Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nashville by Inglath Cooper Book Review

I had the wonderful opportunity to review Inglath Cooper's 4-part series, Nashville.  I am a fan of the show Nashville, predominantly because I love country music and I have totally purchased songs off of iTunes as soon as I have heard a new favorite on an episode.  Telescope, both the acoustic and Hayden P's version are some of my favorites.  So when I was asked to review a copy of all four parts of Cooper's work, I was excited!  What I like about this storyline, even more than the show Nashville, is that the plot surrounds up-and-coming musicians.  They're trying to make their way in the heart of country music.  So although this book shares the same name as a popular show, they're really not alike.  

I brought this book with me on a recent business trip to Wisconsin and it was a fast read, taking me about 2.5 hours to get through a sizeable amount of the text.  Cooper's characters are engaging and what I really like about them is that it's fun for the reader to cheer them on as they make their way from renting an apartment with no furniture to playing at the Bluebird Cafe.

The storyline starts off innocently enough, a blonde girl (CeCe Mackenzie) is trying to make her way into country music.  She takes off in a beat up a car, with her guitar, lyric book, and dog.  Of course the car breaks down (epically), but it's almost divine intervention as she meets two Georgia men who are also in the business of making their way into country music.  Both of these guys played football back home while in college and it kind of reminded me of the real-life storyline of hunky musician Sam Hunt.

Cooper builds a trusting relationship with her characters as CeCe is almost embraced into this small family of two buddies.  Of course, there has to be a romantic storyline and I was almost disappointed that Cooper chose to go with what felt like the obvious choice (tall, dark, handsome).  I actually wanted her to go after Thomas Franklin ;).  However, the love interest is a bit tainted and Cooper does a really good job of keeping a realistic approach to it.  While I feel the relationships were really well done, Cooper does throw in some interesting plot twists that at times felt kind of like I was reading a Sims game but it was fun.  I really enjoyed how her characters chose to face adversity yet valued integrity.  I think that's a wonderful life lesson to include in young adult novels.  Cooper navigates some rather complicated relationships and scenarios throughout the four-part series.  The fourth part is especially complicated with a rather dark scenario, but again Cooper puts her characters through intense situations to let their character development be the focus.

This is a great read for the person who is looking to fall in love with a group of characters who are just genuinely good people.  You get to root for the good guys!  There is something so charming about this little family of three and you want to see them succeed and for everyone to be happy.  It's perfect for a plane ride or an upcoming poolside read. 

If you liked this post, share it with others! If you feel particularly moved by it, leave a comment because I love feedback and discussion. Social media links are provided below and thanks for reading!
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Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of Grey: Topics of Consent versus Non-Consent

Y'all I feel so worn out by all of the media coverage on 50 Shades.  So much of it is inaccurate and thrives off of BDSM being an area of relationships that people are both wary and unfamiliar with.  I don't want this post to focus on advocating for the book series because I enjoyed them with a grain of salt.  The writing is terrible and I think E.L. James needed to do more research in terms of true and accurate BDSM relationships.  If I'm getting down to brass tacks, I think she may have amplified a few stereotypes BUT I also believe that it opened up conversations and discussions that you see today.  What concerns me are all the posts and articles that discuss abuse based on scenes from the novels that are taken out of context.  BDSM involves dominant and submissive relationships that people simply do not understand and it also involves a lot of research.  BDSM is NOT under any circumstances an abusive relationship.  To say otherwise is grossly inappropriate.  I don't believe that the book series is a good example of BDSM but I will use the book's contents to hopefully explain some of the topics.

1. There is so much communication.  Both partners (or multiple partners) are in constant communication to ensure that their partner enjoying themselves and are comfortable with proceeding.

2. Everything is discussed and communicated between partners.  BDSM involves checklists and scripts- you know what's going on or what could go on in a scene.  Grey actually sits down with Ana to discuss everything and puts it into a contract. They are actually able to discuss what they are and are not comfortable with, including the use or lack of safe words.  BDSM highly incorporates the use of safewords.  If Ana is not comfortable with anything, she is able to voice that and Grey will listen.

3. The submissive (sub) controls the scene.  It seems ironic (since it's the sub) but he or she controls the scene because if he or she is uncomfortable- where's the fun in that? BDSM is another form of pleasure and intimacy.  The articles I have placed down below are great resources to dive into those topics.

4. BDSM is not always about sex, it can lead into other areas of your life.  I think James went about this strangely with the book because I don't think people fully understand that BDSM doesn't have to be all about whips and chains, but simply control.  Christian does this frequently throughout the book without leading into sex, which people view as stalking.  I think James' lack of explanation and thorough use of research put people in an awkward place with understanding the narrative and the culture of BDSM. 

5. Your pleasure may not be someone else's pleasure.  I put this post together because I was really concerned with how easily people wanted to label 50 Shades as abuse- especially from so many bloggers and Christian websites.  That has been really frustrating because I've read the articles and I don't feel that they're sourced properly.  It just overwhelmingly seems that this is a topic that people are uncomfortable with it so they prefer to demonize it. 

