DIY! Valentine’s Day Wreath

Hi everyone! Today’s Vlog is a DIY Valentine’s Day Wreath tutorial! I wanted to get this DIY out to you ASAP so you’d have time to make it & use it as a decoration before Valentine’s Day.
I am thinking about starting a “DIY Wednesday” series, but wanted to do a “test video” before I jumped into committing to a full series. Please let me know with a LIKE, SHARE, or COMMENT, if you enjoyed this video & want to see more like it.
Please note – this video was mostly created for comedic purposes. I don’t consider myself crafty. I don’t expect my DIYs to turn out well at all – I realize I’m not creating high quality material, haha! I just want to attempt some things & see if the average person can be capable of creating some fun stuff.

Big thanks to Opulent Cottage for the inspiration for this DIY!

Watch the video below to find out if I was successful at this Valentine’s Day craft! Please don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the YouTube channel & FOLLOW this blog!
If you decide to try this DIY I’d love to see it! Follow me on Instagram: @MissAl_Leigh, tag me, & use the hashtag #MissAlLeighDIY so I can see all your awesome creations! Thanks 🙂

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Book Review! Douglass’ Women by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Okay, this is going to be the last Book Review for a bit – I was reading like crazy for a while but now I have to catch up on other topics!

Initial Thoughts:
“Douglass’ Women” is a random $1 Store find – believe it or not! It wasn’t on my Book List but it sounded intriguing and I thought, “For $1, why not?!”. I’m not up to date on all the history about Frederick Douglass, especially his family life, so I’m not sure how much of this is true or fictionalized.

Plot:
The story of famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, as told from the point of view of the two women he loved most – according to this story. One, his wife, a free woman of color, Anna Murray Douglass & the other, his lover, an educated white German woman named Ottilie Assing. They battle each other over the years & eventually come to the realization that Douglass is the problem. Unfortunately, they’re both too invested to turn away so they spend the rest of their lives longing for a man that cannot give either of them what they truly want & deserve. The story shows the different ways people deal with love, grief, infidelity, and how those emotions can help us find ourselves, or tear us down. Essentially, the typical story of a cheater & the people they hurt along the way.

Characters:
– In the beginning, Anna is a woman with almost nothing to offer, except what Frederick wants most – freedom. Initially he is attracted to her potential and the future they COULD have together. Like most dreams, to make it a reality you have to put in effort. He didn’t want to put in the effort to build a future with Anna, he was more focused on building his future in the political world. Anna saw a much different future. She saw babies and a love to grow old with, not politics and traveling the world. They didn’t know each other long enough before jumping into a commitment to know that they just weren’t compatible because they wanted very different things. Anna is an extremely strong woman. Anna’s desire to be with Frederick was misguided from the beginning, but she stays committed & tries to make the marriage successful. She manages to persevere and raise her children with grace & dignity, despite the many “sins” her husband commits against her.
– Ottilie is a woman who offers Frederick everything, a whole world of formal education, fancy parties, powerful people, and social change. They are more compatible on a social and intellectual level. However, Ottilie’s obsessive desire to be with Douglass in a romantic way is their undoing. She gives him too much. He tries to resist at first, but she persists and shows him he can have his cake & eat it too. Obviously they live in a time where divorce wasn’t much of an option so she had to have known all along that he could only be with her legally once Anna died. What a risky game! Unfortunately, that is often the case when a woman agrees to become “The Other Woman”. In the beginning Ottilie comes across as villainous. She makes everything a competition with Anna, in her mind & in conversations with Frederick. However, towards the end, you see she was just lonely, insecure, & also misguided. Although she honestly should have expected it, when Frederick eventually betrays her too, she loses all sense of reason. To a certain extent her reaction is understandable because she’s centered her life around him, but that’s why you can’t build a life focused on someone else. If, most likely when, they leave you, you have nothing left.
– Frederick is tough to analyze. He comes off as a very rude, selfish, conceited, mean spirited man, but you have to understand that he spent his youth being treated less than human by slave owners. Earning his freedom allows him to pursue (almost) anything he wants & he wants it all. How can you blame him? However, despite his circumstances, I still feel like he had an ugly heart. He was always so focused on himself, even in the bedroom! During the sex scenes, which were very uncomfortable to read, his “sexy talk” consists of, for example, “I’m no slave” & “I’m equal to any man”. Uhhhh okay, a romantic moment with a lady isn’t really the time for this kind of talk – at least in my opinion, but what do I know!? Based on his character as described in this story, I have no warm feelings for him, despite his accomplishments. I’m not sure if the author is doing a historical figure a disservice or if she did the research to find that he really was not a great person in regards to his personal life.

