways for me to write, but that I uncover some new creative outlet along the way: sounds great.

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What I’m getting at it is: this isn’t bad news. I’ll miss blogging, of course. But this is the first time in more than 8 years that I’ve given myself this kind of permission: that I’ve simplified my life in a way that allows me to explore other possibilities creatively (and make room for new ones). I feel nothing but gratitude and joy and humility and the good kind of fear when I think about just how sparkly and special that is.

So I want you to know, I’ll be fine. I’ll be happy. I’ll find joy. I’ll learn new stuff.

And  I want to say thank you. To everyone who has ever commented, read, shared, or disagreed with my blog. You have taught me so much about myself and others, and have opened my mind to new perspectives. [And I would be remiss if I didn’t especially thank our pen-pal in the US Army, who connected with us through this blog. We can’t wait to hug you in person someday.]

If you want to keep up with me, don’t be afraid to keep an eye on my website (linked above), email me, or follow me on social media. I’m by no means disappearing, just simplifying. Just taking the first, big, scary step into a new adventure: figuring out more about just what kind of a writer I am now.

And I don’t know if any of you ever really came to this blog for advice (at your own risk, I might add). But if you did, here’s my parting wish for you: do what you need to do to find your true self. Start small, pray, and love real big, and you’ll be just fine.

Thank you for a marvelous eight years. You’ve finally convinced me I’m a writer.

Now, to do that– and perhaps, more! Off I go!

God bless you and yours, unto ages of ages.

Love, Beth

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the (block) party is over.

My friend Kimmie is awesome. She blogs, too. And she does it so well that she has fans other than her own mother [No offense, mom, I love you!] that send her goodies in the mail. She is becoming a bloglebrity. I am really proud of her.

I have been complaining to Kimmie for years about this and that. Today’s topic of discussion was a common one for me: what the flip do I blog about? Ever since starting this blog about 5 years ago [that seems long enough ago for me to have been writing about my favorite member of *Nsync, but I digress], I have struggled with content.

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I went through a short story phase, a poetry phase, an interview phase, and an album review phase. But the story ran out of steam, the poetry was too sad, I couldn’t find enough of the right people to interview, and I had the opposite problem for album reviews [it proves a daunting task in Nashville where you are surrounded by both aspiring and actual talent].

My creativity is not neatly compartmentalized. My ideas are in piles. The exciting part is also the harrowing part: when it comes to rummaging through my own mind for ideas, I never know what I might find.

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The other problem(s) I run into have to do with  complications resulting from utter lack of pop culture knowledge. You are looking at someone with no cable, who doesn’t listen to the radio, and whose most recent Netflix views include Matilda and Shaun the Sheep. Where do I turn for fodder when I run out of sociopolitical or theological observations? Who in the world can I relate to besides Kermit the Frog or Wallace and Gromit?

To go all Jane Austen on you, the whole thing vexes me greatly.

But the fact of the matter is, if I’m not writing, nobody’s reading. If I’m not committed to creating, no one else can be inspired to create through my art. If I’m not unpacking my emotional baggage in front of God and the Internet and everybody, someone else might not have the strength to let go and be themselves.

So I owe it to you all and to myself, and to cyberspace to set a goal.

My motto for 2013: i will KEEP WRITING.

My resolution: i will WRITE REGULARLY.

My goal: i will write a minimum of ONE BLOG A WEEK.

Yes, I’m type-shouting. Yes, it’s that important.

Because our Art is who we are: it’s the lifeline to all of our sparkly, wonderful greatness not only for ourselves, but for others. Making art makes us happy, sharing our art makes others happy.

So I might not have any idea where I’ll end up in the end, but I can tell you this much.

This year, I will write.

in case of Mayan Apocolypse.

Okay.

It is probably safe to assume that people like me-with the attention span of a hummingbird, and an equally overdeveloped guilt complex-should not focus too much time or energy on resolutions for the new year [or on how I may have dismally failed to keep the ones from years prior].

But now the Mayans are going all Televangelist on me and telling me it’s going to rain blood and explode badness at the end of 2012. That means I need to set at least one goal I can feel good about. You know, just in case I get thrown down some kind of Doom Pyramid. [To be fair, the Mayans were a little intense. They probably looked forward to that sort of thing.]

S0. If things are going to get a little Kubrick by the end of next year, I might as well take every opportunity to Carpe Year, as it were. Don’t fret. I don’t plan to throw responsibility to the wind and give over to Bacchanalia. And I don’t mean to pull a Thoreau, quit paying taxes, and become a forest dweller. I just need to continually engage in pursuits that make me feel whole and happy, while I have the chance.

