Posted in #My500Words, Writing

The End

Well, this is it.  This is my last blog post for the 31-Day Writing Challenge.

In a way, this last blog post under the hashtag, #my500words, is like waving good-bye to a dear friend who has visited for a month. For me, the ride has been relatively smooth.  Although I sometimes struggled with what to say, and, on many days, was beyond exhausted, the joy of writing kept me motivated.  It was something I not only had to do, because I wanted to complete the Challenge successfully, but, also something I wanted to do, because I wanted to write.

When I began the Challenge back on July 5th of this year, I was on a search for greater understanding of social media and human interaction, and my role and purpose within, between and amongst these two dynamics.  Honestly, I am not sure if I understand Twitter as a social media platform any better.  On the other hand, I have developed what I consider more valuable and meaningful insights, skills and perspectives.

Number One, I have a great PLN – on Twitter, and in the blogosphere.  I draw tremendous support, knowledge and positive energy from them.  In a word, they are my tribe.

Number Two, my writing, in both skill and discipline, have developed tremendously.  The Challenge gave me not only the platform, but also the structure to accomplish both.  Since December of 2006, blogging has been my primary mechanism for reflection. But, these past ten years as both a blogger and a writer have not been without their challenges.  I was writing all too infrequently, and, I was writing for the wrong reasons.  These two factors combined resulted in a blog that became a burden to maintain, writing that lacked a voice, and a process that was frustrated and frustrating.

Number Three, the Challenge has allowed me to become a more authentic person through my writing. I am taking greater risks in sharing deeply personal subject matter that I would not have touched with  a proverbial ten-foot pole even one year ago.  It is akin to jumping into the deep end of the lake; you know you can do it, and want to do it, but, it is much safer to swim in the part where you are submerged only waist-deep. Writing about personal failures, for example, is perhaps the most difficult for me to write about, because in doing so, I have to  admit to myself that I am not perfect, and, I don’t know everything.

My therapist told me recently that I am good at reflection.  Over the course of the last 31 days, writing as reflective practice has allowed me to write with greater purpose.  Of course want my writing to resonate with my audience as well.  But, I now realize that too much focus on the latter is what creates issues, problems and dilemmas for writers. And, I now consider myself a writer, in the true sense of the word, which I certainly did not when I began the Challenge.

So, here’s to writing, and blogging, and continued learning, growth, development and connection.

Posted in #My500Words, Learning and Development

Reality Setting In

I am beginning to see more and more “Back-to-School” advertisements.  A  teacher on Twitter tweeted that today was a great first day for his fourth grade class.  August is in its third day. Summer vacation is beginning its fast descent.

Every year at about this time, I begin to get that slightly queasy feeling in my stomach: Reality is setting in. There are lessons to plan. At the very least, I would like to have intact lesson plans for September in place by the time I return.  Spanish 4 is always my greatest challenge. There is such a range of abilities and levels of motivation amongst the students at that level, and the year to come will be no exception.  I was spoiled by the Spanish 4 students I taught this past year: it was the most consistent group of students in terms of work ethic capacity for language, and steadfast intrinsic motivation.   Add to this is the fact that I will be teaching Spanish to sixth graders for the first time since 1999. The youngest to-date I have taught is fifth grade.  For the first time in several years, I will not teach Spanish 2 – my beloved Twosies.  my department chair wants for the language teachers to have as few preps as possible. Technically, I will teach Spanish 1 and Spanish 4.  However, teaching the first year of Spanish 1 to sixth graders is different than teaching the second year of Spanish 1 to seventh graders, which is vastly different from teaching what is essentially crash course in Spanish 1 to high school students.  At my place of employ, teaching Spanish 1 is a delicate dance.  Many of the students have had negative experiences with language learning previously.  So, much of my efforts, in addition to completing enough curriculum to allow them to be successful in Spanish 2 the following year, but also to renew their confidence.

My strategy for teaching Spanish to middle schoolers is two-fold: instill good habits of mind for learning a foreign language, and, to expose them to as much comprehensible input for acquiring language. Hopefully the time the students have reached Spanish 4, the habits of mind are usually firmly established, although some degree 0f re-learning in this respect is needed.

