Personal Response: “I Am.”

For anyone who knows me personally, you probably know that I love music; especially songs that empower individuals to do their best and accept themselves as they are. The song, “I Am.”, from pop/R&B singer JoJo’s 2016 album Mad Love., is one that really stands out to me—not just as a piece of musical notation, but as an example of remarkable writing in general. It’s one of those songs that will make the listener feel confident every time they hear it or read the lyrics.

Written by Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Alex Dezen, Eric Rosse, and Jaden Michaels, the track stems from a difficult time in the singer’s life—one that led to depression, insecurity, and doubt—and, ultimately, a lawsuit against her former record label, the now-defunct Blackground Records. It is a piano-led ballad that is filled with tinges of heartbreak and empowerment. I could easily comment on how much I love the instrumentation, or how incredible I think JoJo’s powerhouse vocals are; however, it’s the lyrical content that stands out to me, especially in a generation where people don’t really know who they are.

Before I go on, let me elaborate on that last sentence. When I say “a generation where people don’t really know who they are,” this is what I mean: We live in a society where technology and social media is everywhere, and information (regarding virtually anything) is right at our fingertips. This can be beneficial in ways—online marketing, for instance—however; it can also cause a significant amount of damage. As a collective, we frequently see all these magazine covers that look flawless, and Instagram posts that demonstrate the so-called “perfect life.” Although I’ve noticed this trend in all forms of media, it appears to be especially prominent in magazines that are targeted towards girls and women (such as Seventeen Magazine). And it’s starting to become a problem.

With the influx of media outlets such as the ones mentioned above—which are often edited to an extreme (with filters, Photoshop, or other means of digital editing)—individuals—namely young girls—may start to feel envious or worthless because they don’t have the lifestyles promoted through these outlets, and some may even resort to drastic measures just to change their appearance and achieve that unrealistic goal of perfection. This state-of-mind is reflected in the opening lyrics, where the narrator channels her feelings of self-doubt, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / you seem to think you know it all / Why do, why do I believe?” and questioning if she is “strong enough.

Partially due to mainstream and social media, issues like eating disorders have become a rising trend over the years—though there also seems to be a more positive trend. Music artists such as JoJo are creating these inspirational and motivational pieces of writing that will surely inspire listeners to not listen to the pressures of the world; to be confident in who they are; to be resilient and rise up against any challenges they may face in their lives. Throughout the remainder of the song, she tackles her insecurities head-on (with the lyrics, “Can’t be that little girl no more / the one you cut up on the floor.”), and in the end, it’s the repetitive affirmation “I am beautiful” that really inspires listeners.

If I were to expand on that quote, I would say the following as advice to my readers: You are smart; you are talented; you have the ability to make a difference, even if it’s just a small impact on someone’s life; you are loved by so many people; and you are perfect the way you are. Never let anyone tell you any different.

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Waiting For A Change

These days, it seems like the world can be a confusing place. Whenever I see news reports about terrible things happening (whether it’s here in Canada or elsewhere in the world), I wonder why does this stuff happen?

Take, for instance, the recent events in Florida. When I heard on the news that there was a mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando a couple weeks ago, my heart broke. Because what I don’t understand, is how– or why– innocent people are targeted. Just because of who they love… it doesn’t mean they’re any different from us.

In John 13:34, Jesus says that we must love one another, as He has loved us. And, for me, that means “loving EVERYONE, regardless of anything that might make them ‘stand out from the crowd’.” As a Christian, I firmly believe that we should show genuine love to everyone. And, while writing this post, I was reminded of a quote I heard on the popular Canadian entertainment-news show, eTalk.

“No matter who you are, or where you’re from, or where you’re going in life, you have the right to love and be loved.”

~Nick Jonas

Now, I understand that this may be a controversial topic for some. But after hearing more reports about innocent people’s lives being taken simply because of who they love, or the colour of their skin, or anything that may set them apart– I’m asking myself one simple word; why? And I really felt the need to express my emotions about all of it.

There have been several tragedies in Orlando– and across the U.S.– prior to and following this incident… and for the past month (and continuing), the entire state of Florida has been in my prayers. The entire country of the U.S…

Actually, the entire WORLD is in my prayers at this point.

I think Christina Aguilera’s newest song, “Change,” pretty much summarizes everything I want to say in this post. Because, when it all comes down to it, “we are all the same when everybody’s breathing.

17.

It’s my birthday today. 17.

