Thursday, April 30, 2015

Little Fierce Experience: Las Vegas

Little Fierce Experience: Las Vegas

TDY Part 1

I recently had the amazing opportunity to go on my first TDY.  It's sort of like a business trip for my job.  Me, along with three other colleagues got to make it into a road trip of sorts down to central coast California.

Our first stop was in Salt Lake City but the very next day was Las Vegas! I haven't had a vacation in so long so this day trip was a blast.  We stayed at the LINQ and due to renovations, the room prices were phenomenally low.  Yay for per-diem and room rates!

The hotel is so trendy and they encourage you to hashtag away.  This was my bathroom set up...the perfect opportunity for a selfie ;)

The LINQ is not only by the Strip but it has a mini strip of its own with restaurants and shops right next to the hotel.  We had dinner and then went exploring.  The guys introduced me to my very first Fat Tuesday.  It's a shop that sells alcoholic slushies.  Amazing!

Going from Montana to Las Vegas in two day's time was a little overwhelming.  There was so much to see and do.  I had been to Las Vegas before but it was almost like a culture shock to be there again.

I loved the forums at Caesar's Palace.  Now this is what I call shopping =]

The Bellagio fountains were beautiful as always.  I love a good water and light show. I just love being entertained and Vegas is definitely the outlet for that.

I got to check out the High Roller, the giant ferris wheel next to the LINQ.  It's definitely worth going on at least once and for $30 a ticket, you'll probably only go once.

The view was incredible though! I highly recommend going on the night ride.  I would love to go on this with Ryan sometime :)

This was one of my favorite Vegas trips, although I am disappointed I missed going to a show.  What are some of your favorite Vegas highlights from your trip?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Little Fierce Experience: Brush Crazy Farewell Party

My beautifully spirited friend Ashton set up a "happy TDY/going away" event at Brush Crazy.

It's a local business where you can bring wine and snacks as you learn how to paint a canvas.  The concept is super popular now and I am so excited that we have one locally!  It was the perfect spot for a girl's night out!  I love this little cow one and am totally going to paint it the next time I'm there!

Our instructor taught us how to paint this gorgeous Montana scene with elk and moose.  Of course two of my lovely guests actually went to school for art so you know they totally kicked ass and took names ;)

Ashton brought wine and lovely little wine glasses for us to enjoy while painting.  Emily brought delicious mini cheeses and Hannah made scrumptious cupcakes.

Ta-da! My masterpiece =]
Its home is on our beverage cart in our dining room.  It's so very Montana, I love it!

Have you ever done a canvas class like this? What did you think?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Little Fierce Experience: Galentine's Day 2015

Little Fierce Experience: Galentine's Day!

I wanted to throw a party that celebrated the unique sisterhood and bond of women so I invited several of favorite ladies over for a Galentine's Day party.

Definition: The other half of Valentine's Day. When you celebrate your lady friends! Single or not :)

I wanted to focus on empowerment and something we learned this past year, as well as something we wanted to build upon.  I asked each lady to bring a $5 gift that represented something important to them from the past year or for the new year.

My Gift

I love these little guys from Hallmark.  They always put a smile on my face but when they got these darling little prince charmings, I snatched one up for myself and one as my gift.

Of course a party about love, hearts, flowers, and lady empowerment needs a flower crown.  I made mine from Dollar Tree supplies.  Ellie is rocking a floral headband, too!

I adore my wonderful friend Katie! She was kind enough to let me host the party at her house and I dropped off decorations the night before.  How cute are these!?

The party started off with letter-writing in notebooks that I got each of the ladies.  It was to help them jot down thoughts for their one little word throughout the next year.

Each lady wrote a letter to her "future self" talking about her aspirations and goals for the upcoming year.  I did this during my first year in college and reading back on what I thought and felt at that time was so fun!

Time for food! I just love that flower crown!

The theme was "breakfast" because Leslie Knope (creator of Galentine's Day) loves waffles.  So of course, I had to bring blueberry waffles.  The food was scrumptious and a really great party food for the event.

I collected a bunch of magazines and had ladies bring some, too for the next activity.  Magazines, scissors, scrapbook paper, and glue galore!

I bought picture frames from the Dollar Tree (they really should sponsor me already) ;) and each lady created a vision board for what she wanted her year to look like. This was a great activity to chat along to and find funny and cute pictures to add to our individual boards.

I snagged Ellie away from Katie so that Katie could finish her vision board so that I could get in as many snuggles before my TDY to Vandenberg!

I loved how they turned out!

Then it was time for presents!

Each gift had a number and we all drew numbers. 

Each gift held a special meaning from the giver and was such a wonderful gift to the recipient.

