Saturday, December 27, 2014

Slow Down You Crazy Child

Slow down you're doing fine, you can't be everything you want to be before your time. - Billy Joel, Vienna

It has been 23 days since my last post. Between theatre rehearsals, coordinating programs outside of work, teaching (with all the paper grading), and the holidays, having a life has been pretty nonexistent. That includes any sort of writing here at Certainly Candid until today.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just One Day

I am long overdue for a book review. Because of all the hype about the critically acclaimed book (and movie adaptation) of If I Stay, I have decided to review another of Gayle Forman's books: Just One Day.

There is a reason I picked up this book. The page before the story begins, there is a Shakespearean quotation from As You Like It, one of my favorite plays. It is famous: "All the world's a stage / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts." I don't know if you're like me, fellow literature enthusiasts, but an author who quotes the greats from the beginning has my attention immediately.

I suspected right away that I would enjoy this book. I was right. It is written with poise and grace. The story focuses on the life of Allyson Healey and her post-graduation trip to Europe. While there with her tour group, she meets Willem, a traveling actor who performs Shakespeare in the park. She is entranced by his performance of Sebastian, a character in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. In a whirlwind of activity, Allyson and Willem take a "just one day" trip to Paris.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy December 1st!

Happy December, dear readers! Christmas is just around the corner!

In order to encourage readership and broaden my audience, I am once again holding a giveaway! There will be a total of two giveaways this month (both winners to be revealed on New Year's Eve). Thanks to some wonderful sponsors, I have some great items for you this month. For those who need a reminder, here is how the giveaways work:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Writing (Day 30)

Today is the last day in my 30 Days of Gratitude series here at Certainly Candid. It's been a fun 30 days of writing, but I will be glad to return to writing book reviews and cultural posts. That being said, I will continue to be grateful for the things life has given me.
Writing (Day 30)
I am grateful for these 30 Days of Gratitude and the writing it has allowed me. Sure, there were days when I hit a writer's block, but daily writing has helped me. It has also shown me that even in my busy life, I can make the time for writing.
I am grateful for writing and my blog here at Certainly Candid, as well as the writing I do for GenTwenty. As I continue to work on my side novel projects, I am happy that I have the opportunity to do something I love everyday (and hope for the day that I can be published!).
Finally, I am grateful for all of you lovely readers who continue to read the writing I do online. You are the best.
Even though November is now over, stay grateful.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: What's in a name? (Day 29)

Have you ever thought about your name? If it has family significance, or if your parents chose it because they liked it for various reasons? Is it a name that has been in your family for generations, or something more modern?
What's in a name? (Day 29)
I love my name. Olivia. It's simple, yet elegant. It dates back many centuries. Being the nerd that I am, I love that I can read Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (one of my favorites!) and see that Olivia was a name in Shakespearean times. As a result (and again, nerd speaking here), I think I was destined to be an English teacher.
I am grateful for my name. Growing up, I was the only Olivia in my class. Not kidding. The only time I ever had another Olivia in class with me was junior year of college (when I was twenty). The name is rising in popularity to be sure, but in my day and age, it was a rare name.
I am grateful for the interactions that have occurred as a result of my name. I've had many people, when I'm first introduced, say, "Oh I love the name Olivia! It's so pretty!" I also like that there are a few nicknames associated with it. Liv. Livi. My little cousins used to call me Livi because Olivia, being the 4-syllables it is, can be a mouthful for a kid. I've never minded Liv or Livi, even though most people simply call me Olivia.
Finally, I am grateful that my name is easily spelled (I feel bad for the people who have to go to coffee shops and spell their name 3+ times before the barista gets it right) and that there are some famous Olivias out there. Olivia de Havilland, the famous actress. Olivia Newton-John, the singer (Grease, anyone?). Olivia Langdon Clemens, wife of famous writer Mark Twain. And the more modern figures: Olivia Wilde, Olivia Munn, Olivia Palermo.
Good work, parents. I'm grateful for my name. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Lazy Mornings (Day 28)

I can't remember the last time where I woke up past 9AM, sat around in my PJs sipping coffee, and watched "Kelly and Michael" on TV. My life is so busy most days (and I love it!) but I also love the rare lazy mornings.
The Lazy Mornings (Day 28)
I'm a very motivated individual most of the time. My life revolves around the personal motto of: If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself.
But some days, it is nice to be lazy (for lack of a better term). Sure, I have a million other things I could be doing this morning, but for the sake of my well-being I'm going to take the next 1-2 hours to just do something I love. Read. Play the piano. Decorate. Whatever it may be.
I am grateful for the lazy mornings off. They are rare, and because of that, I savor them. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of my teenage years (or even college years!) when these days were more frequent, but then I think of the life I live now and wouldn't trade it for the world. 
Finally, I am grateful for the lazy mornings because they allow me to relax before the hectic busy days begin again. I have more energy to tackle the early mornings, the meetings, the days of never-sitting-down, the early evening rehearsals, only to go home and grade papers, cook supper, and clean the apartment. It's a never-ending process, but deep down, I love every minute of it.
Do you have lazy mornings in your life?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Happy Thanksgiving! (Day 27)