Been thinking about my classroom’s decor, which has become uninspiring to me. I posted a link of a video of my classroom on Twitter recently, with the hopes of crowd-sourcing advice from my PLN – Personal Learning Network.  However, the task evidently didn’t capture anyone’s imagination, and I subsequently deleted the tweet. But, no worries; Dear Brother came to my rescue.  He’s not a teacher, and yet, he has some of the most perceptive insights and bright ideas regarding teaching and learning.  He made some wonderful suggestions, including:

  • An updated world map, complete with maps of the countries. I have such a map hanging in my classroom currently, and, it is an attention-getter.  The thing is, the world has changed dramatically since I purchased it.  So, it’s time for a new one.
  • Posters of cities of Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Commonly-used vocabulary.  I have had mixed success with so-called classroom “passwords”, such as, “May I go to the bathroom?” and, Can I get a drink of water?” to name two.  I may post the most essential of these again.  But, what Dear Brother suggested are words connected to travel: words for modes of transportation; items used for travel, such as ticket and passport; and the like.  Brilliant!

Are you a teacher? How are you feeling as you prepare for a new school year? Tell me about it in the Comments. Thank you!

Posted in #My500Words, Learning and Development

Conferences

I read a very perceptive and wonderfully insightful blog post about conferences.  Although the post is written from the perspective of a professional writer, and, speaks specifically about conferences for creatives, the post resonated deeply with me, nevertheless.

At the moment, I am experiencing a sort of ambivalence with education conferences.  And to which any teacher can attest, there is a  plethora of education conferences to choose from, and the number seems to grow each year. Some of these conferences are truly excellent, but most are mediocre.  As I read the blog post, I reflected on the many conferences I have attended over the course of my 22-year career. To be honest, only a handful of them, “changed, challenged or charged me”.

To make matters worse, it seemed that the administrators who signed the purchase orders for me to attend the conferences weren’t even interested enough in meeting with me to discuss what I had learned, never mind to put that learning into active practice on a school-wide level in order to improve teaching and learning.  In fact, I often had to initiate follow-up meetings with *them*, and not the other way around. I even used to write detailed summaries as documentation, and the only response I often received was, ” I am glad you had a nice time, and learned a lot.”

A “nice time”?  I don’t need to attend a professional conference to have a “nice time.” A vacation in the Caribbean is a nice time.  Moreover, I can learn what I need to learn via other means without taking time away from my professional and personal lives to attend a conference.

I, like the writer of the blog post, am shy and introverted.  Therefore, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people at education conferences, as well as the professional networking dimension.  I eventually do find my way. Still, what I have found is that the same groups of people typically attend the same conferences every year, and so conference cliques develop. Which makes getting to know people even more difficult. Unless you’re part of “the group”, you’re usually not invited in.

The writer of the blog post offers an effective litmus test to assess the merits of a conference under the sub-category, “What happens at a good conference.”  These are guidelines I will be sure to apply before I attend my next conference.  Additionally, he presents goals for how to proceed during and after a conference.

It is true that change happens one classroom at a time.  Change, however, cannot be limited to the classroom alone.  In order to promote and instill lasting and enduring change, it is important and necessary that school administrators vet conference attendance choices of teachers more critically.  This has happened to me on several occasions at my current school. Although I was sometimes disappointed when I was not able to attend a particular conference, I appreciate the fact that my current administrator has the larger view in mind.  Otherwise, a conference merely becomes, “a nice time”, which should be only a part of the experience.

Posted in #My500Words, Learning and Development

An Engaging Friday Evening

One might think that one can’t spend an enjoyable time on a Friday evening on Twitter.  But, on Friday evening – last evening – I was part of a very engaging chat, which, by the way, is called, #EngageChat.

Now, I try and not participate on too many Twitter chats.  Despite the plethora of chats that have emerged on Twitter since I joined in 2008, in my humble opinion, there aren’t many that I would consider, to be…well…engaging. However, #EngageChat is definitely that.

