Sketching at the National Gallery in D.C.




Got Fear? Get Stoked!

“Wings of Courage” stained glass window at Washington National Cathedral in D.C.

I recently visited Washington D.C. for a week while my husband took a class.  What an adventure that was!  I’ve never been on my own in a big city before.  One of my biggest accomplishments was riding the subway by myself.  I was terrified to do it, fearing I would get lost.  I’m known for being directionally challenged.  I never look at maps.  These days, I rely on my GPS to get me where I need to go.

The first day there, I was off the hook.  A major snowstorm literally shut down the government.  Why doesn’t that happen in Michigan?  😉  I was able to get some much-needed writing done at a local café in Dupont Circle.  I did take one small step though.  I followed directions to a gym near the hotel.  But of course, that was just walking.  The next day, it was time to take up the challenge.  I was supposed to meet a friend at some museums later in the week, so I knew I should practice beforehand.  Even with my husband’s helpful tips (he’s a human GPS), I was worried.

Luckily, I had brought along a book to read called Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave by Patty Chang Anker.  The author is a self-professed scaredy-cat.  But after turning forty, she decided to conquer some of her biggest fears including diving and riding a bike all while blogging about it on “Facing Forty Upside Down” and eventually writing a memoir.

Some of her best advice is, “Don’t fixate on the thing you fear–keep your eye on where you want to go!”  I took that advice to heart.  First when riding the crazy long escalator with my fear of heights, then through the subway gates and all the way onto the train.  Here we go!

I’m proud to say I made it to the gallery stop and even made a transfer 😉  One success led to another, and soon I was zipping around town from the museums to the White House to Georgetown to the National Cathedral.  Even the concierge was cheering me on!

Mercury statue
National Gallery of Art:

Mercury is the Roman god of poetry, communication, travelers, and luck!

Probably my biggest adventure came midweek when my husband confirmed that I could use his tickets to visit the Senate and House galleries at the Capitol.  I only had one hour and was all the way at the  National Museum of American History.  To give you an idea of the pressure I was under, I had to speed walk about 9 blocks and I wasn’t even a hundred percent sure I would get in.

The good news?  I made it!  And the rest as they say is history.  But it was really all about taking the plunge.

The moral of the story as quoted from Anker’s book:  “Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness,” states Susan Jeffers in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.

And how does one do that exactly?  According to Anker’s surfing instructor, “You just need to keep your stoke up.”  Stoke being defined as the fire in one’s belly as in the excitement of seeing a great wave, which leads to harmony in one’s life and the ability to rise up to life’s challenges.

But it’s more than that.  “It’s about pleasure even in uncertainty, relaxing when you’re out of your element, keeping yourself excited and motivated for whatever might be coming next,” Anker says.

So now that you know my story, my question to you is this.  What will you do to keep your stoke up?

Author Washington Irving’s kneeler at National Cathedral

Don’t wait until you’re Rip Van Winkle! 😉

#MMPoetry 2014: Join the Madness!

Welcome to “March Madness” poetry-style hosted by  Ed DeCaria of Think, Kid, Think!  This event brings poetry to kids in a creative way.

According to the website, MMPoetry is “A mini-version of The Hunger Games – poets duking it out, rising to victory or falling in defeat, until one bruised and battered poet emerges victorious! Ouch!”

I’m honored to be one of the 64 poets from around the world chosen to participate in this event.  I’ll be in good company.  Famed children’s authors Shutta Crum of Ann Arbor and Jane Yolen (known as the Hans Christian Andersen of America) will also participate.  Actually, I should say I’m a little bit intimidated 😉  Although the word I chose to describe my feelings going into this is “aflutter.”

I would say the highlight is that 126 new children’s poems will be completed in only 21 days.  Wow!  And now classrooms around the country will help in the voting process for a chance to win 50 new children’s poetry books for their classroom.  How cool is that?

Here’s how it works.  Two poets face off against each other, each given a word of varying difficulty to include in a newly created children’s poem.  Adding to the madness, each poet only gets 36 hours to create each new poem.

Want to join the madness?  Follow the event on twitter or go directly to the website and participate in the public vote.