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers and friends! I hope today finds you happy, blessed, and safe if you are traveling. Enjoy the day with your family and friends, and remember to give thanks.
Happy Thanksgiving! (Day 27)
While yes, today is Thanksgiving (which for some, would logically mark the end of this series), I will still be continuing the final 3 days in the 30 Days of Gratitude series here at Certainly Candid. There is always more we can be thankful for.
I am grateful for Thanksgiving itself. It is a reminder for me to slow down and enjoy life, if only for the day. I'm a very busy person, and the holidays remind me to take joy in the everyday things.
Finally, I am grateful for Thanksgiving because it lets me enjoy the anticipation of my favorite holiday: Christmas! Even though one holiday will be over today, another is soon on its way.
Happy Thanksgiving, and may your blessings be endless.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Memories (Day 26)

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. - Dr. Seuss

I'm only a twenty-something, but I have so many memories of so many pivotal moments in my life. Reading my first book. Learning how to ride a bike. Moving away from one city to a new one. Family gatherings. Fireworks on Independence Day. I valued those moments, just as I now value the memories they have left in their place.
Memories (Day 26)
I am grateful for the memories. They make me recall a moment in time when I was happy, sad, joyful, or any other myriad of emotions. I love the memory of my students welcoming me back with hugs, cards, and loud voices after a 3-week hospital ordeal my first year of teaching. I recall the exhilarating memory of riding my bike down gravel hills with no hands on the handlebars. I savor the memory of endless laughs with my family from game nights of Quelf, or Guesstures, or Clue.
I am grateful for the memories because they help me during hard times. They remind me that life has ups and downs, and to cherish the good times so I can look back with a smile. I am grateful for the memories showing me the power of friendship, of love, and of freedom.
Finally, I am grateful for the memories because they provide awesome stories to connect with people. We aren't so different, and sharing our memories helps us interact with others on a daily basis.
Be grateful for the memories.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Conversations (Day 25)

I talk. A lot. Shout-out to my freshman year college roomie (you know who you are!) who I am still friends with almost 8 years later: I recall her saying she was nervous about meeting me before classes started in the fall of 2007 because she didn't know what to expect. But years later, she confided in me that I set her at ease and was "talkative and bubbly."

I'm a firm believer in open-ended conversations, and I think it is a trait I get from one side of the family. I once had a lovely conversation with an elderly lady at Target about the best types of artificial Christmas trees (she asked for an opinion on something, and being the only other person in the aisle, we had a lovely chat!). But I also try really hard to be a good listener. After all, conversations are a two-way street of talking and listening.
The Conversations (Day 25)
I am grateful for the conversations that I have every day in life. I love that I have people to talk to - and listen to - every day. Whether it be the silly conversations I have with my students, the meaningful conversations with friends, or the serious conversations with coworkers, I learn so much from these daily interactions.
I am grateful for the conversations because they teach me about people's dreams and wishes, backgrounds and fears. You'd be surprised how much you can learn about people, and starting by sharing something that is happening in your life is a great way to connect with others. I'd bet they'll share something with you too.
Finally, I am grateful for the conversations because it reminds me that we really aren't so different as people. Sure, we don't always agree, but we also have a lot of commonalities.
Have the important, the silly, the helpful, and the meaningful conversations.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Chords (Day 24)

I wrote about music and my piano in a few other posts during this 30 Days of Gratitude series here at Certainly Candid. Today focuses on one of my other instruments: guitar.
The Chords (Day 24)
Some days I find it strange that I stuck with flute, a woodwind instrument, instead of violin, a string instrument. I enjoyed my time in orchestra, and if I have a musical regret, it is that I didn't continue with violin (perhaps this can be a resolution for 2015, to start playing again).
In college, I picked up the guitar as a fun "teach myself the basics" instrument. Having an extensive musical background already, I figured I'd enjoy it. I was right. I am grateful for my guitar. It's a fun instrument that travels easily (unlike a piano, which is my favorite instrument!).
I am grateful for my parents for giving me a beautiful acoustic guitar. Instruments are expensive, and I am blessed to own four different instruments thanks to many kind individuals.
I am grateful for my guitar because it reminds me that all things take work and perseverance. Even with years of extensive piano instruction, building up calluses and learning the chords for guitar took time. I'm still working on it!
Do you play an instrument you are grateful for?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Clay, Sketchbooks, and Thread (Day 23)

I've always been an arts and crafts kind of person. I will try to make something out of nothing if it is possible. I got excited about new crayons when I was a child. My mother is giving me her old sewing machine so I can go crazy with new projects.
Clay, Sketchbooks, and Thread (Day 23)
I am grateful for creativity. If it hadn't been for the math skills, I think I would have enjoyed engineering or some other profession that involves knowing how things work. If I don't know, I look it up. If someone can't tell me, I do what I can to teach myself. I read a lot of manuals, informational guides, and science books as a result.
I am grateful for the things that fostered my creativity growing up. The art classes, the crayons, the 4-H projects at the county fairs. If something needs to be fixed, I can usually think of something to make it happen in a way many wouldn't have considered.
I am grateful for creativity because has taught me to think outside the box. It has taught me to never dismiss initial ideas, because they can hold truth and possibly the answer to a difficult question.
Think creatively about your life.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Pearls, Silks, and Fashion (Day 22)

