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Be Unapologetically You!

Be Unapologetically You!

Be yourself, be you, unapologetically you and rock that white mini dress or shorts the way only you can, and don't forget your Grayton Automatic Watch! *photos are unedited*

For almost five years I have been blogging in this little space of mine, but very few have seen me, and there's been a reason for that. Before I rebranded to AnnMarie John, we were known as Growing Up Madison. This was all about Madison, but to be honest, there were instances I could have gotten IN-FRONT of the camera with Madison and shown the world who I was. I was a mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin, friend, an American soldier and so much more. I told the world, this is about Madison and so there was no need to show myself. However, that was very far from the truth. I hated being in-front of the camera because I didn't think that I was beautiful enough, that I was skinny enough, that my body was "good enough" to be shown to the world. My image of beauty was that size 2 person I was years ago. That skinny young girl who could flaunt it in her shorts, show off her legs and have men say "OMG look at those legs". While I didn't have the typical "black girl butt"which I blame on my European ancestry, I sure did have the legs!

While in the military, I was tough, I could shoot 36 out of my 40 bullets and not miss my mark with an M16 or M9. I was toned, I ran 5 miles and more 3 days a week and I did the mandatory pushups and sit-ups required to be physically fit. Fast forward to 2 years ago and also to the time when I retired. I thought "oh fun times". For me that meant no more getting up and getting ready for PT, no more 5 mile runs or rucks, no more having to hit the gym to stay in shape. I could eat whatever I want, drink whatever I want and there would be no consequences. Sure there weren't any military consequences, but what happened was that I gained 30lbs in less than a year. My now size 7 waist 28 denims could no longer fit. I'm now a size 10, waist 31, woman and I was not happy. Sure there are things that I could do to get back in shape. I could go back to the gym, which I hate, I could start eating a lot healthier and I could generally take better care of myself. These are all, however, choices I have to make for myself, not someone else making them for me, and definitely not by you telling me that I'm fat and ugly.

However, in the meantime, I have to love my body. After all it is my body! This body is 40 years old and have given birth to 4 children. This body has seen good times and bad times. This body may be filled with cellulite, my boobs may now hang and my tummy may be a little "pouchy" but it's my body and I have to live and be comfortable with it. I remember Madison asking one day after I had taken my bra off,  "mommy why doesn't your boobs stay up?" and I laughed and said "it's because mommy breastfed all of you". It was then I started thinking about having a breast lift. Sure I can still wear some tops and get away with it, but my boobs sure aren't what they were sans kids. However, these boobs have nourished four children for various lengths of times and they're mine.

I haven't worn a two piece swimsuit in years because I have been so self-conscious about my body. I have been so worried about what other people think about the way that I look that I have literally stopped being myself. I have stopped living. My stomach may not be as flat as it was 5 years ago, but this stomach has also held and given birth to 4 beautiful children. It has the stretch marks and the caesarean scar to prove it, and once again this stomach is mine, all mine!

I complained that my eyes were too small. Why were my eyes so small, why can't you see my eyes when I smiled? My nose was too big, I hated my smile and my face was too fat, and the list went on and on.

We tend to put so much emphasis on what we consider beauty, but we're all beautiful. When someone tells me that I look great, instead of saying "thank you so much", I would say "thank you but..". Why can't we accept that we're beautiful just the way we are? I became obsessed with the way that I looked and ultimately became a photoshop junkie. I erased laugh lines, I erased my cellulite, I erased blemishes, and I realized that I was erasing what made me, ME.

I was living a lie, and what was I teaching my own daughters? That we're not beautiful unless we're perfect? And who defines what perfect beauty is? Does beauty mean that I should have flawless skin, perfect straight and white teeth, a size 2 body? Does that mean that if my own children didn't have that, then they're not perfect? How about focusing on what's on the inside, because as my mom used to say "having a beautiful face, but an ugly personality, makes you ugly all over".

Start focusing on your inward beauty and forget about how the world views you. Beauty is definitely in the eyes of the beholder and we all have our ideal of what beauty is. It doesn't matter if you're a size 2 or a size 20. It doesn't matter if you have a few extra love handles or we can see your ribs. Be comfortable in your skin. Don't let the world define who you are!

I want to thank Grayton Automatic Watch for sponsoring this post, and to be honest their watches are absolutely beautiful! With no batteries to purchase ever, their watches appeal to both men and women and are a work of art. Check them out!

So with that I say...

Be you, be unapologetically you!