 Hannah got mine!  The symbolism behind it was actually inspired by my friend Sheila and one of our book club meetings.  Sometimes we can be hindered by our expectations.  We want things like the perfect prince charming out of our husbands, we want them to be romantic and perfect but they are just human.  You can accomplish your goals and find companionship and support through your friends and your spouse.  But just in case you want a prince charming, now you have one.

This was a really difficult lesson for me to learn after I got married because I married the man of my dreams it felt like.  However, Ryan isn't romantic and is a Marine so he's pretty rough around the edges.  That doesn't mean he isn't a great husband but not everything I sought out in my expectations of marriage were met and that's okay

It was such a lovely party and we had so much fun!

Do you celebrate Galentine's Day or anything like it? Share in the comments below!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Little Fierce Experience: Having a Miscarriage

Little Fierce Experience: Having a Miscarriage
Today marks one week since my miscarriage started. 

Today also marks one day since I submitted a paper for my counseling course on the topic of miscarriage.

My life is so filled with's ridiculous.

If you've followed my blog or know me in person, you know that I love babies and have had baby fever ever since I knew in my heart that I was going to marry Ryan.  So the prospect of having a baby is one that filled my heart with sheer joy.

While I was at another base for a TDY, Ryan and I decided that we were going to start trying. *angels singing*  I had my birth control, Mirena, removed.  That was wayyy easier than getting it put in...just sayin'.  I was in and out of the doctor's office and the journey to Baby Erskine was just beginning.  It is truly an amazing feeling when you as a couple decide that you want to try to conceive (TTC).  I had been waiting for Ryan to agree to this for so long and I didn't want to pressure him so we were finally on board together!

We were able to conceive right away, which is such a blessing.  I remember taking an early pregnancy test and got nothing.  A week later though, my boobs hurt so much and I just had a feeling.  I was in Wisconsin at the time and texted Ryan asking if I should swing by a Walgreens or CVS to pick up a test.  He said to hold off since I was going home the next day.  I remember rushing to the bathroom the next morning (after I had flown back the night before) and there was my first positive.  Then I tried a box of Clearblue pregnancy tests. If you're not familiar, these digital tests are more expensive but give you the actual words "pregnant" or "not pregnant."

The first two read "pregnant" and then..."not pregnant." What?  I attributed this to a diluted sample so I hopped in the car and drove to the Exchange to pick up another box of two. 

Success! I had an additional two "pregnant" tests. 

The next morning I went to the base clinic and they confirmed it, I was indeed pregnant.  I have to say that one of the best things about those initial moments are the congratulations you receive.  Warmth and happiness just fill you up and it's the best feeling.  Of course, per my job I had to fill out a lot of paperwork and be put on a special profile.  I was even signed up for a prenatal class because I had the sudden realization that despite all of my education on sexual and reproductive health and even women's bodies, I had no idea what I was doing.  However, starting this journey was amazing.

We decided to tell our network of friends and family.  I, of course, ran over to Michaels to pick up crafting supplies and announced with silver and gold plastic eggs in little boxes.  Inside the eggs were little strips of paper that said "Welcoming Baby Erskine, January 2016."  I was still making the boxes for friends out of state.  Surprising our friends was the best!  It was a time of celebration and the future just seemed like the happiest of places.

I had been frustrated when I felt something go very wrong last Monday night.  I thought I was imagining things and decided to take a shower.  However after using the restroom, I saw blood.  Every fear hit me right then.  Monday was my bad day to say the least.  By bad, I mean it was a shit storm of a day.  I was panicky and frantic.  I called the after hours base med group hotline trying to find answers.  I had never been to an off base clinic.  I had no idea how to handle this situation.  If a woman is pregnant and bleeding, whether spotting or something else, it is recommended that she go to see a medical professional.  So I was given that information and had no idea what to do next.  I called the hotline again and the woman was very kind and gentle and wrote me up the fastest referral.

Ryan and  I hopped into the car and drove down to the walk-in clinic.  I was so scared and I felt in that moment that we were losing our baby.  I actually made my nose bleed.  We walked in and we were seen probably 15 minutes later.  The P.A. was phenomenal and did a great job of calming the situation with information and compassion.  They did some blood work and I wouldn't find out the results until the next morning.

The results were good!  They were normal for how far along we were, we just had to wait a day and do more blood work to compare.  If the results went up, that was great but if they went down, that meant that I was losing my pregnancy.

I had to go to return-to-duty at the med clinic and met my new doctor who is awesome.  She was also incredibly compassionate and informative.  She knew and understood how upset I was at the possible miscarriage that was happening.  She set me up for a referral for the walk-in clinic again to have my blood work done. 