I believe in looking nice. This is not only for myself and having pride in my appearance, but for looking the part in my profession. I once saw Ron Clark, a nationally recognized educator, at a conference in my state. What a powerful presence. His ideas resonated with me, even his views on educator professionalism. Yes, appearance plays into this. He writes about it in his book The End of Molasses Classes. Read it. Seriously.
Pearls, Silks, and Fashion (Day 22)
Just hear me out. I swear this is not a materialistic post. Let me begin by saying that I am all for appropriate casual wear, in the right time and the right place. I wear jeans. I am totally fine slumming around in my sweatpants on the weekends, or lounging in my PJs. 
But face it people: when you have a career, or reach a certain age, you are expected to look the part. Ron Clark said that day, "Dress the part. Attire matters." I am a professional with a university degree. I will look the part. As such, I am grateful for fashion.
I am grateful for fashion because it reminds me that while it is what lies underneath that matters, there is no harm in appropriately looking professional and, in the words of Ron Clark, "looking the part." I may not be rich, but you'd be surprised what kinds of bargains you can find on clothing. Or, if you're like me, how to get innovative on clothing alterations from items at the thrift store.
I am grateful for fashion because it reminds me to put some thought in how I am presenting myself. Fashion is like art, in many ways - a way to express ourselves to the world. Be appropriate about it based on your career, but your outward appearance should, in many ways, reflect your job and your personality.
 Save those sweatshirts for the gym. Look the part.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Phone (Day 21)

Today's post will be a short one, as I'm not sure I have much to say on this topic (but it bears recognition anyway).
My Phone (Day 21)
I'm going to be upfront about this: I am terrible about checking my phone in a timely manner, especially when I am massively busy. I don't understand the 21st century notion of needing to be attached to technology 24/7. If it is an emergency, rest assured I will be in touch with you right away.
Nonetheless, I am grateful for my phone. It allows me to connect with people I don't see often anymore and still hear from them about what is new in their lives. It allows for a personal aspect (as I prefer a phone conversation over a texting conversation any day).
Finally, I am grateful for my phone because it keeps me in the loop about what is happening in our world (especially since I am also terrible about watching the evening news because I'm rarely home at the time it is actually on).
Appreciate the technology, but don't get too attached to it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Apartment (Day 20)

I love my tiny apartment. It is a space I can call my own, and a place where I can write without interruptions at whatever time strikes my fancy. At this time of year, it is a place where I can go crazy decorating for Christmas (yes, I am that person) and make cupcakes at midnight if I feel like it. Don't get me wrong - I love my home and family, but my apartment fills any additional voids (disclaimer: this is not a photo of my own apartment).
My Apartment (Day 20)
I am grateful for my apartment. It reminds me that I have one of life's essentials, even if it is nothing grand or fancy: a roof over my head and a clean, dry place to stay.
I am grateful for the freedom my apartment allows me. When I can come and go as I please, without having to worry about waking others up or keeping the kitchen 110% tidy, it makes some of the random daily chaos easier to manage.
Finally, I am grateful that having an apartment reminds me to be responsible. To better manage my finances (hey, I'm a twenty-something and it's not always easy), to keep the place clean, and to do all of those things that come with being a responsible adult.
Be grateful for the place you live.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Career Mentors (Day 19)

I think there can be a lot more taught in college about the education field. In fact, there should a class called "Things You Should Know About Education But Won't Learn In College: SURPRISE!" (but that probably wouldn't fit on a course syllabus, I suppose). Luckily, I have had mentors for that!
My Career Mentors (Day 19)
This is a really broad category, but it includes many individuals. I am grateful for the people who have taught me how to handle the things you won't learn from a college textbook (how to respond to a student who swears, says inappropriate things, spitballs around the room, and a multitude of other crazy things I will refrain from discussing on the very large internet).
These people know who they are. I am grateful to you all. My supervisor in student teaching, for her expertise; my cooperating teachers, for their guidance; my mentor my first year of teaching, for being totally awesome, helpful, and just great; my English cohort my first year of teaching, who, even though I don't see her everyday now still gives lots of great pep talks - lots of which are now theatre related; and all the wonderful people I work with and see everyday, and those who I used to work with (there are a lot of you, and you've all helped in so many ways).
I would not be where I am today without all of your knowledge, advice, and wisdom. So thanks. I am eternally grateful to have such an amazing support system.
Who has been a mentor in your career?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Great Days (Day 18)

Today was a great day! I accomplished everything on my to-do list before 10:30AM (oil change for car scheduled too!), my students were on-task, I ran errands this afternoon, took a nap, met up with some coworkers, and bought myself some early Christmas presents. I love the great days, even though today probably seems like a normal day to many of you. There are days where I just don't get everything done, or some things don't go well, or something happens to upend my stellar mood. I think we can all relate.
The Great Days (Day 18)
I am grateful for the great days. The ones that leave you spirited (or maybe drained, but in a good way) and make you feel accomplished when you go to bed in the evening. The great days are reminders that every once in a while, fate is looking out for you.
I am grateful for knowing that I have great days ahead. Even if I'm going through a stretch of very hectic and chaotic days, I know the stretch has to end sometime. And then: the great days are back! [happy dance here] I savor the great days, because when the going does get tough, it helps to remember when things went well.
In the end, I am grateful for the great days and the positivity they give me and my attitude. I especially love that a "great day" doesn't have to be something out of the ordinary - nothing major happened today, but a series of little things that made the day awesome. Remember those things.
Think about what makes your great days "great." Be grateful for that.