I still remember last year: when a couple of the boys in my grade 10 class, who I didn’t really know that well at the time, made a birthday cake for me and brought it to school. Then they brought the cake out and the whole class sang “Happy Birthday” to me during study hall. It was such an awesome surprise… I’ll never forget it!

But besides it being my birthday, today also marks another important milestone for me.

Can you believe that it’s been just over a year since the beginning of Rustic Christian Signs? Last year when I started making and selling inspirational signs, I thought it would just be a small side project that I could work on during breaks from school. I didn’t think that so many would be interested in my work– and I sure as heck didn’t think it would grow to be as big as it is now. I smile every time I get an order because it means one more person is being encouraged by the scripture verses or inspirational quotes on the sign(s) they’ve ordered. Even when I post prayer requests, such as the request I posted a few weeks ago for my mom’s vertigo, everyone is quick to respond with kind words (my mom is feeling a lot better now, by the way. Thanks for all your prayers!).

I’m just a teenage girl trying to balance school with work, and there are times when I have to put it all on pause for a few days while I’m trying to get my stuff together (such as when I have to write final exams twice in a 10-month time frame). Sometimes, I need that encouragement that I’ve been giving the past year. And it amazes me so much that I have so much support from people I barely even know–

I guess what I wanted to say in the first place is, thank you all so much for all your support over the past year! I have a feeling this year is gonna be even more amazing… although I say that every time. 🙂

raw and fresh signature

Reminiscing on a few memories

I’m writing a music review on Rustic Christian Signs, of a CCM album that I may have unknowingly listened to when I was little. The 2000 release, “Genuine“, by Stacie Orrico. And while I’m working on this post, there is seriously so much nostalgia going through my head right now, I thought I’d share it here.

I’m not really a huge fan of a lot of the newer Christian music that’s out there. It seems very commercial and not at all genuine. Although there are a few current artists I like (mostly independent artists), I still find myself returning to the music from the late 90’s- early 2000’s.

Oh my goodness, the memories. I remember starting school, making friends, spending time with the family… and then there are the media-related memories. Memories of when I listened to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” for the first time, and loved it! (Fun fact: I actually had a copy of the “Breakaway” CD when I was little; then my parents must have sold it at a garage sale or something. Then last summer, I bought the CD again! 🙂 )

Memories of when I was allowed to watch the Disney Channel at a young age. Even though I was just starting school– and barely understood the implicit messages of the shows– I still remember watching TV shows such as Lizzie McGuire, That’s So Raven… and practically every single Disney Channel Original Movie and music video from that time.

And the random PSA’s from the Concerned Children’s Advertisers that still seem to be ingrained into my memory almost 12 years later. Very random. 😛

What I Got for Christmas 2015

Did you have an awesome Christmas? I know I did! My Christmas was filled with family, friends, and fun– and, of course, the occasional Starbucks 🙂 I received a lot of awesome gifts this year, and I wanted to share what I got for Christmas.

Makeup

Urban Decay: 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (in Matte Black)

MAC: Extended Play Gigablack Lash Mascara

EOS: 2015 Holiday Decorative Collection (Sweet Mint, Pomegranate Raspberry, and Vanilla Bean)

  Extended Play Gigablack Lash' Mascara | Nordstrom 

 

Music

Confident – Demi Lovato

Made in the A.M (Deluxe Edition) – One Direction

Purpose – Justin Bieber

Stacie Orrico – Stacie Orrico

Sony MDR-ZX300 Red Headphones

One Direction - Made In The A.m. (Deluxe Edition) - Full Album (2015 ... Justin Bieber - Purpose

 

Accessories

Set of 3 LED candles (Faith, Hope, and Love)

Green M&M Flashlight Keychain

Via Roma asymmetric cross-body leather purse

Love Hope Faith LED Electronic Flameless Candle Light For Wedding ... Green Light-Up KEYCHAIN Flashlight keyring - 1

 

Misc.

iTunes gift card

Ardene’s gift card

 

So that’s most of what I got for Christmas. I had an awesome holiday season, and I hope you did too. But remember, the most important thing about the holiday season isn’t the gifts; it’s being together with family and friends, and celebrating the important things in life.

Happy New Year, everyone!

New Year, New Opportunities

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas filled with love, family, and laughter… I know I did! God has done some amazing things in my life this holiday season (and this year in general), and I can’t wait to see what the new year has in store!

With that in mind, there’s one thing I want to say:

2015. What. A. Year!  It has been a crazy amazing year, to say the least. There have been highs and lows; victories and disappointments; but through it all, God has provided so much and He has remained so faithful.