What do I mean by engaging?  An engaging chat, at least to me, has the following characteristics:

  • The leader(s)/owner(s) has(have) a vision – there is subject matter that resonates deeply for them, and they want to share it with others
  • The leader(s)/owner(s) really know their stuff.
  • If the leader(s)/owner(s) choose(s) to have others host in their stead, they make sure that they hold a vision similar to their own, and, that they really know their stuff.
  • There is a mission and a purpose, i.e. why are we doing this?
  • There is a warm, hospitable and inclusive vibe.
  • The chat follows a Question and Answer format.
  • The questions posed really make you think, dig deep, and reflect on your teaching practice, or, whatever the subject matter is. For me, the subject matter usually revolves around teaching practice. Too many Twitter chats of which I have been a participant pose questions which give rise to platitudes.  Not what we need in education.
  • At the end of the chat, I feel that my thinking has been stretched and challenged.  In other words, I feel that there has been growth, as well as things to reflect upon.

I found all of the aforementioned present in last night’s #EngageChat, led by the equally engaging and fabulous Eric Davis.  The topic wasn’t an easy one for me, despite the fact I consider myself to be a good reflective thinker.  Last night’s topic was, “Telling Your Story.”  I will post each question, one by one, followed by the answer I provided for each. By the way: One of my favorite parts of participating in a chat is reading the answers other participants tweet.  I learn so much as a result.

Anyway here are the questions, and my responses. I reproduced the answers exactly as I posted them. Here they are:

Q1: What is a source of motivation/inspiration for you? A1: The people I meet – virtually and on the ground.

Q2: What person has influenced you the most in your life? A2: Everyone I meet – in both positive and negative ways.  I learn something valuable from each interaction.

Q3:  What are your core values? A3: Wow…social justice, equity, anti-racism, compassion, agency, competence, intellectual curiosity…It’s all about the students.

Q4: Please share a personal or professional accomplishment that makes you very proud. A4: Being a Black woman in America has aspired to almost everything she’s dreamed of b/c of parents and opportunities.

LQ (Last Question): What is your definition of a true friend? LA (Last Answer): Someone you can call at 2am, for whatever reason.

I will definitely participate again on the #EngageChat.

Are you on Twitter? Do you participate in any Twitter chats? Which ones? What is your idea of an engaging Twitter chat experience? Tell me about all of it in the Comments. Thank you!

 

 

Posted in #My500Words

A Mudane Errand Leads To Wonderful New Discoveries, and a SURPRISE

Okay…so…this morning, I needed to visit the oil and lube store in order to have windshield washer fluid reservoir filled. I say, needed, because about a month-and-a-half ago, I had the oil changed in my car.  Even though the technician assured me that the wiper.  Since I like a clean windshield, and, given the amount of time that had transpired, I figured today was the day.

But, before I visited the oil and lube store, I cleaned my oven.  Now, you’re probably wondering just how dirty the oven of a single person like me actually gets. Well, not very. Still, I like to give the oven a thorough cleaning about once a year. And, summer vacation is usually the time of year when I have the opportunity. I had woken up several times during the early morning hours: 3am, 5 am, and then finally 7am. After about 15 minutes of lying in the bed, I decided to get up and clean the oven.

Once the oven was clean, I dressed to go to the oil and lube store. I was warmly by the technician, who filled the windshield wiper reservoir, and, very quickly, I might add, which was greatly appreciated. I then I headed over to the gas station to fill up the buggie.  When that task was completed, I headed over to the Hartford Baking Company.  About five minutes from the gas station, I have been trying to get to this place since May.  Every year at my school, the Parents Association sponsors a Teacher Appreciation event, and I received a gift card to the Hartford Baking Company in my gift bag. The thing was, I didn’t know the amount of the gift card. And, since a colleague had received a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card worth $10.00, I headed to the store with this amount in mind.