Quotes:
Pg 225: Anna, “When I was most angry, I reminded myself Freddy fathered my children”, Ottile, “When I was most lonely, words failed to comfort me. Ideas can never be children”.
I think these two quotes sum up a great deal about these characters. Anna was angry with the way Frederick treated her. She used her position as a mother to help her cope. She couldn’t give Frederick a beautiful, educated wife to impress his colleagues with, but she gave him a family. Ottilie, on the other hand, was defined by her loneliness, that’s why she started the affair to begin with! While she could give Frederick the lifestyle Anna couldn’t, she couldn’t give him a family to continue on his legacy. That’s the draw of the two women. They both offered something completely different, a “special skill set”, that Frederick wanted.

Overall:
A sad story of two strong, educated in their own way, extremely different women that found themselves struck down in the name of love. This story shows the paths that love can lead us down & how they aren’t always as romantic as we envision them to be.

Rating: B
I enjoyed this book, although the sex was a little much for me. I guess you won’t find me reading “50 Shades…” anytime soon, haha! The reason for the B rating is simply because I wasn’t over the moon about this book. It was good, but not something I need to read again.

Have you read “Douglass’ Women”? If so, what are your thoughts? Did you find it enjoyable? I also recently reviewed “The Duchess” by Amanda Foreman – another book based on women in history, although that one was written as a Thesis so it’s more historically accurate. Do you have any book suggestions for me? Please let me know in the comments below!

Book Review! The Happiness Project – January/February/March!

Click here to purchase The Happiness Project!


Hey all!
I’ve had this book on my To Read list for a long time & decided January 2015 was the perfect time to start a Self Actualization/Self Help book, ya know, “New Year, New You”. That turned out to be the best decision because the author, Gretchen Rubin, created The Happiness Project as a year long project. Each chapter is a reflection of goals she set for herself & how she spent the month working towards them. Rubin was a Supreme Court clerk, but decided to leave law to become a writer. The Happiness Project consists of her personal values and research she conducted on the subject of Happiness.

I connected with Rubin almost immediately because she talks about something that I often struggle with, waiting to start projects until her life is in just the right place. I have a tendency to do the same thing, as evidenced by the way I waited precisely until January 1st to start this year long project. Rubin ends up deciding there are no perfect circumstances & sometimes you just have to dive into things. Her desire to change her way of thinking motivated me to join Rubin on her Happiness Project, instead of just reading about it. Each month I will follow the goals & we’ll see how I do. Look for these reviews periodically as it will (obviously) take me a year to fully complete this review and project.

Below, you will find the Goals for January, February, & March, my review of the author’s experience, and what my own experience was. Click the FOLLOW me button on the top right to be notified by email when I post the next installment!

JANUARY
Goals: Sleep earlier, Exercise better, Toss/restore/organize, Tackle a nagging task, Act more energetic
Review: I enjoy Rubin’s writing, she’s sarcastic and sassy. We would be great friends or hate each other because we’re too similar. She’s pretty Type-A & I can be too. She talks about finding peace through having things in just the right order. My friends & family semi-seriously joke that I have OCD because while I’m not necessarily a neat freak, I can be VERY particular. Another thing we have in common is an “insatiable need for credit” (p 24). We want the gold star! We’re highly motivated by praise – I’m really giving away all my secrets – haha!
My Experience: January’s goals were a breeze as I had already made them my New Year’s Resolutions.  I had just moved back to my hometown & was an unemployed, recent college grad – it was the perfect time to focus on my health and sort through the belongings I had accumulated in recent years plus all the stuff waiting for me at my childhood home. I definitely felt better after getting my things in order (somewhat) & getting back into a healthy lifestyle.

