Quick update

Alright, I told you there were going to be changes! I’ve merged my Candace in Motion blog with my CandaceOnline page. All blog posts have been transferred here. My facebook page is now named CandaceOnline so that everything will be easier to find and less confusing. Hopefully this transition will go smoothly!

In addition, you can now find me on Twitter (Follow @CandaceOnline or click link at the bottom of post). I have fought hard against joining into this particular trend- I find it to be a bit, um, well, stupid. But I can also see the value in it. I’ll reach a larger audience (hopefully).

For the moment, things are still very much under construction and progressing. I’m in the process of setting up an Etsy shop, and adding more of my work to the gallery.

I’m excited to get all of this base work out of the way so I can start making new things to share with you!

Big Changes are Coming!

If you go to my “about” page you will see that when I began this blog, I wrote, “What I want to do is challenge these demons in my head that are holding me back. I want to see what success I can have if I dedicate myself to making my passions my work.

I haven’t been doing a good job of challenging the demons in my head. I haven’t been doing a job of it at all, actually. I pretty much let the demons take over again for the last half of 2012. And I certainly didn’t dedicate myself to making my passions my work.

My new job wasn’t at all what I had hoped for. Being on your own is hard. Sometimes you just want that “thing” in your life that will take care of all the worries. I had high expectations when I went into the job. I was disappointed on almost all fronts.

Add to it that I was miserable every single day; my mood plummeted within minutes of sitting down at my desk. My boss was awful. She couldn’t manage the place and was horribly tactless in how she communicated with her employees. I did not respect her. Or even like her. I didn’t like the company, either. My morals didn’t match with theirs.

I could not see myself spending any more time in an environment that I was so unhappy in. So. New game plan. Or, rather, old game plan that I had previously half-assed because I was scared and the little voices in my head told me I could never succeed at it.

I quit my job.

Resigned, actually. (After saving up some money- I’m not completely reckless) Sure, I had plenty of daydreams of an dramatic exit and telling my boss where she could shove her crappy job, but I gave my notice and politely exited the building on my last day.

Now here I am. I will be moving again in a few weeks. I am excited for what is to come. I am genuinely optimistic that I can achieve my goals if I put in the hard work and don’t let my self-doubt get in the way. You know what they say- you are your own biggest obstacle (Or something like that).

I’m going to try my damnedest to get the hell out of my own way.

So, big changes are on the way. I will be focusing on my writing and my artwork. I have a separate website right now that I plan to combine with this blog. I’ve got some big ideas and lots of options to make them work.

The list of goals and the plan of attack is forming. I’m going with what may be the harder route of learning as I go, but if I wait until I know everything (hahaha!) and all the stars are aligned, I will never accomplish anything.

There is a new site design in the works, and much more to come. I will keep you updated. Keep an eye out for changes!

I’m alive. Really.

Wow. It has been a long time since I wrote. Too long. Seems like a lot has been going on. I found a new job, left the two jobs I had when I started this blog, and been dealing with day-to-day life.

Like a lot of people, when I reach a place of relative happiness, fall into a comfort zone, I sometimes stop striving. Striving to improve myself, or reach goals that require me to overcome challenges, or to do something that removes me from that comfort zone.

I have to give myself a reality check at those points. Time to kick myself in the ass and remind myself that this isn’t enough. This thing isn’t over. That’s part of why I started this blog. The tasks I was spending my time on were not fulfilling. I wasn’t doing what made me happy.

My new job is much better than the last ones, in a lot of ways.  Many of the stresses I had before are gone. That has allowed me to relax, and I let go of some of the goals I had been actively working towards. My focus shifted. I was immersed in learning this new company and my role in it, learning this new world I had suddenly become a part of.

Now I am working on getting that focus back onto my goals. My writing and artwork were too neglected recently.

Today, I am more settled into this new job, and I won’t have to travel as much in the next few months. I can write and draw with a clearer mind.

So I am back. I’m not dead. This thing isn’t done for me.

Sometimes My Words Scare Me

Words are powerful things. They evoke emotions and awaken all five senses. Who doesn’t automatically taste or smell hot cheese and tomato sauce when they hear the word pizza?

I have kept a journal pretty consistently since I was fifteen years old. That is eleven years of words. Words that describe my thoughts and feelings, at any particular moment, that I felt were worth recording.

In my journal I have a sheet of paper from last year when the tornadoes hit Cullman. We didn’t have electricity in our house for days. This left me a lot of time to explore how I was feeling.