Get a similar look!
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Annmarie John
Share a Mothers Day Jar with Someone You Love - #MoreThanAMom

Share a Mothers Day Jar with Someone You Love - #MoreThanAMom

This shop, A Mother's Day Jar, has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MoreThanAMom #CollectiveBias

Meet Joyce, my next door neighbor, and Madison's "adopted" grandmother. The story of how Joyce and Madison became close is one I have shared before, but will gladly share again. As a military family, we're almost always away from our family and friends. I personally cannot tell you how many mother's day I've missed with my very own mother, and also with my family. I was based at Fort Carson, in Colorado when Madison was born, and my family, except for my husband and kids, were all in another state. Just like most military family, being in a state with no-one close by can be slightly depressing. Most of us have learned to live with it over the years, and we tend to adopt those that are close to us. Other military families become our families, and we learn to cherish the friendships that we make. Over the years, we have learnt that family doesn't always mean blood relatives. When we purchased our home, we happened to live next door to an old lady who had just lost her husband. Madison, being the friendly child that she is, decided to go next door to introduce herself to Joyce who was in her yard at the time, and a friendship began on that day. Since then, Madison would go next door every morning to make sure that Joyce was up, sometimes wanting to go as early as 8am, and Joyce, being the kind lady that she is, would welcome her with open arms. Their love bypassed age and race and knows no boundaries, and Madison has adopted her as her "grandmother" and Madison is her adopted "grandchild".  So with Mother's Day approaching, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew exactly where to go!

My local Post Exchange (PX as it's known in the Army) has everything that I need and I tend to shop there quite often. It also helps that it's also tax free. Madison and I decided that we wanted to get Joyce a card for Mother's Day, after all she's like a mother to Madison, and I also wanted to make her something very special, as a way to show my appreciation for being such a sweetheart to Madison.

When we went into the card department, we were amazed at how many cards, there were for Mother's Day, but American Greetings had an amazing sale of buy 3 cards, save $2 (4/17 – 5/14). With the card selection there was, it was even more difficult choosing which 3 cards we wanted, but Madison found the perfect one. American Greetings also had gift bags, tissue paper and even bows. Everything I wanted was right there. All I needed to do was find some items to make my special gift. Madison's card reads:
Beauty is...
a generous heart,
a kind spirit,
gentle wisdom,
true understanding,
love that makes all the difference.
Beauty is everything you are.
Happy Mother's Day.

We were so excited. We got our cards, our supplies (gift bag, ribbon and tissue paper) all from American Greetings and other supplies to make our Mother's Day Jar. We couldn't wait to get home to put it all together. Joyce was going to have a great Mother's Day this year. After all, she was "family" and what better way to celebrate family? I decided that I was going to make a Mother's Day Jar that she would enjoy. Something to pamper and make her feel just like my own mother would on Mother's Day, HAPPY!

A Mother's Day Jar

Mothers's Day Jar Supplies:

Mason Jar
Travel Size Body Lotion
Travel Size Shower Gel
Travel Size Body Lotion
Nail Polishes
Shower Sponge
Tissue Paper
Gift Bag


Step 1:- Add your travel sized items and nail polishes on the inside along the glass of your mason jar.

Step 2:- Add your shower sponge in the middle to fill it out and keep your other supplies intact.

Step 3:- Get a piece of your tissue paper to add a bit of pizzazz on the inside at the top.

Step 4:- Place the cover of your mason jar back on and use the ribbon to give it a little bit of sparkle. Tie it in a knot and let it hang.

Step 6:- Place in your gift bag and add the rest of your tissue paper and don't forget your Mother's Day card.

I know that Joyce is going to have an amazing Mother's Day this year. Madison and I are going to make sure that she does, thanks to American Greetings!

For more inspiring Mother's day gift ideas, and to take a look at other American Greetings card options, check out this site!

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Annmarie John
5 Ways to Entertain Your Cat While You’re Away - #HealthyMeetsHappy

5 Ways to Entertain Your Cat While You’re Away - #HealthyMeetsHappy

This post is sponsored by Wellness® and the BlogPaws® Pet Influencer Network™. I am being compensated to help share the availability of Wellness Complete Health and NEW Complete Health Grain Free Cat Food available at PetSmart, but we only share information we feel is relevant to our readers. Neither Wellness or PetSmart is not responsible for the content of this article.