Monday, November 17, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Rolling Fields (Day 17)

I miss my days living in the country so much. I know I've written about those times here on Certainly Candid before, but never fully in-depth. Today's post in the 30 Days of Gratitude series focuses on nature: what I love, and why I miss it.
The Rolling Fields (Day 17)
While I was skeptical about moving to a tiny rural community right after college, I savored the opportunity to get back in touch with my outdoorsy side. I loved going for drives in the countryside up and down the hills in the valley. I loved seeing the wheat fields in all their glory again after years of living in town after my family moved away from the country.
I am grateful for the rolling fields. I love the serenity of nature, and in my state where the prairie always meets the sky, I love seeing the rippling wheat fields. Around harvest, they glimmer like golden oceans with gentle waves in the wind.
I am grateful for the years I grew up in the country. For the snowmobiling, the tree climbing, the slippery sliding down shallow icy ponds. I am grateful for the towering oaks, the willows in the yard, the lone coyote calls at night, the silent deer in the rhubarb patch, the wild raspberry bushes around the yard, the rides to the pasture with my grandpa. I am grateful for the beating wings of hawks free in the sky, for the silent world after the first snow, for the glistening light of the moon.
In the end, I am grateful for the time in the outdoors. It allows me to dream of the day where I will live in the country once again. Where I can have an ATV, and do bow target practice in the backyard, and set up a hammock in the trees.
Find the joy in nature.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: For the Love of Chocolate (Day 16)

I have a huge sweet tooth. As per one of my previous posts in this series, I wrote about my love for coffee. Today focuses on my other love: chocolate. I actually have to avoid the Christmas aisles at Target now because of the Lindor Peppermint Truffles that I could probably scarf down in a day, easily. 
For the Love of Chocolate (Day 16)
I will apologize in advance if this post makes you hungry. I swear I didn't mean to! So, let's talk about chocolate. I love it. In brownies, in coffee (mocha, anyone?), in ice cream, in Hershey kisses and Lindor truffles.
I am grateful for the chocolate because it reminds me that life always has a sweet side if you look for it. I am grateful that I can splurge on little luxuries like this when I meet friends for dessert in the evening at a local restaurant.
I am grateful for the chocolate because it makes baking fun. I don't care what you think, chocolate makes everything better (unless you are allergic, in which case I'm sorry). Add it to cookies, to waffles, to toast (Nutella!), and voila! life is good.
Lastly, I am grateful for the chocolate on the rough days. I don't care how cliche that sounds: chocolate makes the rough days more endurable. 
What pleasure food are you grateful for?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: The Country, The Pop, The Rock (Day 15)

I love my iPod. The hundreds of songs are my constant companion on the road trips I love to take by myself (I don't care what people say - I love driving miles upon miles alone with only me, my tunes, and the open road). I don't mean to sound materialistic when I say I love my iPod. It simply represents more to me than the device itself.
The Country, The Pop, The Rock (Day 15)
I'd be lying if I say I love all kinds of music, but I will listen to pretty much anything. Music runs in my blood - both of my grandmothers are organists, I have an aunt who is an organist, I have music teacher cousins, my dad was in musicals in school, my parents were in marching band together... you get the idea. I was in choir and I played three instruments growing up: piano, violin, and flute. I picked up guitar in college. I share this for one reason: to imagine a life without music is unfathomable to me.
Having an iPod reminds me of how much I love music. I am grateful for the country, the pop, and the rock. The country music taught me to value my time with the "fiddle" (aka my violin) and country was one of my earlier exposures to genres of music.
I am grateful for all the other types of music out there, especially anything instrumental. My friends could tell you that I gravitate towards music with strong piano parts (Five for Fighting, anyone?). I still listen to classical music - anything Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, etc.
Finally, I am grateful for the device that houses all of my music: my lovely iPod. I don't know what I'd do without it. It was an investment to be sure, but well worth it.
Cherish the items that hold significance beyond the surface level.

Friday, November 14, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: With Shimmering Colors (Day 14)

Art has always been a big part of my life. I credit participating in an art program at my high school (where high school students mentored elementary students and taught them basic art concepts) as the start of my passion for my education career. I love what art has represented for me over the years: an opportunity to escape reality.
With Shimmering Colors (Day 14)
I am grateful for art. Since I was a little girl, I was always artistic. Always coloring, always doodling in notebooks, always painting with Crayola art sets. As I got older, this naturally transitioned into many art classes in high school.
I am grateful for the shimmering colors. I see the world with an artist's eyes, and all that occurs around me is often the basis for the many watercolor paintings and sketches I do today (ex: the above painting I did was inspired by a photograph I took on a trip to the Split Rock Lighthouse in Duluth, MN).
I am grateful for the wonder I find in seeing other artists create and play with different forms of materials. I attend many art related events in my community and try to volunteer for these events when I have the spare time. 
What hobbies and interests are you most grateful for?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Family (Day 13)