Some days my thoughts overflowed from my journal onto other scraps of paper. Even though it has been over a year since that time, I still can’t read that sheet of paper or the other entries. I’m not ready yet to remember how I felt then, to refresh those memories.

I’ve written about a lot of moments over the years. Many of them were good. A lot of them were not so good. It makes me uncomfortable reading over some of it. Recalling the emotions and thoughts I had can be difficult.

Sometimes your view of yourself is different from reality and that can be hard to face. I read back over some of the things in my journal from when I was in high school.

Those pages were written by an angry and unhappy girl. I don’t remember myself that way, but going by what I wrote, I was.

Not only that, I haven’t always done things I am proud of. It’s easier to forget about those things I suppose. I wrote about them though, so they are there in ink for me to look back on.

Writing in a journal can be a perilous thing for someone like me. I am a very private person and keep a lot of things to myself. I write about my personal experiences for myself. For the future me to look back and see how far she has come.

The idea that someone might come along and read it is another thing that makes me afraid of what I’ve written.

Just this morning I was deep in thought and wrote in my journal about it. I am uncertain how I will look back on what I wrote, but I still want to remember the thoughts I was having in this time.

I think that is why I keep writing. Even though the things I’ve dealt with scare me sometimes, or make me uncomfortable, I am still glad to have the record of my past.

I am glad to remember what certain people meant to me. To have details of important days in my life, written from the point of view of the person I was at that time.

It’s not all bad, either. A lot of times I’ll pick up a journal I’ve written and start reading to find myself smiling and laughing.

I also have a habit of sticking other things in the pages, like pictures. I picked up my journal the other day and a photo fell out that one of my friends had written a beautiful note to me on the back of.

It may be bittersweet at times, but what’s the point of living if you can’t remember what you’ve been through?

What I’m Reading

I’ve been reading this book by Pam Houston called “Contents May Have Shifted“. At first I found it off-putting, how every page is a new story with reoccurring characters.

Then I fell into the rhythm of it. The writing is beautiful. The descriptions actually leave you feeling like you’ve visited the places and seen what the author has seen.

The book also does a good job of reminding me of little moments I’d stored away in my memory from my own travels. Things that, at the time, drove me crazy and now are stories I fondly share with a laugh.

It makes me think back on the time in Madrid when I finally got a hotel room with air-conditioning only to come back to the room one night to find it had broken and was leaking nasty water onto the bed. How I had to move the bed across the room myself and use my last towel to soak up the puddle on the floor.

Discovering that Paris would never actually live up to my dreams. My first sight of the city being of a man peeing on the station wall as rain clouds rolled in overhead. Being harassed nonstop by men selling little Eiffel Tower trinkets and mocking us when we politely declined.

Finally getting into the one bathroom that I shared with 14 people, finding that there was no more running water and going 2 more days without a shower. Being unable to sleep as my roommates sung ABBA songs at the top of their lungs into the night.

Getting stranded at the Madrid airport for 9 hours after running to catch my flight to Athens. Getting rained on as I climbed the slippery steps to the Acropolis.

Having my unzipped luggage puked on by a drunken boy who passed on our hotel room floor.

Getting lost on the streets of Amsterdam in the darkness.

These are the things we don’t plan or want to happen when dreaming of exploring a new place. These are the things that we hate at the time they are occurring. These are the things that we remember with a smile later.

Sometimes I don’t recall the little details about my travels. It’s good to be reminded. It makes me ache to go on a new adventure. There are so many great and terrible moments that come and go when you travel.

Like falling in love with people so quickly it feels like a free-fall, then the tearful good-byes and promises to stay in touch. It truly is a an emotional rollercoaster.

I’m not done reading the book yet, but I am enjoying it and the way it leads me to look back on my own experiences.

I think it would be a good read even for someone who doesn’t like travel. We have all had experiences that would relate. The author also makes some profound statements on life in general that are worth thinking about.

I have spent my life trying to understand the way this rock and this ache go together, why a granite peak is more dramatic half dressed in clouds (like a woman), why sunlight under fog is better than the sum of its parts, why my best days and my worst days are always the same days, why (often) leaving seems like the only solution to the predicament of loving (each other) the world.

-Pam Houston “Contents May Have Shifted

National Novel Writing Month

In 2004, I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time. I loved it. I completed an almost 60,000 word story in less than a month that year.

I signed up the next two years and hope to do it again this year. I wish I could recreate the excitement and wonder I felt that first time. It was great.