This year, I started Rustic Christian Signs, and it has proven to be a major success! I also did my first trade show in November; it was so fun meeting people (and realizing how many individuals were actually interested in my signs :) ), and the hard work really paid off in the end. I’m really shy, and I usually have a hard time talking to people, but the trade show increased my confidence.

In 2015, I experienced some setbacks as well, and there were times when I recall asking the Lord, “Why? Is this all apart of Your plan for my life?” … but everything started turning around for the best and kept going forward from there. :) Now that I think about it, everything that happened this year– both good and bad– was all because of His timing. :)

For the year ahead, I have some exciting things planned. I’m doing something that will be an amazing business opportunity– I don’t really want to say anything more until all the details are finalized, but this is going to be incredible for both Christian Signs and the people I’m working with 😉 Like previously mentioned, it’s all apart of God’s incredible plan, and I can’t wait to share more info in the coming months.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! God Bless!

Anna-Marie

How to Make… Starbucks Peppermint Mocha

Am I the only one who’s excited for Christmas already?! There’s already frost on the ground, and the temps are getting cooler… there’s even supposed to be snow next week! I can’t wait to start celebrating Christmas; the decorations… the music…

…And, of course, this beauty right here:

starbucks peppermint mocha

That’s right, I’m talking about the Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks; one of my favorite holiday drinks. If you’ve never had a Peppermint Mocha, this (highly pixelated) picture doesn’t do it justice. It. Is. AMAZING.

And I actually found a recipe for it while I was looking through my mom’s blog from a few years ago. So I thought I’d share that recipe with you!

To make this drink filled with total awesomeness, you will need…

• 3 tablespoons Starbucks Mocha Powder (you could use regular mocha powder instead)

• 1 1/2 tablespoons Starbucks Peppermint Syrup (once again; if you can’t find Starbucks peppermint syrup, I’m pretty sure regular peppermint syrup will work 🙂 )

•  1/4 cup of double strength dark roast coffee

• 12 ounces steamed or heated milk

• Freshly Whipped Cream

• Red peppermint sprinkles (OPTIONAL!)

PROCEDURE:

1. Combine equal parts Starbucks mocha powder and warm water to create a wonderfully rich chocolate syrup. (What in the world? I never knew mocha powder turns into chocolate syrup when you combine it with water!)

2. Pour the mocha syrup into a 12 oz mug.

3. Add a shot of  espresso and peppermint syrup.

4. Fill the remainder of the cup with steamed milk.

5. Top it all off with freshly whipped cream and red sprinkles (optional).  

ENJOY!

Fall Photoshoot

I’ve been so busy with school that I haven’t gotten around to posting anything on my blogs lately! It’s funny how blogging and social media works; you don’t post anything for about two weeks, and people automatically think you’ve fallen off the face of the earth (LOL!) There’s more to life than blogging, isn’t there?! (Especially as a high school student. The past few weeks, I have literally been spending all my time on schoolwork!)

I’m really happy that I finally have an opportunity to write a few posts, because it means that I can share my Fall 2015 photos with you guys!

Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time trying to upload the pictures directly to this post, but here’s a link to the photo album on Facebook. If I manage to get the photos uploaded here, I will remove the link. Photoshoot Fall 2015

A few of my favorite things

I can’t believe we’re halfway through the month of August already! Fall is almost here… and then, before we know it, winter and CHRISTMAS will arrive!! I’m so excited about the next few months!

So I thought I’d write this post to share some of the things I’m loving this fall (even though it’s only August 18th. In my mind, Fall has started already)

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Powder

Makeup: One of my favorite pressed powders for the fall is MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Powder (in the lightest shade, NC15). This powder is amazing, and I always find myself returning to it every fall.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (in the shade Perversion)

For the past few months, I have been alternating between two eyeliners: MAC Eye Kohl (in the shade Costa Riche) and Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil (in the shade Perversion). Both of these eyeliners are really good quality, but I like wearing the MAC eyeliner if I want a more natural makeup look.

MAC Extended Play Lash mascara

The MAC Extended Play Lash mascara is my favorite mascara for the fall and winter seasons.

EOS Sweet Mint lip balm

My favorite lip balm is probably EOS. They have so many awesome flavors/scents, and they come in the cutest packaging! The Sweet Mint flavor (light blue packaging) is my go-to lip balm for this season.

Maybelline BabyLips Dr. Rescue lip balm (in Just Peachy)

If I want to add some color to my lips, my Top 3 favorite products are: Maybelline BabyLips Dr. Rescue Lip Balm (in Just Peachy), CoverGirl LipPerfection Jumbo Gloss Balm (in the shade Scarlet Twist), and L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Last Lipcolor (in the shade Red Infallible).