When leaving your cat home so that you can go on vacation or head out to work for the day you may start to have feelings of guilt associated with this time away. The thing about cats is given their independent nature, they really are just fine while you’re away and can be easily entertained during a day alone or even a week alone so as long as they have ample food and water to get proper nutrients. I always make sure that my cats are fed high quality food with ingredients that I feel happy with and know that they'll love. Currently I'm feeding both Stripes and Kitty Wellness® Complete Health™ Grain Free Indoor: Salmon and Herring.

I have been feeding them the Wellness® brand for quite some time, but recently was at PetSmart and saw the NEW Complete Health Grain Free option and just knew that the Salmon and Herring would be loved by both. All of Wellness® recipes are free from corn, carrageenan, soy and wheat as well as artificial colors and flavors. They are also formulated with ingredients that were carefully chosen and formulated with vitamins and minerals for my feline friends optimal health.

My cat Kitty has always been an only cat so she's not quite keen on sharing her food. She's also a very picky eater and I have to not only make the decision to feed her food that is good and healthy for her, but one that she will like, and she just LOVES the Wellness® Complete Health Grain Free line. Currently there are three options: Adult (deboned chicken and chicken meal), Indoor (Salmon and Herring Meal) and Kitten (deboned chicken and chicken meal).

She's not the only one who loves it. My daughter's cat Stripes, loves it as well and so do I. So why do I love Wellness®? It's not just the fact that my cats love it, but because I know that the team at Wellness® also cares about our pets health. They are a diverse team of animal lovers, vets and nutritionists and they have the best interest of my furry friends at heart. They know that fillers and artificial ingredients are no good, so they're not included and they focus on simple, pure and authentic ingredients, exactly what we would want in our own bodies.

If you are still on the fence about whether or not the Wellness Complete Health line is a great option for your own feline friends, Wellness® offers a Catisfaction Guarantee.

Catisfaction Guarantee: if your cat doesn’t like the new Wellness recipes, please return the unused portion back to Petsmart for a full refund. 

So remember when leaving your feline friend for any length of time, make sure that you're leaving them a high quality food and here are a few other tips to keep them entertained while you're away.

Setup a Fun Zone – think about what your cat enjoys doing for both entertainment and play, set a little fun zone area for your cat to go hang out in during their home alone hours so they can get frisky and happy.

Only Child Syndrome – if your cat is an only child in your home, then maybe consider adopting a furry sibling for your feline friend. Remember, adopting a furry sibling for your cat will be a lifelong decision, but if you’re away often this may be super beneficial.

Puzzle Snacks – to give your cat that treat you may give them a few times a day, setup some puzzle snacks for them. These are usually little balls that you can place treats inside so your cat can bounce it around until he gets that treat out. Wellness® also offers a cat treat line so you know that you're feeding your feline friend treats that are good for them.

Feed Curiosity – cats are naturally a curious breed of animal, set up a toy closet where there is a favorite toy peeking out. As your cat wanders home alone, they may be curious about that peeking toy and work to get it out, entertaining their curiosity for hours.

Play Some Music – it’s been proven that all pets feel more comfortable being home alone with background noise. Consider getting a jazz CD or similar to have on repeat while you’re away so the cat feels as if someone is there with them.

Whatever you choose to do as a means to entertain and soothe your cat while you’re away ultimately is up to you, simply take the time to review this list of ways to entertain your cat while you’re away and implement strategies that will work for the personality of your feline friend, and be sure to leave them high quality food that is good for them like Wellness® Complete Health available at PetSmart®.

Visit PetSmart® to check out and purchase your cat’s favorite Wellness® Complete Health and Complete Health Grain Free options.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Wellness®. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Annmarie John
4 Ways to Live a More Balanced Lifestyle - #TeaProudly

4 Ways to Live a More Balanced Lifestyle - #TeaProudly

This shop, Ways to Live a More Balanced Lifestyle, has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TeaProudly #CollectiveBias

Every woman I know is frazzled. We’re always burning the candle at both ends. It may not be possible to achieve perfection, but it seems many of us still feel compelled to strive for our own versions of it. It’s important, however, that we prioritize self-care as we’re running the daily rat race. If we burn out, how can we achieve our dreams? How can we help anyone else? We need to take care of our minds, our bodies, and our souls because they’re the only ones we’ve got! It’s time we stop the juggling act. Here are 4 ways to live a more balanced lifestyle.

1. Get moving. I know it’s hard, and we’re not all born with an athletic gene, but you’ve got to find ways to exercise on a regular basis. Did you know that people who engaged in “leisure-time physical activity” had life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years? This means you don’t have to run a marathon or join Crossfit (unless you want to). You just have to get moving! Choose something as simple as a morning walk or something fun, like a Zumba class. After exercise becomes a part of your routine, you’ll start to feel more energized and more accomplished. You’ll also miss it on days you can’t make it happen. Losing weight might be a bonus, but don’t think of it as the goal. Remember, you’re doing this for your health!