My family puts up with a lot from me, but more importantly, they are always there despite all of those things. I love them - both my immediate family and my extended family. I don't know what I'd do without all of you. Thank you.
My Family (Day 13)
I am grateful for my family. They support me in so many ways, in so many different endeavors. I know that there are people who do not have supportive families, which makes me even more grateful for mine.
I am grateful for the things that come with being part of a family. The holiday gatherings of crazy games, caroling, cookie frosting, and taking the time to have fun together. I am grateful for the memories that are made during these times together, and the stories that evolve that are eventually told for years to come.
I am grateful for the times my family has consoled me in my darkest of times. The times I was sad, or angry, or hurting, or upset with the world. Knowing that someone (or more than one someone!) has your back during these times is very uplifting. Sometimes all we need is encouragement from our loved ones to take the next steps.
I am grateful for having a home to return to. Because believe it or not, home is always part of your family and the roots you come from. Home is my refuge, and I love being able to go there when I need it.
Thank your family for all they have done for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: A Healthy Lifestyle (Day 12)

My health isn't perfect. I've had problems, multiple surgeries, many different kinds of procedures, and yet for the most part, I am healthy. I know it seems frustrating when I feel unwell, but I do remind myself that there are others who are in worse condition and I try hard not to complain.
A Healthy Lifestyle (Day 12)
I am grateful for my health. It some days feels like a lot to maintain, but there are so many things I am capable of doing that others can only hope for. For my age, I know I have a lot for which I can express appreciation.
I am grateful for the doctors and health specialists who have never wavered in their goal to help me. I have had an incredible team of people over the years, over every surgery, every hospital stay, every procedure. Regardless of the health crisis at the time, they always helped me on the road to recovery.
I am grateful to be reminded that I need to foster good health habits. I'm not perfect, and probably don't get to the gym as often as I should, but I try really hard to exercise, eat right, and follow doctor's orders (I learned the hard way a long time ago that if you don't do what the doctor says, bad things happen).
What part of your health is important to you?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Freedom (Day 11)

Today is Veteran's Day. I hope you will take a moment to honor our veterans, and remember those who died in sacrifice for our country. Freedom is never free.
My Freedom (Day 11)
We live in a country where we are free. Not everyone in the world can say that. Because despite what many believe, the United States is a pretty safe country and one that values its people. We have many rich heritages in our nation, and I couldn't be more grateful for the people who have entered the various branches of our military to preserve our heritages, our freedom, and our honor.
I am grateful for my freedom. I am blessed to be able to vote, to make a solid living, to not have to worry about things that other nations face on a daily basis.
I am grateful for our veterans who have made my freedom possible. It is courageous men and women like you who put your lives on the line everyday because of your belief in how humanity should be treated. You are incredible souls, and I commend you for your service. I am truly grateful for you all.
And finally, I am grateful for the service of those no longer living. May those individuals rest in peace knowing that they preserved the freedom of future generations.
Be grateful for your freedom: it came with a price. Honor our veterans.

Monday, November 10, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: My Piano (Day 10)

My piano has arrived today and I am very excited! Not only will it help me learn the music for the musical I am directing this year (perfect practice makes perfect!), but it will give me the opportunity to dive back into the songs I once loved. And with Christmas around the corner, I can being playing my favorite holiday carols!
My Piano (Day 10)
I am grateful for my piano. Pianos are large instruments, difficult to move, and depending on the type, they can be very expensive. I inherited my piano from my great-grandmother, which makes it even more special to me. I have many memories of playing it when visiting her, and when I play it now, I am reminded of those memories.
I am grateful for having an actual piano and not having to resort to a digital keyboard. I know they work well for some, but as a percussive instrument, the magic isn't the same when you don't have to worry about calling a piano tuner. A true piano has the components of a real instrument, and it reminds me to keep dreaming for the day that I may own a white baby grand.
I am grateful for the opportunity my piano provides in letting me escape from reality. No matter how tired, crabby, sad, angry, annoyed, or any other emotion I am currently experiencing, playing the piano always soothes my frazzled nerves.
In the end, I am grateful for my piano because it allows me to continue to hone a skill that began when I was just a little girl of 7 years old. True musicians know that you keep practicing, because you can always get better than you used to be. You do it for the self-improvement and joy that comes from creating melodies.
Do you have an instrument you are grateful for?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: A Collection of Travel Guides (Day 9)

When I graduated from college, I had the ambition to see the world. Travel. Find a job in a state far away from my own (I can almost hear life laughing at me right now because it didn't happen). But hey, things change, and I am so happy with where I am in life right now. I know that just because it didn't happen at the time (and in a world with too much instant gratification, I'm glad it didn't), it doesn't mean I won't ever get to have those experiences.
A Collection of Travel Guides (Day 9)
People who know me well enough know that I collect copies of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. It is, however, a lesser-known fact that I also collect travel guides. Nevermind that I haven't actually been to these places: I will get there someday.
I am grateful for my slowly but surely growing collection of travel guides. Whether it be one on the good ol' USA, or Ireland, or France, I know that they motivate me to plan for my future goals (something I am not good at - I am very much "live in the moment"). 
I am grateful that these travel guides give me dreams and wishes to go to faraway lands in places I've only read about in books. Even though these travel guides will probably be outdated by the time I actually visit said countries, I still go through them, highlighting and annotating interesting landmarks.
In conclusion, I am grateful for my collection because it grounds me in my everyday life. It teaches me that it is okay to have both roots and wings, especially because there was a time when I only wanted the wings.
Take the time to dream about the places you one day hope to see.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: All the Silver Linings (Day 8)