I asked my students about Hartford Baking Company: They gave it the thumbs-up.  So, I knew it was a winner. And, it is.  When I arrived, the place was buzzing. Several groups of patrons were sitting at tables, enjoying coffee and baked goods.  The offerings were reasonably extensive for a small shop, including one of my all-time favorites: raspberry princess bars.  I also noticed scones as big as baseballs. But, I maintained my composure, and ordered the organic vanilla yogurt and homemade granola parfait, with a small hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was by far among the best I have tasted. The parfait was also yummy, and sustained me throughout my strength training and cardio workout later on in the morning.

I noticed as I traveled to and from Hartford Baking Company lots of restaurants, especially ethnic restaurants of all kinds.  Also along this main thoroughfare sits Colt Manufacturing.  And, I always thought I knew where it was located. Apparently, I did not. So, a most enlightening discovery.

As I drove home, I sipped on the yummy hot chocolate, and made plans to return to Hartford Baking Company soon.

Oh…the SURPRISE, you ask? The gift card is worth a whopping $25.00!  So, I have quite a bit remaining. 🙂 Courtesy of my school’s Parents Association. Thank you, Parents Association!!!

What wonderful new discoveries have you made recently in your community during your daily travels? Tell me about them in the Comments.  Thank you!

 

 

Posted in #My500Words

Travel, Wonderful Travel

Over the course of my 51 years of life, I have been fortunate to travel.  As I say to my students, travel is one of life’s greatest gifts, and, once you start, you will be traveling for the rest of your life.

As a child, my family and I traveled to South Carolina each summer. It’s where the extended family resided. I remember one time asking my Dear Parents why we couldn’t go to Disney World.  Their response? “When you are an adult, you will be able to go wherever you like.  Right now, it’s important to know your relatives.” As I got older, I grew to understand that visiting South Carolina in the summer was really the only opportunity my Dear Parents had to see their own Dear Parents, and, in the case of my Dear Mother, her Dear Sister.  Incidentally, my Dear Brother and I visited Disney World in January of 1996.  It was his graduate school graduation gift to me. And, in March of 2015, we visited Disneyland.

Those summer trips to South Carolina hold so many wonderful memories for me: the adventure of the 13-hour car ride, the delicious peaches, watermelon, okra and corn, my maternal grandparents’ big and beautiful house, their pet parrot Polly, the train that passed through daily, sitting on the porch and swinging in the glider, and, chili dogs and ice cream from the local dairy bar, and, my maternal grandmother’s homemade ice cream, and the delightful stories of people and events – both present and past. But, perhaps the most important part: I got to know my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles as real people, and not just pictures on tables and walls in the living room.

I was able to visit 25 of the 50 states of the United States via my five-year career as a college admission counselor.  My trips to California, Florida, and Minnesota were especially memorable.  You’re probably wondering why Minnesota is included in this group of memorable trips.  It was the first time I visited a state in the Midwest, and I absolutely fell in love with Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I’ve also traveled outstide of the United States: Canada twice – Toronto and Montreal; Puebla, Mexico, as part of a two-week program for Spanish teachers; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and England and Scotland. What can I say about England and Scotland, other than it was simply magical.  We visited: London, Cambridge, northern England, Edinburgh, and the Lake District.  A friend and colleague who resides in England said the following to me upon my return to the States following my ten-day trip: “Do you realize that you and your brother saw more of England in ten days than most people native to the country see during their entire lifetime?” This statement astounded me. Wow…

My Dear Brother is my constant travel companion.  We both enjoy history, and taking in the local color.  So, we have a great time together.  With the exception of Mexico, my Dear Brother and I have traveled abroad together to the aforementioned countries, and to Florida and California together stateside.  We’re hoping to travel to South Africa one day; we plan to visit a wildlife preserve.  We’ve also discussed Germany.  My Dear Brother is a military history/World War II enthusiast.

Lord Willing, for my 60th birthday, I plan to visit Fiji, and spend every day on the beach, and every night in a hut on stilts.  It’s one of my bucket list items.

Do you like to travel? Where have you visited? What was your most memorable trip? Tell me all about it in the Comments.  Thank you!

Posted in #My500Words

Gotta Get My Health On-Point

Today was my yearly physical. While the news wasn’t all bad, it was not all good, either.