I strongly suggest you challenge yourself to complete NaNoWriMo if you like to write. It allows you to write with abandon and create things you never expected or imagined.

The following is from a story I started in 2005 for the contest, but didn’t complete. I turned in a different story that year. It could use some editing, but I feel it has potential.

I had met him on my fifteenth birthday. He was my best friend’s brother. The ideal mate to the minds of all teenage girls alike. He smiled, one side of his mouth higher than the other, one of his front teeth slightly crooked. He brought me a gift, sloppily wrapped in Easter paper, little white and yellow bunnies holding painted eggs adorned it.

He shook my hand and said he was pleased to meet me. He had azure eyes, that was what grabbed me. They were the deepest, yet brightest blue I had seen. His name was Arken, the most unique name I had ever heard. I thought of dark rainforests, oak trees, sunlight filtering through leaves.

We quickly became inseparable and I found him to be the most original human being. He knew all the stars by heart and read Tolstoy. He was only five years older than me, but at the time it seemed like an era of difference.

Arken didn’t care what anyone thought of him, so it didn’t bother him when people made remarks about us being together. Three years later, we were preparing to leave, to just pack up one night and slip out without a trace. We wanted to become the wind, gliding through the world, unseen.

The ring on my finger was small, the setting coming loose and my skin underneath turning green. We were young, in love and restless. I slung my duffel bag over my shoulder, was turning back for one last look at my house in the early morning when I heard the phone ring.

Running, I reached it before my father could wake up. I whispered a greeting, but I wasn’t heard over the crashing waves outside our patio door. I had agreed to seeing a doctor the week before, my father having heard me throwing up my bologna lunch. I knew something was wrong, but I had other worries. All much more important than my own health.

If Arken had known I wasn’t feeling well, he would have put the trip off. The shrill voice of a nurse came through the earpiece. I dropped my duffel bag when she told me the results of my test and asked if I would be willing to come in the next day.

I didn’t hear the upstairs shower start two hours later. Still standing in the hall, my army green duffel, the handle held tightly in my right hand. So tight that my nails dug into my palm and I was bleeding, staining the putrid olive a rust brown. The phone hadn’t made it back onto it’s base and it beeped continously, injecting itself into my brain and making itself at home.

A knock at the glass paneled patio doors made me jump and as the pain in my hand seeped into my consciousness, so did the beeping. Hanging up the phone, I calmly went to the hall bathroom and rinsed my hands, kicking my bag full of lost promise and running away into a linen closet.

My breath fogged the pane as I leaned in and opened the door for Arken. He looked worried, a little scared, even. I took his strong hand, the long fingers with the stubby nails and lead him down to the beach. We walked in silence for a time, he watched my profile and I stared at the shore, making up names for the colors of shells before me.

My news changed his world. Arken was surprised, happy and he wanted to do everything for me. He tried and wished to be able to give me the world on a silver platter. We made different plans. A week after my eighteenth birthday, Arken and I were married on the beach behind my house, the home I had grown up in, the place I had wanted so much to leave behind.

But now that Arken and I were together in that house, it didn’t seem so bad. We were happy. My father gave us anything we asked for. I painted my old bedroom in blue and eggshell yellow, an optimistic color scheme of a terrified teen. I set it up as a dream nursery. Not that I wasn’t happy with Arken, with my baby, but I was scared. A fear that held on and was the undercurrent of my life.

- Candace

I’m not from here…

A part of why I became someone who loves travel is that I was unhappy. My family and I moved to Cullman, AL when I was fourteen.

It was very different. I had lived my whole life in Canton, GA. I didn’t know anyone. I always felt like an outsider. It never felt like home.

When I left and someone asked me where I was from, I took my time telling my life history to avoid saying “Alabama”. I always made the distinction that I wasn’t “from” there, I just “lived” there.

It was bittersweet to have to return to Cullman after I had spent almost 3 months living in Peru. I had gotten used to the pace of Huaycan, the sights and sounds of it. In ways that Cullman never had, it had become my home.

I’d had a purpose in Peru, a job to do each day, people who enjoyed seeing me and whom I loved spending time with. I knew my neighbors and was always occupied with some kind of project. I can’t say that it was easy being there, but it was always interesting.

Being back was disorienting. I was thrown off by how quiet things were. Where was the sound of my upstairs neighbor stomping around and their cat running over my head at night? How come I couldn’t hear the tamale guy or the knife sharpener yelling down the alley to drum up business? Where were my all loud, lovable housemates?

I found the lack of noise eerie and couldn’t sleep at night. I searched for things to do with my day.