I feel bad for those who have a hard time finding the positivity in a difficult situation. Over time, this mentality can turn us into bitter people. Bitterness is a sign that there is negativity in your life, and as the weeks and years pass, it can be harder to break free of this mindset.
All the Silver Linings (Day 8)
Back in September, I wrote about how some people are disgruntled about the fact that I am (almost) always positive about everything. But I figure, why not be positive? There will always be people who put down others - and I will not be swayed.
I am grateful for the silver linings. Regardless of the situation, no matter how difficult, I can always find one. Moving to a new city? Focus on the opportunity to make new friends. Frustrated with your job? Quit it (something better always comes along). 
These silver linings may not always have the result I am hoping for. They may not always be perfect, or even very large. But there is always one there. I am grateful for the treasure-hunt-like approach when looking for silver linings. If you think about it long enough, it isn't hard to find one.
Finally, I am grateful for the silver linings because they have taught me to be resilient. Sure, life gets tough. Things happen. But if we put our minds to it, we will always bounce back stronger.
What are the silver linings in your life?

Friday, November 7, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: As sure as the first evening star... (Day 7)

If you haven't seen Disney's The Rescuers, you should. It is a heartwarming tale of adventure, of rescue, and most importantly, of faith. At one point in the movie, Rufus the cat reminds Penny to have faith: "Faith is a bluebird, you see it from afar. It's for real, and as sure as the first evening star. You can't touch it, or buy it, or wrap it up tight, but it's there just the same, making things turn out right."
As sure as the first evening star... (Day 7)
I often struggle having faith that things will turn out right. I have to give myself constant reminders that things will work out in time. But with most things in which we have difficulty, we always learn.
I am grateful for my faith, especially in the times I need it the most. Knowing that I am just a small part in a bigger plan is something that gives me relief and peace on the days when it feels like nothing is going right.
I am grateful for my faith when things are going well. It reminds me to savor every moment, and to hold onto these moments. I remember them and reflect on them when the going gets tough. I am soothed knowing that if God can bring joy to my everyday life, then I know in my heart he can also calm the storms I must weather.
Finally, I am grateful for my friends who have faith. When I question mine, or have problems, or want to give up, they are there with words of reassurance and the eternal picture of our lives.
Keep the faith, my dear readers. "It's there just the same, making things turn out right."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: For the Love of the Stories (Day 6)

Certainly Candid focuses on books and reading a lot. That is not about to change (this is what happens when you read a blog by an individual with an English degree). As such, today's post in the 30 Days of Gratitude series focuses on the stories in our lives.
For the Love of the Stories (Day 6)
If you haven't figured out yet that I love reading, you will now. But more importantly, I love the stories that books and literature tell us. The stories are a way for us to connect with our world, and because they haven't always been in the form of the written word we have now, there are many types of stories out there.
I am grateful for the stories. Reading gives me the opportunity to travel to places I may never see in my lifetime. The stories are a way for me to learn about other cultures and lifestyles that I may never get to experience.
I am grateful for the lessons I've learned from these stories. Despite what many believe in our society of 21st media, there is a certain kind of magic only obtained from reading books. I have learned a lot from the thousands of books I've read so far in my lifetime. They have taught me how to be empathetic, how to be kind, how to laugh, how to express sorrow and anger, and so, so much more.
In the end, I am grateful for the bigger meaning behind the stories: my literacy, and my ability to read, write, and communicate. After all, that is what the stories are all about: sharing thoughts with others in our world.
Think about the stories you have loved the most, from your childhood favorites to the ones you hear now. Be grateful for all they have taught you about living.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: With a Teacher's Heart (Day 5)

To say that I enjoy working with young people is an understatement. I've previously written about my passion for my career, so you know that I love what I do every day. But more importantly, I enjoy the opportunity to positively mentor the youth of our society.
With a Teacher's Heart (Day 5)
I am so proud of my students. All of them. Because despite what the naysayers believe, every student has a strength. It may not be in my class, but he/she may be good at mathematics, or helping others, or art, or any number of things. I firmly believe every child has something they excel at, and I try really hard to plan lessons that play to their strengths.
I am grateful for my students. Because even though I am the educator, I always learn something from them. They surprise me with their wisdom, their insight, their personality, and their kindness. They show me that life isn't always perfect, but you adapt to your circumstances.
I am grateful for their constant energy (even on days when it feels like they have a hard time channeling it). I may be having a bad day at home, or may be worried about paying my bills, or upset about any number of things in my sometimes chaotic life, but they never fail to make me smile in some way. And most days, that's all I need to leave my worries behind. I can show up at work stressed beyond belief, and by the end of the day, they have cheered me up by getting excited about a lesson, or asking me about my weekend, or sharing a story about their new pet.
After all, my students are people too. Which people in your life are you most grateful for?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Friendship Is A Two-Way Street (Day 4)

My friends are awesome. I don't think I tell them enough, but I don't know where I'd be without them. As humans, friendship is an intricate aspect of our lives. We don't like to be alone, and having people you connect with is a blessing beyond relief.
Friendship Is A Two-Way Street (Day 4)
My friends know me too well. They know what excites me enough to make me dance like a lunatic (and they know that I lack any good dance coordination, as with my Zumba attempts), they know what saddens me, they know what angers me, and they know what makes me happy.
I am grateful for my friends. They are some very wonderful individuals. Some live near me, some live far away, but one thing can be said about all of them: when I need them, they will be there for me in some way or another.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a friend. Friendship is a two-way street. It has taught me how to help and to listen to other people. And I especially appreciate being called out on something I have done so that I can work on being a better friend when they need me.
Lastly, I am grateful for my friends because they fill in the voids of my life. They make me smile, make me laugh, make me happy, and give me purpose. They encourage me when I am down, and rejoice with me in my successes. They are the voice of reason when I am struggling with a difficult decision to make. I don't know where I'd be without all of them. You know who you are: I love you all.
Just remember: we weren't meant to go through this life alone.