FEBRUARY
Goals: Quit nagging, Don’t expect praise or recognition, Fight right, No dumping, Give proofs of love
Review: While this book is based on Rubin’s experience, she also delves into research she conducted, which I found interesting & somewhat troublesome. Something that struck a nerve for me was, “the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women” (p 52). I found this interesting because I don’t consider myself lonely & a majority of my friends are males because I don’t often find friendships with women fulfilling. The troublesome part of the research was that it relied heavily on stereotypical gender studies. For example, on p53 she talks about her husband not being a good listener, “[l]earning that men & women both turn to women for understanding showed me that Jamie wasn’t ignoring me out of lack of interest or affection: he just wasn’t good at giving that kind of support…[he] wasn’t going to have long discussions…[h]e didn’t want to spend hours pumping up my self-confidence” First of all, who WANTS to spend HOURS pumping up someone’s self confidence?! Second, why should we assume just because he’s male that he doesn’t want to have long discussions or isn’t a good listener? I know plenty of males that enjoy talking way more than I do & are way better listeners – that’s why we’re friends, because we complement each other. I understand there’s science behind these ideas, but if we want to grow as a society, we have to stop applying stereotypes to all men/women. Just learn about people & who they are.
My Experience: This month’s Goals were focused on Rubin’s marriage & I’m single, so I simply chose to apply the Goals to my friends and family. Following through was not as simple. I definitely struggled this month. I was especially nervous about “Don’t expect praise/recognition” because as mentioned earlier – I want that gold star! For example, as a “proof of love”, I bought my mom & myself passes to a ZUMBA studio. The instructor asked how we found them & my mom said, “We found you on Groupon”. Usually, this is where I would jump in & say, “Actually! I found the passes & bought them as a gift”, but I bit my tongue. I tried to consider these struggles as “what difference would it make?” issues. What difference did it make for the ZUMBA instructor to know that taking classes was MY idea, who cares!? Well, I care, but I guess that’s not the point. Another Goal I struggled with was “Quit nagging”. I found it hard to distinguish between nagging and giving a proof of love. Continuing with the ZUMBA example, in the past when my mom wouldn’t want to work out, I’d nag her about getting in shape, being healthy, etc. In an effort to not nag, when she didn’t feel like going to ZUMBA, I didn’t say anything. To me, it felt like I was uninvolved, the nagging was how I showed I cared. In this instance, not nagging worked because my mom found motivation on her own & didn’t feel like I was forcing her. In another instance, when I didn’t nag my friend about following through with something, feelings were hurt because she felt like I hadn’t been involved enough. You can’t please everyone!

MARCH
Goals: Launch a blog, Enjoy the fun of failure, Ask for help, Work smart, Enjoy now
Review: It was comforting to hear Rubin go through similar trials that I have experienced while blogging. A couple quotes from this month I took to heart are, “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think. Even if [you do] something wrong on the blog, it [won’t] be a disaster” (p75). Also, “one of the biggest challenges posed by my blog was the doubt raised by my own inner critic…Was it egocentric to write so much about my own experience?…I didn’t want to be [a] novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence that he never wrote his second…I needed to…[push] ahead without constantly second guessing myself” (p78).
My Experience: At first glance, I was feeling iffy about these Goals because I already write a blog (obviously), & failure & asking for help are not things I enjoy. The blog issue turned out to be a non-issue, because I’m still in the beginning stages of blogging, so it was easy to follow some of Rubin’s advice and start creating more content. I think I made great strides in terms of posting here more often, which has definitely made me happier and gotten my creative juices flowing as I try to plan my next post. I’ve been asking for help from others in the form of trying to find work & looking for companies that offer new bloggers support like the Bloguettes or Blogger Babes. I’m trying to enjoy the failure of being rejected from jobs, but that’s proving to be difficult. However, when I’m rejected, I try to think of it like “Woo hoo! Now I have more time to find an even more perfect job!”

Overall at this point, I can’t say I’m remarkably happier, but I feel like I’m challenging myself and growing along the way. Is that the same thing as Happiness? I’m not sure, & I think that’s what Rubin is aiming to find out. What do you think!? Have you enjoyed reading about The Happiness Project? Are you inspired to start a project of your own or follow along with me? Please let me know in the comments below! Remember, you can click the picture of the book at the top of this post and it’ll take you to all the Amazon listings – some sales are as low as one penny! Thanks for reading!

Book Review! The Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson

The Vow

The Vow

Plot:
“The Vow” is the story of Kim and Krisxan (aka Krickitt) Carpenter. I’m sure y’all are somewhat familiar with the film because it stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, but I’m not sure how many are familiar with the true story that inspired the film. I have not seen the film, but after reading the description on Wikipedia & watching the trailer – it is VERY different from the book. The Carpenters address the film & while it was given their approval, they acknowledge it has been given the Hollywood treatment. It only contains the framework of their story, but does not tell it the way it really happened. After a whirlwind courtship & marriage, the Carpenter’s are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves them both with severe injuries. While Kim’s injuries are extensive, he is eventually able to recover. Krickitt, on the other hand, suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury that results in amnesia preventing her from remembering the last year and a half of her life. This is especially inconvenient because that is the exact length of time she’s known her husband. She wakes up from the accident with no memory of her husband or any of their relationship. The book details their life as they struggle to regain a sense of normalcy & figure out how they’re going to move forward.

Review:
– I felt like the Carpenter’s entire relationship was kind of an odd, extreme, only in the movies type romance. For example, they meet completely by chance when Kim is ordering jackets for the baseball team he coaches. Krickitt answers the phone and Kim falls in love with her voice and spunky attitude. He continues to call to “check on his order” & asks only to speak to her. Their conversations quickly become personal and they get to know each other outside of the business transaction. It’s honestly the kind of meet-cute that easily could have been really creepy if Krickitt hadn’t returned Kim’s feelings. I know most people meet completely by chance, but this is just SO random! Out of all the people in the world, he happens to order jackets from a girl that’s his perfect match and then they get in this terrible car accident that makes her forget her perfect husband!? OF COURSE THEY MADE THIS A MOVIE.