With all of that said, you or I or anyone does not have to be into this.  That's the beauty of it.  This is one way to approach a relationship, but it's not for everyone.  I would just caution so many media outlets and bloggers from labeling it as abuse.  Especially since I keep hearing people say that they haven't read it or are garnishing their opinions from the comments section of an article who authors haven't read it.  

Here are some other great articles:

25 Facts About BDSM That You Won't Learn from Fifty Shades of Grey

Buzzfeed's Kink Video

My friend Nicole wrote a great article about Christian Grey and relating it to Christianity.

If you liked this post, share it with others! If you feel particularly moved by it, leave a comment because I love feedback and discussion. Social media links are provided below and thanks for reading!
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Friday, November 28, 2014

A Very Erskine Christmas: The 2014 Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas letters from family and friends around the country but we are mixing it up this year and having folks come visit this post instead! 

Welcome and we're so glad to have you :) 

Here is a look at what 2014 was like for the Erskines.

2014 started out pretty rough with a national scandal that rocked Malmstrom.  No one was left unaffected and it was one of the most stressful points in my life.  Despite the insane amount of stress that situation brought on our family, we came out stronger than ever and I relied on my faith in God to carry me through.  I don't know what I would have done without God, Ryan, Brittany, the Sheltons, and so many others who went through this situation.  One of the good things that came out of this was the opportunity to get to know other missileers in a way that we were not able to beforehand.  We truly bonded with our co-workers through the situation.  It was nuts but maybe secretly a blessing.  I also got the opportunity to temporarily work at the base chapel and it was awesome getting to know all of the chapel's staff.  The chaplains are rockstars and I met my first female military chaplain from the Reserves.  God blesses us in so many ways, even in the darkest of times.

Ryan started his teaching career with a summer position at the Boys and Girls Club where he taught young folks throughout the week.  He taught math, science, and English, and also had the opportunity to go on a lot of field trips with some pretty sa-weet t-shirts.  He also got caught up on a ton of children's movies and watched Frozen six times (ask him if he "wants to build a snowman").

I started volunteering with an organization called CASA, otherwise known as Court Appointed Special Advocates.  It's a team of volunteers that advocates for children who are abused and neglected.  Ever since my days in Theta, I have been wanting to actually be a CASA for our chosen philanthropy.  It is so incredibly rewarding and opened my eyes to the importance and desperate need for more GOOD foster parents in our communities.  This opportunity also exposed me to situations that I never pictured myself being in, such as coming up with a Plan B for a child's permanent home situation.  It's such important work and incredibly humbling.  My experience with CASA had me praying throughout the year about fostering and I felt a strong call from God to become a foster parent.  I'm just hoping now that God will see in His way to call Ryan as well.

We celebrated two marriages this summer...all in the same week!  Our wonderful friends Matt and Ashton did a vow renewal in Great Falls and I had the privilege of helping to plan their wedding and reception.  Ashton is my battle buddy and one of my best-friends and I even put together a fun, Girl Scout-inspired bachelorette party for her!  The wedding was gorgeous and we topped off the night with a s'mores bar and dancing.  Ryan and I also made a trip to Glacier National Park for the first time to celebrate in a reception for our friends, Kate and R.J.  It was one of the most beautiful receptions I've ever seen! It was so much fun celebrating with friends throughout the week and a great opportunity for us to see more of this beautiful Big Sky Country.

As summer wrapped up, Ryan started his sophomore year of college at Great Falls- MSU.  His classes are challenging and he also introduced an online science course to his rather full schedule.  This semester had him starting his teacher observations.  As of right now Ryan is still interested in teaching middle school students.

I've continued being a Young Life leader for the local area and I am OBSESSED! I went to camp for the first time this year and it was an amazing experience.  The young women that I had the privilege to work with are so fun, witty, and hilarious.  Being able to share in the wonderful and awe-inspiring power of a relationship with God was one of the best experiences I've ever had.  Our area leader, Katie, also asked me to speak about my experiences at our annual Young Life banquet.  It was a very cool opportunity to speak in front of such a large group of folks about why I love Young Life.

Speaking of Katie, a group of us gals decided to bless our wonderful friend with a couple's co-ed baby shower as she and her husband are expecting their first baby in December.  Y'all know me and I was thrilled to put together an UP! themed baby shower with some of my closest friends.  It was my first time planning a baby shower and I may be hooked!  Whenever Ryan and I are blessed with a baby, we definitely want a co-ed shower. It was TOO MUCH fun! =]

Last week Katie and Greg honored me by asking me to be the Lady Godparent (Godmother) ;) to their baby girl Elenore.  Of course I said YES! I cannot wait to welcome that beautiful spirit into the world :)

Not long after I promoted to 1st Lieutenant, I completed my upgrade sequence to become a missile combat crew commander! It was a very exciting experience and my awesome deputy and I received an EQ rating.  To put that into perspective, I never in my wildest of missile dreams thought I could get an EQ and I did.  It's an incredibly high rating and rare...and totally awesome.  I couldn't have done it without my kick-ass deputy Alex and all of the commanders who taught and trained me.