Monday, November 3, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Oh Starbucks, How I Love You (Day 3)

I am the educator who, in the eyes of her students, has the reputation for being a coffee person. I always have coffee on me, every morning before school actually starts. Whether I have made it myself doesn't matter - my students pick up on the fact that I practically live on coffee. Last year I had several student gifts, most of which were small Starbucks gift cards (one student even gave me a Starbucks mug and coffee set: I use the mug all the time and LOVE IT). Bless their young hearts. Now before you say this is something superficial to be grateful for, hear me out.
Oh Starbucks, How I Love You (Day 3)
If I'm being honest, it doesn't have to be Starbucks. Any coffee place will do. My friends know that if we're in a new city, I am usually the first to discover the nearest coffee location. It's like I have some form of coffee-radar.
I am grateful for coffee because it means I live a life in which I can have access to small luxuries like coffee. Some places it is extremely hard to come by, and I am grateful that I have access to coffee when I would like it.
I am grateful for coffee because it means I have a steady paycheck and a modest income that allows me to purchase peppermint mochas at Starbucks in December (my favorite!). I am by no means rich, but some cannot afford even that, which reminds me to give to those who are less fortunate (especially this time of year).
And lastly, I am grateful for coffee because it is a nice addition to my early morning workdays when I'm writing theatre rehearsal schedules at 6:45 in the morning, or grading papers on a Sunday afternoon, or working on any other manner of items.
What seemingly small things are you grateful for?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: Orion and Cassiopeia (Day 2)

We live in a beautiful world. We are surrounded by indescribable wonder every day, even when it seems like our world is having a tough time with all the death, terror, and destruction. We need to remember to see the beauty of every day and positively influence our world in a way that will build it up, not tear it down.
Orion and Cassiopeia (Day 2)
I have always found solace in the stars. I collect astronomy manuals, subscribe to astronomy magazines, and watch for celestial events in the sky.
I am grateful for the beauty of the world we live in and everything beyond it that is out of our reach. I love seeing Orion off to the south this time of year. There is something soothing about seeing the endless stars, a display of light across the heavens.
I am grateful for the stars because they remind me that even in the midst of my problems, I am really just a small part in the whole scheme of the universe. And that makes me realize that my problems really aren't as difficult as I make them seem. Call it what you will, but everything is always resolved in time.
And lastly, I am grateful for the moments that I remember the stars. It is a gentle reminder from the world to slow down and enjoy the things I don't always understand. Our lives are limited, and I am grateful for the moments where I can find beauty on a difficult day.
Where do you find beauty every day?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

30 Days of Gratitude: All the World's a Stage (Day 1)

Happy November dear readers!

I hope you had a fun (and safe) Halloween! Now with Thanksgiving around the corner, it is that time of year where we reflect on all our blessings in life. To try something new (and to encourage myself to write more the month of November), I will spend the next 30 days of this month with one brief post per day about something I am thankful for. I hope you will take the time to reflect on what makes you most grateful in this life - please feel free to comment on any post in the next 30 days with what makes you truly grateful.
All the World's a Stage (Day 1)
New opportunities are important to me. I have written previously about not becoming stagnant in life, and I savor the chance to try new things. The newest endeavor in my life right now is theatre.
I am grateful to be the theatre director at my school this year. While it has had its many ups and downs so far (no new endeavor is ever easy or perfect!) I am enjoying this different aspect of education and seeing my students in a whole new light. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them and help foster a talent that they so creatively possess. I love seeing them get excited about the musical selections of our production, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they are all incredible young people.
I am grateful for the people who are helping me in this new endeavor. I could not manage without these passionate individuals providing help, instruction, insights, positivity, and most importantly, fun and laughter. They are lifesavers, and they know who they are (whether they work with me every day or provide insight on the theatre operations from many miles away). Thank you all - you are the best.
And lastly, I am grateful to have music in my life once again after a time that I had abandoned it. I can only thank the theatre for this - music for so long held a special place in my heart, and when the music changed for me many years ago, it was hard to continue with it. But now I find myself humming more, playing guitar and piano more, and listening to music more.
I am grateful for all I am continuing to learn about this endeavor. I know I will make mistakes, but it is all a part of this learning process. 

After all, all the world's a stage.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More Than Enough

"There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living." - Nelson Mandela

I love my job.

And in all honesty, I probably don't say that enough. To have a career that gives me purpose every day is a blessing beyond relief. I know too many people who do not enjoy what they do, and as a result, it seems like an immense burden in their lives. I cannot imagine a life where I dread getting up every morning, where every task seems impossible and difficult. 

Every morning I wake up, I think, what learning is going to take place in my classroom today? It is more than enough. More than enough to motivate me to be at the school at 7:00 some mornings, eagerly planning the day's activities. It is more than enough to keep me awake some nights, thinking of new activities that will inspire my students to think differently, to think creatively, and to question the everyday occurrences in our world. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Strong Together

It has been eight days since my last post.