– I’m really weird & get excited when I recognize places in stories, I’m not sure why. I guess it helps me feel connected to the story. Henceforth, I was excited when Kim name drops Fullerton, CA & Phoenix, AZ. Krickitt went to Cal State Fullerton – I took a class there and the nearby junior college, so I felt like we were kindred spirits as I’ve possibly wandered the same areas of campus that she had once called home. I travel to Phoenix pretty frequently as I have family/friends there. Kim & Krickitt are traveling to Phoenix, where her parents live, when they get in their car accident. Krickitt spends part of her recovery at the Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix. Like I said, it helps me feel connected to the story/people to know that we’ve probably driven down the same streets and seen the same things.

– I was a little peeved that the story was 99% told through Kim’s point of view. I understand Krickitt doesn’t remember their relationship before the accident and can’t speak on that subject, but I was interested to know what was going through her mind during the aftermath.

– Kim “doth protest too much”. He constantly assures the reader that the ONLY reason they decided to write the book/go on TV/be interviewed/agree to the film was to spread God’s word. I respect the Carpenter’s relationship with God, that they bonded over their faith, & it brought them peace after the accident. I’m fine with it in theory, I just didn’t know the story was going to revolve around religion so heavily. There’s no way to make this sound nice, so I’m just going to be honest, religion is just not for me. I was borderline uncomfortable with all the references to God. When Kim kept talking about how they didn’t want the attention/money that came with being famous, they just wanted to spread God’s word, I was rolling my eyes. They wrote a book! Obviously, they knew/hoped they’d be making SOME money. I’m not sure they were paid for any of their appearances, but if a Radio/TV station wanted them to appear badly enough, they certainly could’ve paid them. I can’t imagine anyone openly admitting they wanted to capitalize on the tragedy/miracle of their life, but it’s understandable that they would need money considering how expensive their medical bills must have been so I don’t think he needed to justify himself with the religious reasoning.
Another issue I felt Kim talked about way too much was divorce. He mentions numerous times that divorce was “not an option”, “never crossed their minds”, “never on the table”, “never discussed”, “not for them” – dude, we get it! You’re a solid guy that wasn’t planning on leaving your wife in her hour of need. You became famous because we live in a world where you get in a fight with someone and you leave them – and in the face of serious adversity – you both stayed. Granted, you did mention that there was a time you seriously doubted you could live under the same roof together, but you were going to stay married because you made promise to each other & God. I’m not sure how permanently living apart would’ve been much different than divorcing, but okay.

Rating: C
“The Vow” was a quick read for me & I can definitely understand why they chose to make it into a movie. I admire the Carpenter’s commitment to each other and their willingness to work through a very traumatic event. If you like romantic, inspiring tales of love conquering all, especially with a heavy helping of Christianity – this is the book for you.

Writing Sample – Domestic Violence

I’m sorry I’ve been slacking on posts lately, just been really busy and technology has not been kind to me. It’s exhausting trying to figure out how to format all the pictures and videos on here from my iPhone – but I’ll learn!…someday. So to keep the 4 of you who read this blog kind of entertained, I’m gonna post up a late post, something I wrote on FB in “honor” of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Hope you guys find this at least interesting, hopefully thought provoking too. Let me know…

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this is a cause I’ve decided to become more vocal about. *begin rant*
Never let anyone that “loves” you make you feel unsafe, unwanted, or unloved, especially when they turn around and tell you it’s YOUR fault they treat you badly. No one is holding them back, making them stay, if you’re such an issue in their lives, why don’t they leave? The answer: You’re not the problem. They are. Their mindset, attitude, and actions are the problem. Not you. No one deserves to be made to feel like they’re worthless. There are a million other things I want to say, but the bottom line is, love is out there & it does not look like anything I mentioned above.
Be good to the person you’re with, the heart, mind, and spirit are so fragile, and they’re trusting you to take care of them. More importantly, I know this is can be so challenging but, be good to yourself, recognize when someone is disrespecting you to the utmost degree and get out! MOST importantly, if you ever have the chance to help someone suffering from domestic violence, please help them. Sometimes people can’t see their own worth because they’ve been put down for so long & they need someone else to show them that they deserve better. They may not listen to you right away, but never give up on them.
Love is out there that comes with respect and safety, and the place you should find that kind of love first before you look for it in a relationship, is within yourself. When you respect and value yourself, you won’t depend on other people to feel that way about you. You will be enough. You are enough. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.