The good news. This is always best to start with:

  1. My blood pressure was 120/80! Which is something short of a miracle, as I have been under a lot of stress the past several months, due to my mother’s and father’s health issues. Mother’s more so than father’s.
  2. My glucose was 96!
  3. The EKG looked good, although it showed some mild high blood pressure activity.

Now, the bad news:

  1. I gained ten pounds. Not good for someone like me with high blood pressure. I have not been eating well; relying more heavily on processed foods and take-out meals, which means an increase in carbs.
  2. The doctor noticed that my stomach is not as flat as it was this time last year, and my muscles are not as toned.
  3. Due to the fact that I am currently experiencing “caregiver stress” – my doctor’s moniker – I need to start taking better care of myself.

The doctor says my current blood pressure medication is working. Therefore, there will be no change for the foreseeable future.  On the other hand, she is recommending a diuretic, to be taken once every two days, to alleviate the fluid retention in my ankles and legs.  I have primary lymphedema, which was diagnosed when I was 16 years old.

My doctor did impress upon me that I must take better care of myself.  After all, we’re trying to prevent deterioration of my kidneys, as a result of the high blood pressure.

I have been working out on the treadmill. As I do every summer. Things fall apart come September. But, it’s imperative that I am diligent and conscientious about working out.

So, here is my plan:

  • Eating salads at lunch.
  • Eating breakfast – every day.
  • Consuming fewer take-out meals and processed foods.
  • Drinking more water.
  • Getting more sleep.
  • Lowering my stress levels, which leads to anxiety and depression. The doctor suggested yoga and Pilates.
  • Decreasing sugar and caffeine. Which incidentally elevate stress and anxiety.
  • Lose weight – at least the ten pounds I have gained since my last annual physical.
  • Continuing my walking/treadmill workouts.
  • Performing strength training twice per week.

My doctor mentioned that more and more health insurance carriers are focusing on and promoting health and wellness. As a result, my health insurance plan may very likely cover the cost of exercise classes, as well as therapeutic treatment, such as physical therapy, for my osteoarthritis.  My doctor said my orthopedic doctor should have mentioned this, but has not.  Hmmm…

My doctor and I also talked at length about my mother’s health condition. Again, she imparted a lot of information that my mother’s own doctor has not.  I immediately passed the information along to my mother through my brother. Hopefully, the information, and, the realities of her health condition, will lead her to move beyond her fear of the side effects of her medications, see the larger picture, and become more diligent and proactive in her care.

So, I have some work to do.  Gotta get my health on-point.  One of the things I will be doing tomorrow, after doing my workout, is visiting the grocery store, and filling up my shopping cart with fresh, healthy foods.

What are you doing to maintain proper health and wellness? Or, are you struggling like me? Share your experiences in the Comments. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Posted in #My500Words

What if?

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had made different choices?

More and more lately, I have been having such thoughts.  In particular, about my choice of career.  While I am not unhappy with the way things are in my life, I contemplate what would be different if, say, I had pursued a nursing career, or, a veterinary career, or a law career.

Becoming a Spanish teacher was actually the furthest thing from my mind when I entered college.  Or, during my childhood, for that matter.

In fact, when I was about ten years old, I wanted to become a nurse.  I had an older cousin I looked up to, and she was in nursing school at the time.  So, I decided I wanted to become a nurse, too.

My Dear Mom told me, “You will most likely work in a large urban area, with many Spanish-speakers.  In order to communicate with them, you will need to learn Spanish. The opportunity for me to learn some basic Spanish presented itself via a six-week enrichment course at my elementary school: Two students from the local high school I would ultimately attend myself taught the course on a voluntary basis. It was fun, and thought that was the end of my Spanish classes. But, no.  Dear Mommy said, “Let’s sign you up for Spanish in the seventh grade.  You don’t need to earn credits towards high school graduation during seventh and eighth grades.  If you decide you don’t like Spanish, you don’t have to continue it in high school.”