Life has been very busy, my friends and readers, and it has been particularly stressful the past several days. That is, however, no excuse for not writing. Hopefully my everyday activities have calmed down somewhat, which is why I am back today with a new post.

Today's topic is about reserving judgment. We all say we try not to judge others, but yet it seems that we do it anyway. Reserving judgment is something that takes willpower and the ability to put aside impressions of others until you get to know them.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Success Is Not For The Lazy

Success is not for the lazy.

I remember my first meeting with my initial university representative as a freshman. He had asked me, "Do you want to pursue a four-year or five-year graduation plan?" I was baffled - my major of English Education with a Communications emphasis seemed straightforward enough, and I didn't see how it would take more than 4 years to complete. I mentioned as such to him, and he laughed, stating, "Some people enjoy spending more time in college. It's not that you can't finish in four years, but some people like to take their time."

Not me. I completed my degree in exactly four years. Why waste a year of my life stretching out my coursework? I was adamant, keeping close watch on my credits and GPA so that I could finish on time and pursue the profession I wanted.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

National Poetry Day!

Let's take a break from the usual, shall we?

It's National Poetry Day! In honor of today I have compiled a special list of favorites for you: my favorite poems! But wait, before you freak out and go, oh my gosh I hate poetry, please hear me out. Poetry is a beautiful thing, but like you, I have not always loved it. It is something that takes time to fully feel and understand, but everyone has already experienced this in a way: music is poetry. I know you can name at least one song that made you feel something. Empowerment. Sorrow. Inspiration. Whatever it may be, poetry has the same effect. Without further ado, I present my favorites:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hello October!

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." - L. M. Montgomery

Happy October 1st, my friends! I love October. It is my favorite month of the year. The crisp autumn air, the falling leaves, the explosion of color that only comes with the changing seasons. October is a time of transition into winter. It is a reminder to enjoy life in all its seasons and to have appreciation for things we so often take for granted.

What do you love most about your favorite season?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Don't make me choose!

"I was born with a reading list I will never finish."

When I tell people I am an English educator, they always comment on how much I "must love to read" (kind of a given in my profession, but thank you for stating the obvious). Then they proceed to ask, What is your favorite book?


Asking an individual with an English degree what his/her favorite book is is just downright maddening. Don't make me choose! I love to read, and as such, I have categories of favorites (not just "one," as many seem to think). This post is for all those who have found themselves in a similar position, and for those of you who may be looking for something new to read. As such, I present my categories of favorites (and these aren't all of them, as that would be a long post):

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul?

Now do you believe in rock and roll, can music save your mortal soul, and can you teach me how to dance real slow? - Don McLean

I was recently at Barnes & Noble (yes, I know, big shocker there) and thanks to my current nonfiction reading interest, I picked up a new title: This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of A Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin. I am just starting it (book review to come in a few weeks), but it is making me reflect on my own musical upbringing. I figured, what a unique and different topic for Certainly Candid! So here I am writing to you today. As I know I have many musically inclined readers out there as well, I present my own background:
A Case Study, or, Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul?
Music has always been a big part of my life. While I played many instruments, piano has always been my first love since I started private lessons at the age of seven. It is a versatile instrument that can shine as a solo or accompany others. In high school, I would spend my study hall time down in the music department. I knew which practice rooms held the pianos that were out of tune, or had sticky keys, or the coveted new replacements for ones that had finally broken down. Nine times out of ten, I could be found in front of the black and white keys with my sheet music.
It did not matter what I played. It often depended on my mood. Sometimes it would be the rigorous classical pieces my piano instructor had assigned. Sometimes it would be jazzy Broadway tunes. If I was in a contemplative mood, it would often be Lorie Line arrangements.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dancing with Dragonflies

"I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!" —from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Curiosity is a curious thing (see what I did there?). Defined as the desire to know or learn about anything; inquisitiveness, its etymology stems from Latin, Middle-English, and Anglo-French. Curiosity is part of biology and a quality that many species possess.

For today's post, I once again present a case study:
A Case Study, or Dancing with Dragonflies
During my time living on a farm, our cat had free reign over our expansive yard. He loved following my sister and I around on our escapades through the surrounding shelter belt of trees.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If I Stay

I try not to jump on the bandwagon of books turned movies, but today I am going to make an exception for Gayle Forman's If I Stay. I recently reread the novel in preparation for the movie, but I first read this book long before movie rights were negotiated. It was published in 2009 and the movie has come out now, five years later (I included the movie edition cover of the book, just so that more people would recognize it - the original cover is just as beautiful).

What initially captured my attention about this book is the strong emphasis on music. Music has been a part of my life since I was a little girl (I took piano lessons starting at age 7, but that's a post for another day), much like Mia's connection with her cello in If I Stay. Secondly, Gayle Forman writes with strong imagery. I have read a lot of books over the years, and she is one of few that can really paint a colorful picture of what is happening in my imagination.

Now, about the novel. Mia is born into a musical family. Her dad was in his own band, but left it to be with his family. Mia has one younger brother, Teddy, whom she adores. The story, however, pivots around her relationship with Adam, a suave rocker she meets in high school. Mia considers herself to be the misfit of the family, the only one interested in classical music and her own love of the cello. It is surprising to her when Adam captures her attention, but their relationship grows in a unique way.

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