2. Know when to stop. You’ve got to stop waiting until sickness takes you out before you give yourself a break. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.  Stress changes our bodies and our behavior. We can’t make clear choices when we’re stressed. Simply relaxing alleviates symptoms associated with things like hypertension, depression, anxiety, and even aging. So get some fresh air, read a book, take a bubble bath, or do what I do and grab a cup of Bigelow Benefits Cinnamon and Blackberry Herbal Tea, which helps to balance my sugar everyday. I pick mine up at my local King Soopers in the coffee and tea department, and it's DELICIOUS! With sweet and spicy cinnamon top notes with a smooth balanced sweet and tart finish.

3. Keep learning. Higher levels of education appear to provide some protection against Alzheimer’s, possibly because brain cells and their connections are stronger. Well-educated people can still get Alzheimer’s, but symptoms may appear later because of this protective effect, according to Alzheimer’s Association. Lifelong learning also helps us to better understand the world around us and improve the quality of our lives. You don’t have to go back to school to learn. Plug into a great podcast, go to a conference or seminar in your field of interest, or take a cooking class! Just keep your mind active.

4. Make time for what you love. Have you ever worked away a period of your life? Have you looked at the calendar, realized the year was halfway over, and wondered where the time had gone? Don’t lose yourself to the daily hustle. Keep your creativity, keep your personality, and keep your passion by carving out time each month, if not each week, to do what you love. This is something that will bring you no profit, but will re-energize you to go back to work and achieve your goals.

The Bigelow Benefits is a new line of tea that is designed to support everyday wellness which fuels your body with ingredients that are good for you. All of their teas are made with premium quality ingredients you know and trust and are Non-GMO, Gluten free and blended and produced right here in the USA. They are all so delicious that you'll want to enjoy them whenever and wherever you can. So pick up a box of the new Bigelow Benefits tea and Tea Proudly!

How are you living a more balanced lifestyle this year? 

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Annmarie John
TrueTwit Validation = Spam

TrueTwit Validation = Spam

Lately I have been trying to build my Twitter followers. I have a love-hate relation with Facebook since they seem to be changing their algorithm every couple of days. Just when you think you've figured it out, they change it up again, and you're back at the beginning. Lately, in order for your followers to see your posts, you have to pay for a Facebook promotion, which means spending money so people who were supposed to see something in the first place, can see it.

So what do I do? I decided to now focus on Twitter and start building a relationship on there. Twitter USED to be one of my favorite platform before I started blogging. My personal account had hundred of followers and we would chat back and forth with each other all day and night. It's amazing how much you can say in 140 characters, and how creative you can get when you want to say it all at once.

However, lately I've noticed that whenever you follow someone, you get an inbox notification, a direct message (DM) or private message per se. Let me tell you something. Private messages are supposed to be just that! PRIVATE MESSAGES. It's where you talk to people when you don't want the entire world knowing what you're saying. It's where you chat with companies that you're trying to build a relationship with. It's like your own private little diary.

When you follow someone you don't need a private message in your inbox saying "hey, it was great of you to follow me, now check out my other social media pages and my website". Keep those sleazy sales pitches to yourselves. If someone wants to follow you, it's probably likely they've already checked out your website, your social media pages, liked what they saw, and now they want to follow you. It's really not rocket science!

Here's something you may not know, for those of you who use services such as TrueTwit Validation. You're spamming us with your messages and NOBODY LIKES SPAM! I'm sure that you don't either. I get it, you want to weed out the fake accounts, but you're also weeding out the real accounts like mine, who would pass you over and move on to the other person who doesn't need me to waste a few minutes of my time verifying that I'm not a robot.

Know what that does to you? It makes YOU come across as a spam account and it's also stunting your growth on Twitter. And now you wonder why your account isn't moving from the measly 5,000 followers it's had since you joined TrueTwit, and asked that each and every one of your followers verify themselves.

If you're a blogger and you're using TrueTwit, take my advice and get rid of it! You'll thank me.

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Annmarie John
[name=AnnMarie John] [img=] [description=AnnMarie John is a lifestyle blogger, mom of 4, retired army veteran and a huge Disney lover. Formerly from the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and now living in colorful Colorado, she loves sharing her opinions on everything, crafting and food.] (facebook= (instagram= (twitter= (pinterest= (

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