I had been walking a lot in Huaycan, so I decided I needed to put in the effort to at least go for a walk each day.

I had to go to one of our parks if I didn’t want to be killed by a car. I tried Heritage Park, but it had no personality, which only served to remind me I was no longer in a bustling little Peruvian shantytown. Eventually, I went to Sportsman Lake Park.

I could hear ducks quacking before I opened the car door. Sunlight filtered through leaves onto my skin.

As I walked around the lake, I slowly lost some of the sadness that had been hanging over me. It was still and quiet, but the wildlife, other people, and general sounds of nature helped drown out the silence.

My worries started to fade and the rhythm of my steps on the path became enjoyable.

For a while, I was able to forget my troubles and be in the moment. The feel of sun on my face and arms was soothing.

I still noticed how unlike Peru it was, but in a way that made me appreciate the differences. It was the first time in awhile that I had felt content.

Somehow in leaving Cullman, I was able to come back and find a little slice of that feeling of home that I had been missing. Now I find that I don’t hesitate as much to just say “Alabama” when someone asks where I’m from.


It always seems so difficult in the moment to make a big decision. How do you know what is right and what the consequences may be?

Lately I’ve been trying hard to please others, to the detriment of myself. Something has to give. I have to make a choice. I have to do what is right for me.

I know these things, and yet… Who will I disappoint? How will these actions make me look to others? I know what I want, but what everyone around me says indicates that what I want isn’t what I should want.

It’s all enough to make me want to scream and lash out. Essentially I want to revert back to toddler behavior, throw a tantrum and let my mommy and daddy clean up the pieces.

Unfortunately, I’m at an age where I know I can’t do this and I must be an adult about life. I know it’s not fair. I don’t expect all butterflies and daisies.

What I do expect is that I get to live a life where I enjoy myself sometimes. Where I have the time to express myself in my art and writing. A life where I am true to myself.

Sometimes I get lost and find myself in situations that I can’t find an easy way out of, where I’m not getting to be me anymore. I know I’m lost. I know I need to get back on the right path. It’s just hard to know which choice is the right one to get there.

Today I chose. I don’t know if it is right. I do know it will upset some people. I’m trying to get past putting everyone else before myself. People pleasing is guaranteed to make you unhappy. I know this from experience.

I am proud of myself for making a decision and for handling it like an adult. I am looking forward to the opportunities that will open up and hoping that I didn’t burn any bridges that I may need to cross someday.

I know everyone faces tough choices every day, and like me, a lot of people find it easy to avoid the choice. Not making a decision is making a decision, though. You are choosing to put it off and making it into a stressor.

Just choose a path and follow it for awhile. If you decide it’s not the right one, take a new one.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

-Robert Frost


Volunteering Abroad

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…”

-Mark Twain

I’m certain that I had read these words before I saw them painted on the wall. It was as if I was seeing them for the first time, though. Something clicked in that moment, and I felt as I had all week- something inside me was changing.

The first time I left the United States, I went to Cartago, Costa Rica. It was a somewhat spontaneous decision. I was sitting in my apartment one night, searching the internet for local volunteer opportunities, something to do on the weekends. I stumbled upon Cross-Cultural Solutions.

After an hour or so of reading their website, I had made a deposit on a trip and bought a plane ticket. If you knew me back then, you know how out of character this was for me. I overthink things. A lot. I also ask the advice of almost everyone I know. I didn’t do that this time. It seemed right.

I printed out information on Cartago and presented it to my loved ones, announcing my  plans to volunteer there. My best friend at the time thought that I was out of my mind and would be killed. I carried on anyway.

The week before I left I received my assignment. I was going to be working at a special education school. I was thrilled.

My time in Costa Rica was amazing. It changed who I am. I met the most wonderful people. My life has taken a different path since then, and I am very thankful for it.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. I absolutely loved every second of it. I mean that. Even the hours spent painting dirty classrooms and moving furniture across the school campus. The children and parents made all of it worth it.

The kids put on skits for us while we were there. I remember walking into the auditorium the first day and the students came running over, hugging and kissing us. One little boy shook my hand, kissed my cheek and with a huge smile on his face, told me how happy he was to have me there.

The volunteer house is still one of my favorite places. It has an open corridor, so the winds blow through it. The walls are all painted with messages and murals from the previous volunteers.

In my free time I wandered around the house, devouring the walls. When I discovered the Mark Twain quote in the corner by the bathroom, I stopped in my tracks. It is such a simple message, but so true.