The next day I went to the clinic again.  This time the wait was longer and I was by myself.  It was lunch time so out in the waiting room, it wasn't so bad.  However, I ended up waiting in the exam room for 30 minutes alone, waiting for a different PA from Monday.  He non-chalantly strolled in and spouted out, "why did you get your Mirena taken out?" My response, "My husband and I are trying to have a baby."  His retort, "Oh I've heard it takes couples up to a year off of Mirena to this is great."  Just a word of advice, don't say that.  In a moment where I am waiting to see the results on whether or not I am pregnant is not the time to give me conception facts.  Also, every gyno I've had leading up to having Mirena and afterwards have actually given me an differently set of reproduction facts for it so I was pretty wary of this guy.  I had my blood drawn and would find out the results later that day.

To take my mind off of things, I decided to decorate for Ryan's birthday, which was the next day.  As I was taping streamers to the ceiling, I received the phone call.  The rude PA cheerfully read off my results with an hcg level of 159.  I was confused because the man's voice was cheerful and happy, but my results were significantly down from Monday.  I clarified and reiterated that those numbers are not a good thing and he essentially said, "yup" in response.  I was mad and upset and sad.  Just so very sad.  Of course the conversation wasn't done with the man whose bedside manner is less than ideal and it turned out that I need to get more blood work done to "make sure my levels actually hit 0."  Someone, anyone give this man a lesson in delivering sad news. 

This week I also had a paper due on the topic of miscarriage for my counseling class.  So a lot of things happened this past week in regards to my miscarriage.  I was surrounded by friends and family and simply by those who care.  I also had the rough yet eye-opening opportunity to dive into the research of miscarriages for my paper.  I won't say that I was able to truck through that like a champ.  I took a break for a couple of hours because the trailer for The Little Prince made me sob.  My job and my internship have been so supportive.  My leadership checks in on me frequently to see how I'm doing and being in an internship, with so many women, is a community of ladies who have experienced miscarriages and understand. 

For me, sharing this is important because statistically 1 in 5 women will experience a miscarriage and 10-25% of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage.  It affects a lot of people.  I believe people have a really hard time talking about it because a baby is a much better conversation starter than a miscarriage.  However, they happen so frequently that how we discuss them and why they happen need to be understood.

60% of miscarriages are due to a chromosomal abnormality.  Basically this means that as cells are dividing, something just goes wrong and this isn't the parents fault.  It just happens.  For me this is oddly comforting.  For many women going through a miscarriage, clear and concise information coupled with compassion are the most needed things in medical treatment. 

So with that said I am going through a grieving process and each woman goes through it differently.  It helps for me to work and to have things to do.  However, there are certain things that make me very sad.  One of those things is actually how people choose to phrase something.  For most women, a simple "I am sorry for your loss and please let me know if I can do anything to support you" is all they need and that works for me.  I know for many people, they are saying things because they come from a good place but please just don't.  Simplicity without justifying why a miscarriage happened is all I need.

Things Not To Say:

You're young and you'll have another.
First off, you don't know that.  I don't that. Only God knows that.  I have a really strong relationship in my faith and I believe that God will give us a baby when it's time but if He doesn't, that's okay.  However, please do not equate our youth as a couple with fertility and future babies. 

At least it happened this early

Oo boy, I think this actually the most offensive to me.  When I got those four positive pregnancy tests, I was elated.  Ryan and I planned for a baby in January.  We made plans for the nursery and I surprised him with a daddy-to-be book.  I felt in my soul that we were having a boy.  So please do not dismiss our baby as if he or she was replaceable like that.  You would never say that to someone who lost a child so don't say that to someone with an early miscarriage.

Maybe now isn't the best time...

Miscarriages happen for a multitude of reasons but usually because they just happen.  By saying now wasn't the best time, puts the blame on the parents as if we had not been wanting, praying, and hoping for this baby.  This baby was very much wanted at this time and in this moment by two people who are responsible and so loving.

God's will

I rejoice in the fact that our Lord designed our baby and He will be the first one to meet him or her.  That gives me a great sense of peace but please do not say that this was God's will.  God cries and mourns and grieves with us. He does not wish suffering and pain on his children.  This happened because of life and how cells divide and that's okay.  My spiritual journey and semblance of faith is unique to me and in that same light, I don't expect another woman who has experienced a miscarriage to have peace with it or to not blame God.  We're all different. 

So for now, Ryan and I are grieving but hopeful for the future.  We will always celebrate the start of our journey as a family with this first baby and I am hopeful that one day we will meet in heaven.  For now, we appreciate the prayers and well wishes.  I am hoping to celebrate my baby's short but joy-filled existence by planting bulbs in our yard.  I know that even if we're gone, they will come up annually and a family can admire them, too.  I am excited for what the future may bring and pray for continued joy and happiness for our little family.

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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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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