Holly and Blu have been the best dogs and we love them so much.  I crafted some bellybands for him as pseudo diapers. We've even been purchasing baby diapers to create an additional liner.  Who woulda thought we'd be buying diapers before babies...sheesh.  We're hoping that additional testing throughout the year will come up with more conclusive results.

Whewww and that was basically 2014! We are so thrilled for 2015 and who knows, maybe there will be a new addition to the Erskines?  Here's hoping that God will continue to bless our little family.

Much Love and Christmas Blessing,
Kim, Ryan, Holly, & Blu

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Karissa's Birthday Gift Ideas

Karissa's Birthday Ideas

My wonderful friend Karissa has a birthday coming up and we jokingly said that I would put together a collage of birthday gift ideas for her but with Polyvore, it was totally possible and a lot of fun! So here is what I chose for Karissa's "birthday gift idea" list.

1// Modcloth dresses in a scarlet red and a velvet emerald green.
I think Karissa would look AMAZEBALLS in these two dresses plus one is more subdued and sophisticated and the other is bold yet classic.  They are two very mature looks that are great for women our age.  We're not that old but I'm also not running around showing my mid-riff.

2// Hello Merch- I'm So Tired Tee
Grad school + work + being engaged is well, pretty exhausting and I thought this humorous t-shirt is perfect for grocery run days and lounging around.

3// Book Check out Tee
I have a feeling that Karissa might enjoy the phrase, "I live for books" and this library checkout tee is perfect for any bibliophile.

4//Tan Utility Coat
This screams grad school function.  It's stylish but versatile to work with many seasons and many outfits. 

5// Leopard flats and mint green pumps
I know Karissa is a busy lady so here are two office styled shoes, one for getting around quickly yet fashionably and the other is a fun, pastel color for showing off a great outfit.

6// Library Card Tote
A tote and a perfect! This is great for carrying around a wallet, a waterbottle, and a great read.

7//Map and Nautical Scarf
Sometimes all you need to spruce up an outfit is to throw on a scarf and this is fun, fashionable, and an easy conversation starter..."I just love that scarf."

8//Vows Journals
With Karissa recently becoming engaged, these journals are perfect for her and Andrew to start writing sweet notes or a set of sentimental vows to one another.

9//Greeting Card Pack
These cards are so fun and fit so many different needs! With the variety, it'll be easy for Karissa to pick one up for any occasion.

10//What I Love About You Journal
I just love this kind of stuff and it's great to have around to remember the reasons you're getting married behind the hustle and bustle of wedding prep.

11//High-Five Notepad
It's easy to get lost during a busy work day, but this notepad is perfect for "high-fiving" your friends, family, co-workers and anyone else who needs a bit of encouragement or a compliment for the day.

12//Deep Tea Diver
Now I don't really drink coffee but I love tea and this tea steeper is great! Have a deep sea adventure, even while sitting at your desk or in the office.

I chose all of these because they provide a lot of great insight and I believe that we can learn a lot from one another by the stories that we share.  Love em and I especially recommend The Happiness Project. It's a great tool to re-focus your energy when you feel your spirit being bogged down.

14// Mickey Mouse Ears from House of Mouse
House of Mouse ears are so cute and customizable! We all love a little Disney magic in our lives and with these custom ears, you can combine childhood whimsy with fashion.

15//Bath and Body Works Car Portable and Scent Portable
Bath and Body Works has some really darling car portables.  They're great for adding a seasonal scent to your daily commute.  I highly recommend Flannel which is like having Mr. Darcy sitting in your passenger seat.

16//Travel Cards
These little prompts are a perfect way to break up the monotony of your everyday.  The prompts give you small, easy-to-complete "travel" challenges like taking a walk with your favorite book.

17//Tote Bags
I chose two tote bags because one is more for the fall season mixed with professionalism and the other reminds me of a fun, carefree "burning man" summer bag.  Both are big and fantastic! I imagine Karissa filing away homework assignments and future casework in them :)

18//Build-a-Bear Olaf
I have no clue if Karissa likes Build-a-Bear or not or if she likes Frozen but I do so it's on here ;) It's nice to take a break from adult responsibilities and no one has a greater message than sweet Olaf.  Build-a-Bear has an opportunity to make your own and make a wish on a heart before he comes to life :)

19//Wifey Necklace
I SO WANT THIS NECKLACE and I think this would be darling for Karissa to wear during her engagement or after she gets married.

If you liked this post, share it with others! If you feel particularly moved by it, leave a comment because I love feedback and discussion. Social media links are provided below and thanks for reading!
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Monday, October 27, 2014

We Can Do Hard Things

The famous blogger and writer Glennon says that we can do hard things and in this moment, it has been a phrase that I use for strength. Marriage is pretty darn hard. I've written about it and talked in great depth about this topic. I've been wanting and praying to foster and I don't think it will be now. It's been really hard on me. I'm trying to be understanding and aware of Ryan's perspective in the situation but it's tough on me. So today I put away the things I got for fostering. It's better to put away the playpen and bumbo from our living room and put the baby clothes in the closet. I would appreciate prayers. Thanks y'all.