I fully believe everyone should take the time to travel and explore new places. Everyone should leave their comfort zone and see things that they’ve never seen before. It really does make a huge impact on who you are, if you will let it.

Since then, I’ve traveled as much as I can. I quit my job when I had enough money saved up, and I took off. I saw some new parts of the world. I had a great time. I will do it again when I am financially able to.

I would recommend volunteering abroad before any other kind of travel. My latest trip was to Peru, where I volunteered in Huaycan for 2 and a half months. Living and working in a place gives you such a different experience. It is so much more fulfilling.

My time in Peru was spent with the organization The Light and Leadership Initiative, which is run by Lara. She is fantastic. I found her through Ubelong. Cedric is great and informative. Check them out if you are interested in volunteering abroad.

My last day in Cartago was my big moment. I had been waiting all week for it- I got to leave my mark on the wall in the house. Some of my roommates were much more creative than me. Jerry left a thumbprint behind a sign above his bedroom door. Tarsha misspelled her message and had to redo it.

If you ever find yourself in the CCS house in Cartago and are walking through the back hallway, take a look at the wall and see if my painting is still there.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

It may seem like something that a lot of people say when they reach a certain point: “I’ve always wanted to be a writer“. There’s lots of variations on this sentence, and some days I feel like I’ve heard everyone say it in some form.

For me, that statement is the unwavering truth. I have always wanted, more than anything else, to be a writer. To this day, I am horrible at doing multiplication. I can pinpoint exactly why that is. I have vivid memories of working hard on a book I was writing and illustrating, instead of paying attention when my teacher happened to be teaching that subject in elementary school.

The book was about baseball and some schoolchildren who played on a team together. I wish I could find this “book” now, but it’s lost to my childhood, much as whatever math skills I may have developed are lost.

I recall a day in 4th grade when my best friend and I loaded our backpacks with Sweet Valley High books, carrying them to class with us. I opened up my bag and my teacher looked at us and said, “This isn’t a library! Put those away and leave them at home from now on.” Even then, I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with being reprimanded for bringing books to school.

I love books. The feel of them, the weight when I lift one, the smell of them. If I could someday have a book full of my words, arranged into sentences by me, my world would be complete. When I started college, I immediately declared my major as English. I was going to do it. I was.

Then, somewhere I got lost. I stopped trying. I changed my major. I found other things that I was going to dedicate myself to. Things that I could make a living from. Things more acceptable to society, whatever that may mean.

I moved recently and I went through a lot of boxes that were left untended. I was amazed by the amount of stories I found that I had written over the years. For years, I had been writing and storing my words away, forgetting them.

Reading over some of it, I was impressed. Admittedly, I was also embarrassed by a lot of it, because some of it was truly awful. There was something there, though. I hadn’t remembered writing some of it, and it was good. It was something I would have picked up, spent good money on, and read. I had written something enjoyable and entertaining! Imagine!

This got me thinking. Maybe all my searching over the years for my “thing” was just a long journey back to where I began. Maybe I was always meant to write. I’ve always been drawn to it, that is certain.

So I’m giving it a try. I’m taking courses to help me improve, and I’m trying to get my work out there. This blog is a part of that journey. I’ll be sharing stories with you, asking questions, and hopefully reading your stories, too.

I’m wondering at what point I will be satisfied that I am a writer. If I write each and every day, does that make me a writer, or do I need people to read my work to feel like a writer? These are things I want to find out.

This evening, I came across a story I started in 2008 and never finished. Here’s a part of it:

The twins were born on a beautiful afternoon in the fall. The nurse left the curtains open in the hospital room, the sun shining brightly on the legs of their mother. Their father would later remember the deep auburn color of the leaves on the tree outside the window. He would describe the color of those leaves in more detail than anything else he had experienced that day when he told the story of their birth.

The girl was born first, a dark head of perfect hair, deep blue eyes, tiny little fingernails and porcelain skin. Her father looked on in amazement. She was the love of his life. Then came the boy. He was born half an hour later, with splotchy skin, black eyes, no hair or fingernails. He was a normal baby, but after the perfection that was his older sister, his father barely glanced at him.

Their father cuddled the girl, humming softly. Their mother loved them both, respectively, but the boy held her heart. This possibly was caused by her husband never giving her a chance to hold her daughter outside of feeding time, but the cause is not the issue here.

The lines were drawn from day one. Girl belonged to father and boy belonged to mother. Mother and father didn’t even consider that, above this, more than anything, the twins belonged to each other.

- Candace

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