about cloistered away

(photo credit: Fidelis Studio)

Why I blog.
My name is Bethany, although some of my closest friends and family call me “B.” I’m the writer behind Cloistered Away, the protector of this collection of tales and pictures that will one day be left to the “opaque glow of hindsight,” as Azar Nafisi calls it. At some point after having my third child, I burned out on tracking down receipts or paper scraps where I had last  “journaled” at a stoplight or during the kids’ bathtime, or worse — I was weary of thinking about all of the stories and ideas I had already lost to parenting toddlers – a sleep-deprived and abysmal vortex of thought. I needed a place where I could maintain some sense of self, where I could hold close these delicate years of early motherhood, and still somehow remember that staying home with my children has not relegated me to a make-up-less life spent in PJs (although sometimes, it does). And so I started blogging and cataloguing the beautiful corners of my cloistered world, the way they’re created (and often, demolished) alongside my children, even in the midst of piles of laundry and mud-stained walls.  Here, in this long, blank space, I scribble and grab hold of all those small things that often feel so easy to forget. I remember

I grew up the oldest of six children with parents who taught me about belief and the enduring of hard days, the beauty of an authentic heart, and the sanctity of the family meal. We lived simply (whether it was originally intended that way or not), vacationing in tents in the woods, playing long hours outdoors (sometimes because mom refused to let us inside), and learning to look for God in the most unexpected places. For as long as I can remember, our home was a hub of activity with friends and food, and although all these things are quite small compared to Disneyland vacations or the new Nintendo video game system of those days, we were happy. And together.

Adulthood & Marriage.
Then I grew older. And went away to an university. And after a few more years, I moved to another university, where I read and wrote words and worked in a coffee shop earning money to pay for those words. There, tucked in the corner of that place, I happened on Mark with his books and words and black coffee. I knew him casually from that first college and mutual friends. So we began a small conversation — some banter about our mutual love of The Smiths’ How Soon is Now? — which continued for 3 more weeks before we both realized the answer, not soon enough. We married 6 months later. And here we are a decade after that event. Mark still remains possibly the most cloistered part of my life, often folded into some nook of life and obscure to all forms of social media (except where I insert him, of course). He is my backbone. My encourager. My great love and counterpart. He is a teacher, graduate student, writer, and a fantastic storyteller.

Our Children.
And now it’s our turn to live alongside and teach our own children (we have four, five and a half years apart); to bury our hands in the earth and walk through tall grasses searching to know God; to discover beauty and life together in our words, our artistic creations, and the spaces we inhabit; to remain unmoved when faced with their tantrums and fears (and to be honest with our own); at times, to dance with them in triumph, and other times to lie with them in the dark, their feet pressed against our backs reminding them they’re not alone; and of course, as a parent, to know what C.S. Lewis meant when he said, “to love is to be vulnerable,” regularly encountering our own short-comings, failures, and insecurities in this place of parenthood. This process, our life together, full of quirky candor, unwritten scripts, charisma, and style is woven together here at Cloistered Away. And here are our children, some of the mentioned charisma.

Liam (8): the silver-tongued mastermind, creative artisan, charming crowd-pleaser

Burke (7): the peaceful dweller, world champion hugger, quiet thinker and builder

Blythe (5): spirited songbird, whimsical jokester, diligent worker

Olive (3): our kinetic explorer, 25 lb. ball of determination, playful and fearless acrobat

Thanks for visiting our cloistered life. Enjoy and leave a comment!

Also free to send an email with any questions or comments: bethanydouglass{at}gmail{dot}com.