Nail Polish:

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in the shade “Game of Chromes”

Sally Hansen Miracle Gel is amazing.I saw an advertisement for this polish in a magazine, and I wanted to buy it. It’s been about 4 days, and my nails haven’t chipped once– while with normal nail polish, it would already be chipped. My favorite shades are Game of Chromes (gold), Tidal Wave (deep blue), and Style Maker (dark green).

TV Shows:

One show I’ve always loved, is The Voice. The singers are all extremely talented, the judges actually seem excited to work with the contestants, and the competition is fun. And while all the other music competition shows have been canceled (or, in the case of American Idol, are ending soon), The Voice still remains.

Finding Carter, the only MTV show I really like, is still going strong. Season 3 is expected to premiere in October, and I seriously can’t wait!

I had never watched Kingdom before, but I saw the extended trailer for the show when it premiered last year. It looked kinda violent, so I wasn’t really interested. A few months later, I decided to write a review for the series– and with that, I saw a preview of the first episode when it was released on iTunes. Wow. Even though there’s lots of swearing and mature content, the series is extremely well-written, effectively acted, and even inspirational in a way. Season 2 is premiering on October 14th, and is returning for another season next fall.

Movies:

Do You Believe?
This movie is one of the best. I knew it would be amazing, because it’s from the creators of God’s Not Dead– another outstanding movie! I bought it on DVD the day it was released, and it totally lived up to my expectations! If you’re looking for an incredible Christian movie, I encourage you to watch Do You Believe and see what millions of people are talking about.  🙂

 Books:

I received Demi Lovato’s book, Staying Strong: 365 Days A Year, for Christmas in 2013, and have finally started reading it. It’s sort of like a devotional in a way, but it resonates with people of all beliefs.

The story behind Fighter is so inspirational. Canadian hip-hop artist Chris Greenwood (aka Manafest) wrote this book about his childhood and life before he became famous. I had the chance to meet Manafest at a Christian youth conference earlier this year, and I absolutely love his story about how he overcame all the challenges he went through. When I was finished my final exams and had nothing to do during the last few days of class last year, I brought the book to school and read it so many times. It’s seriously so good and I would recommend it for everyone!

Music:

“Here” by Alessia Cara
“Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” by Macklemore featuring Ed Sheeran

I recently heard two new songs that I love; Here by Alessia Cara and Growing Up (Sloane’s Song) by Macklemore featuring Ed Sheeran. Both of these songs have incredible lyrics that were written from the heart about true experiences.

Unbreakable Smile by Tori Kelly

Speaking of artists who write songs about true experiences, Tori Kelly is another favorite artist I discovered recently. I saw her performance at the Billboard Music Awards in May… and immediately bought her album when it was released. While I love all the songs on Unbreakable Smile, one of my favorites is Dear No One. It describes my thoughts about relationships perfectly, in a way that no song has ever done before! I also like the live, acoustic version of Funny, that’s included on her debut album. Dang, that girl is talented!

“Low” by Kelly Clarkson

I’ve also been listening to a lot of music by Kelly Clarkson, because I’m seeing her in concert on October 14th. As much as I love her new Piece By Piece album, I really like her older music (i.e. her first two albums)… one song that stands out to me is Low, the second single from her debut album.

Other random songs I like at the moment are Levels” by Nick Jonas and Anywhere But Here by Christina Aguilera.

Apps:

Instagram

Pinterest (especially since I’m looking for Fall hair/makeup/fashion ideas!)

Food:

OMG Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Caramel Frappucino from Starbucks

Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks

Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. Especially now that it’s being made with real pumpkin. That makes the PSL somewhat healthier, right?

OMG Pumpkin Pie cupcakes. These cupcakes are INCREDIBLE. They taste exactly like pumpkin pie.

Clothing/Accessories:

Tokyo Darling by Aeropostale, red skinny jeans
Black high-heeled booties

Now that it’s fall, it’s all about sweaters, cardigans and booties! One of my favorite fall outfits is a nice cami with a long cardigan (or oversized sweater), some skinny jeans (or jeggings) and booties! I also like wearing graphic tees. To accessorize my outfit, I often wear a cute infinity scarf or a beanie.

Misc.:

My favorite fall scent is Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin from Bath & Body Works, which they just released again for the year! They announced it on Twitter this morning!

FINDING NEVERLAND (aka the best Broadway Musical ever!). It’s so inspiring.