But, I did like it.  Not only that, I discovered I had a very strong aptitude for Spanish, and, for language learning in general. So much so, I pursued my language studies in high school to the most advanced level, which led me to earn a liberal arts degree in Spanish.

My Dear Mom recently told me that she thinks that my career life, not to mention my life in general, would have been easier if I had become a nurse.  Teaching in independent schools has not been easy.  Honestly, it has been unbearable at times. Since I turned 50 in 2015, I contemplate, more and more, if I made the right career choice.  Yet, there are many things I enjoy about teaching. And, aside from some of the people I have had the dreadful misfortune of encountering over the past 22 years during my independent school teaching career, teaching overall has afforded me many wonderful opportunities to learn, grow, and develop, not only as a professional, but also as a person.  Not to mention that I would not be the person I am today had I not become a teacher.

Still, I was feeling very low about my career when school ended in June. So much so, that I was unable to identify even one redeeming aspect.  And then, I forgave myself, which allowed me to put things in proper perspective.

Do you have regrets about your choice of career? Would you change anything? Have you forgiven yourself? Let me know about it in the Comments.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in #My500Words, Writing

#MY500Words 30-Day Writing Challenge: I’m Half-Way Home

I’ve been using a combination of writing prompts from a variety of sources during the #MY500Words 30-Day Writing Challenge to prevent boredom – for me, as well as for my readers. That said, I am using the stated writing challenge for today’s post, since it marks my 15th day – woo hoo! –  and asks me to take stock of my work and progress thus far.

Well, it’s not been easy.  Real talk. That’s the purpose of a challenge, no?  Writing daily requires stamina, never mind writing 500 words daily. Coming up with things to write about, as I have said previously, requires creativity and “out-of-the box” thinking. Finding time to write requires prioritizing and organizing my time.

What has gotten easier? The writing itself. Once I have a topic in mind, the words flow reasonably well.  I usually manage to exceed the 500 word benchmark, which is very gratifying.  Additionally, I feel that by writing every day, not only am I establishing writing as a regular habit, I am also noticing that I actually look forward to writing, as opposed to viewing it as a burden or a drudgery.  I am enjoying the creative process of thinking, selecting, planning, and, of course, writing.

Do I get tired? Yes! In fact, there have been times during this challenge when I have begun a blog post with how exhausted I am. And, I am sure that there will be more such days before the challenge is over. And in the days and months following the challenge. Life intervenes, which impacts everything.  But, no matter how exhausted, or how late, I strive to complete my 500 words. Every day.

If you were to ask me if I regret having undertaken the the challenge, I would say, “No.”  At least not so far!  The perfectionist in me is bound and determined to complete the challenge.  I think I have made it to the most difficult point: the first 15 days.  Perhaps I am selling the challenge short in saying this. But, for me, getting started is the most difficult aspect of a challenge.  Doing this challenge is designed to improve my writing.  It has also improved my planning and organization skills, and has given me a much-needed outlet into which to channel my energies.  The condition of the United States at the moment in many ways is quite dreadful, and my inclination would be to spend more time on social media – especially Twitter – than is appropriate, necessary or healthy for me at the moment. In as much as I like keeping up with my PLN colleagues, and tracking the news and events of the day, there is more ugliness on Twitter than ever these days.  Writing has afforded me a much-needed outlet for feeding and nourishing my body, mind and spirit.  Therefore, writing has been a part of my self-care initiative.

Once the challenge is over,  I won’t be bound to a 500-word minimum requirement. At which point I most likely will continue to write daily, since I am now in the habit of doing it.  I won’t necessarily compose a lengthy blog entry each time.  In other words, I will have greater flexibility to write a variety of entries, and not just narratives.

So, the #MY500Words 30-Day Writing Challenge is providing me with a considerable learning curve, and a test of will and stamina.  It has also been very energizing.

What sorts of challenges have you taken on? Photography? Workouts?  Other? Let me know about them in the Comments.  Thank you!