My resolution for the year? Be creative. I mean, embody the term; redefine it if I have to. . . it is high time to push my creativity to the limit. Challenge it. Grow it. Do whatever it takes to more fully participate in it.

Because, along with being in Sacred space, being in creative space gives me peace and joy. It makes me feel like I am more fully myself. It shows me new parts of myself. It humbles me and makes me proud. It gives me crystalline awareness of the human and the Divine.

While taking part in a collage night a few weeks ago, my friends and I adopted a new rule: The answer is Yes. Should I give FDR giraffe legs? Yes. Should I place the words “The Strangest” across an American flag? Absolutely. Should I give Baby Buddha robotic hands? Of course you should.

When it comes to Being Creative, if I ask myself “Should I try this?”, I am starting to understand the answer should be yes. [I’m not saying that every single impulse has to be indulged and obeyed, or that every endeavor will be successful. There’s just no reason I should limit myself in an area where everyone is meant to drop the limits.]

How is this goal going to be quantified? I’m not sure. But the nice thing about having a resolution completely based in creativity is that my approach can be, too.

I have been thinking on this for a while. And the glimpses of freedom and joy I have felt while immersing myself in creative projects is something I had to make a bigger part of my life.

I have basked in the love of my friends and family long enough to know that you guys will not only support me and hold me accountable, but that many of you will jump on the bandwagon [which undoubtedly resembles the bus from Magical Mystery Tour] and join me in my foray.

And knowing how talented so many of you are, and how much you inspire me, we seem to be well on our way.

Look out 2012. Look out Mayans. We’re painting this town red. Or blue. Or decoupaging it. Whatever. We’re making it beautiful and sparkly and awesome. And in that way, we are claiming it. We are promising to make it new.

you say tomato, i say a motto

It’s that time again: the time to think about all the ways that this year has disappointed us, and to muse that the coming year will be a never-ending Utopia of Awesome. In other words, the jig is up, 2010: hand everything over, cash in your chips. Your number has been called.

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Apparently, I was feeling rather ambitious this time last year. I had not one, but two New Year’s Resolution related blogs. I won’t belabor you with the details, because I shamelessly link to my own content, and you are all very literate people.

I can say, though, that I actually read both of these this morning- to assess my progress, and overall, I did alright. I bought and learned chords and tuning for a new instrument. I managed not to go ‘in the red’ financially. And I was better about keeping track of tasks and time in planners, task managers, etc. So, in light of resolutions rather than circumstances, my year was decent, and I am not a profound disappointment to humankind.

If I’m being honest with myself- a curse lately, that doesn’t seem to be lifting- these past couple years have not been my favorite ones of the epoch. Mainly because I hate the feeling of life, or anything, being stagnant, and not many of my circumstances have changed. Of course, I have learned and grown a lot in ways that are intangible, and have spent much time learning from the wonderful people that I surround myself with. But I digress.

More important than a set of goals and objectives- as if anyone’s life can be mapped out like a business plan in the first place- it seems that this year I should have a more ‘big picture’ aspiration. I need a guiding principle, or, as my best friend would like to hear it put, a motto. After some deliberation, and a mighty effort to avoid cliches, I think I have arrived.

“Be Here Now” seemed like the best way to verbalize the attitude I’m going for  without sounding like an Oprah guest or one of those single-word Motivation posters.

As my friend Gail is fond of saying, this year it’s going to be all about “looking at my feet”. In other words, 2011 is for focusing on where I am right now. From there, I can concentrate on being thankful for what I have, try to learn from it when I can, or just own the feelings I have as they come and go; without dwelling on too much negativity.

Moreover, I figure the more ‘present’ I try to be, the more I will end up being proactive, and the more I will participate in my friendships and relationships.

Hope that’s not being too smaltchzy. I am listening to the Black Keys, thereby feeling an  immense pressure to be smooth.

I hope you all have fun bidding farewell to the year that deserves to get picked last for kickball. Break out the bubbly, turn on Dick Clark [or Ryan Seacrest, to be both more accurate and more disappointing], or go to bed the same time as always. . .

Do whatever it takes; shake it off; the past will have passed, and you will be given hundreds of brand new days. Own them.

Here’s to the here and now.