 

 

Posted in #My500Words

Do Something

On Wednesday, July 13, the day after my therapy session, my therapist sent me an email.  The email included information about a peace rally and community mural painting, sponsored by the Council of Churches and a local Congregational Church, to take place on Saturday, July 16, from 9 AM to 3 PM.  My therapist thought it would be good for me to attend for two reasons. One, during our session on the previous day, I expressed sadness and hopelessness in response to the Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile shootings.  She thought that by attending the rally, it would be a way for me to do something, and, channel my creative energies.  At the end of her email, my therapist stated that she would be out of town on that day, that she really wanted to do, and, for me to go for her. (The last bit was her way of encouraging me to get out and connect with new people, which is something that I am striving to improve).

Sigh…

In as much as I wanted to go, and to mix with new people, and to channel my creativity, I am an introvert…with social anxiety.  Two very big obstacles to overcome.

Later on that week, on Thursday evening, a Dear Friend phoned.  I mentioned the event to him, to which he suggested the following: “Why don’t you take your new camera, document the event, and create a mural of your own with the photos?”

Enter Obstacle Number Three.  At which point my anxiety really began to take effect.

For Christmas 2015, my Dear Parents gifted me with a beautiful camera, that the aforementioned Dear Friend selected for me.  He is a photographer, and, based on my needs and goals as a very novice photographer, selected the camera.  It is a SONY SLR, and I am terrified of it.  My mode of taking cameras is either via my iPhone, or, my point-and-shoot.  Being terrified of a camera may seem silly. But, if you’re a person like me who strives to be a perfectionist, a camera can take you down.

My Dear Friend said, “Just put the camera on auto, and you’ll be good to go.”  Easy for him to say.

All day Friday, I thought intently about what I was going to do.  Not only did I have to overcome my social anxiety by leaving my house, and mixing with new people, I was faced with the additional challenge of using that camera.

Saturday, the Day of Reckoning arrived.  I awoke at about 7:30 AM, at which point I assembled all of my camera equipment, and placed it in my camera bag.  I then proceeded to the Fitness Center at my apartment complex, and did a treadmill workout.  Following a shower, getting dressed, and downing my meds with a cup of OJ, I obtained directions for the facility, which is called the Ecospace. headed out, camera hanging from my shoulder.  That was 10:30 AM.

I arrived at the location at about 11:00 AM. The building was rather tricky to find; I passed by it several times.  But, I did find it. I located a parking space, and, upon entering the building, I spoke to a very nice man and a very nice lady, who guided me to where the community mural painting and peace rally were taking place.  As I made my way to the outside back wall, I noticed a variety of activities going on, in addition to the peace rally and mural painting.  When I arrived, there was already a nice crowd gathered, many painting on the wall, and others getting prepared to paint. There were also speakers – many of them high school students.  I noticed that one of the event’s sponsors was the Center for Non-Violence.  I didn’t even know there was such an organization in my state. I also didn’t know that there was a place called the EcoSpace.  Wow…

I walked around, talked with people, and took photos.  I also listened to some of the speeches, as well as some very good jazz music being provided by high school students.

After about 30 minutes, I decided to leave. On my way out, I once again encountered the very nice man with whom I spoke on my way in.  I also spoke with another very nice lady.  She told me that the building has existed since 1984, and was subsequently purchased by the Council of Churches.  It is a center for transformative leadership, health and wellness, community building, and spirituality and culture.  It also houses an art gallery and a dance studio.  It was described as the community’s “best-kept secret”, and they want to change that.  There is also a very large community garden outside.  I was invited to share what I learned about The Ecospace with my school community.  Which would be great. My school community is looking to improve its relationship with the local community. Additionally, the philosophy of my school would mesh well with that of The Ecospace.

Needless to say, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment: I forged some wonderful connections, channeled my creativity, fulfilled my need to do something, overcame my fear of my camera and took some decent photos, and learned about a new place in my community. On my way home, I headed over to D’Angelo Sandwich Shop for a steak and cheese. Following my steak and cheese lunch, I took a long nap.

What challenge have you faced, and, how did you overcome it? Please tell me about it in the Comments.  Thank you! And, please check out my photos from the Peace Rally and Community Mural Painting, located on my Home Page.  Just scroll all the way to the bottom.