Life Reigns

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:5b-6a

In the Orthodox Church, Pascha (Easter) is kind of a big deal. Actually, it is a huge deal. It is the brightest and most beautiful day of the year. It is known as the Feast of Feasts and the end of the  fast (Lent + the week before Pascha), with the feasting period lasting a full forty days [and I am not kidding about the feasting part]. It all starts around 11:00 PM on Saturday night. Yes, you read that right. The church is completely dark, and after a few prayers, the priest lights his candle with the flame from the altar, and from that light, all of the faithful light their candles; all the while singing a hymn about the Light of Christ. Everywhere you look, people are grinning from ear to ear, the children are too excited to stand still. But we’re not there yet.

There is then a procession around the church singing hymns, everyone with candles lit. Then everyone gathers at the closed doors of the church, the Priest reads from the Gospel, and for the first time, sings the Paschal hymn:

“Christ is Risen from the dead
Trampling down Death by Death
And upon those in the tombs,
Bestowing Life!”

Then the congregation sings this hymn together, and we enter the sanctuary again. It is now brightly lit, with white adornments and lilies, to match the white robes worn by the clergy. There are various other hymns, all about the Ressurection and the victory it offers the world.

It is througbout this time the priests will walk quickly through the center of the aisle, swinging the censer (full of incense) and exclaiming”Christ is Risen” as loud as they can. The people shout out the response to the Paschal greeting: “He is Risen indeed!”. Often this is done in a variety of different languages. This is one of my favorite parts of the service, because it is the first time a true celebration breaks out: shouting, beaming smiles, and candles raised. We have arrived. Truly He is Risen.

After Communion, the central point of the service, it’s time to go to the fellowship hall for the feast.

All the families in the church have brought baskets full of food they’ve missed during Lent (think every imaginable thing you could make with meat or dairy involved and you begin to get some idea). By this time, it is around 2:00 AM. Even though we are all exhausted, the joy is palpable. We eat and drink our fill of everything-from fine wine to deviled eggs and Bacon Wrapped Anything- and we rejoice together. Later the same afternoon, we come back for prayers of thanksgiving, the reading of the Gospel, and another huge meal.

As a newbie, I often struggle with talking or writing about my new expressions of Faith. Because there are so many layers, and so many questions I still have, that I feel like I don’t do it justice. But I just wanted to share some of the unique and beautiful highlights of a day that is so very joyous and sacred to so many people. I hope all of you had an Easter full of blessings, peace and light.

I wanted to leave you all with the amazing Paschal homily, which we hear each year before Communion as part of the service right before the feast. I hope it encourages you. It’s springtime. It is a time of growth and starting over. It is a time when everything is made bright and new. For He is Risen indeed!

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!
Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, “Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.” It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
“O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?”
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

You say you want a resolution?

It’s that time of year again: the time to wallow in guilt over how much we enjoyed ourselves during the holidays- and the time to therefore resolve to be much more reasonable, much less enjoying-ourselves types of people in the coming 364 days. That’s right- it is Resolution Season! And ever the bandwagon jumper, I have my own lot to share with you! [I know- that is so very mainstream of me! And for that I beg the scene kids for forgiveness!]

But, lo! There is a twist. Perhaps it’s the lingering cynicism from a rather disappointing 2009, or perhaps I just want to flip the script on you when you least expect it. [Allow me to pause for a moment so that you might look up “flip the script” on UrbanDictionary.]

Onward!

Enter the Anti-Resolution. To write an Anti-Resolution. all you must do is phrase your resolution in the negative. Thus, “I will lose weight” becomes something like “I will not eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting every time Law & Order is on” [Hypothetically speaking, of course. . .]

After some thought- but not too much, I assure you- I offer you 10  of my very own Anti-Resolutions for MMX: [Sometimes I like to get a little Caesarean in my diction. . . and in my choice of salad dressings.]

1. I will not run late all the time.

2. I will not overapologize.

3. I will not blame myself for things that are not my fault.

4. I will not forget to put money in savings.

5. I will not be mean to myself.

6. I will not purchase my weight in used books [without finishing at least a few of the ones I already have first, that is.]

7. I will not abandon hope, nor optimism- and if I do, I will pick them back up.

8. I will not settle for an all-time high of 7 in blog readership – hypothetically. [By extension: I will not allow so much of my creative writing to go unfinished.]

9. I will not leave my 2010 planner pristine and unblemished the way I did my 2009 planner.

10. I will not forget to accept Grace and Love – and will not forget to extend them in gratitude.

I look forward to hearing your goals and resolutions, whether anti- or traditional in nature. In the meantime, I shall charge into the fray to kick complacency and negativity square in their bums, respectively!

Here’s to anti-resolutions, and to all of you.