2.10.2014

Review \\ I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti


In 2009 19-year-old Kylie Bisutti won the Victoria's Secret Model Search competition and walked the runway in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. She had reached the height of her modeling career, and she was ecstatic. She had been modeling for years already, at first for a mall in Las Vegas as a 13-year-old and later in New York as a 16-year-old. She was a natural with a reportedly amazing runway walk. Bisutti's excitement over modeling turned sour fast when stylists and managers started using adjectives like "big" and "cow" to describe her. To anyone on the outside Bisutti appeared super-thin and gorgeous, but to the modeling industry her measurements were outside the optimal range. 

Bisutti dropped out of the modeling scene for a little while when she met her now husband at the age of 18 in 2008. They married the next year, and, according to Bisutti, modeling was the furthest thing from her mind as she settled into married life. It wasn't until her mother-in-law handed her a flyer for the Victoria's Secret Model Search that her old yearning revived. She loved walking the runway, exhibiting fashionable styles and "working" the crowd. She had watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for as long as she could remember, practicing the famous Angels' walks and admiring their curvy figures. Since she had already been called too big for the usual modeling gigs, wouldn't she be the perfect type to model Victoria's Secret merchandise? A few short months later, Bisutti was voted winner, and all her modeling dreams had come true.

Obviously that isn't the end of the story, or there would be no book titled I'm No Angel: From Victoria's Secret Model to Role Model.** I had seen Bisutti on The Today Show, oh, probably in 2011 shortly after she tweeted, "I quit being a VS model to be a Proverbs 31 wife." I was intrigued. I had never heard of her before, as my relationship with Victoria's Secret is completely non-existent. When I'm at the mall I avoid the store like the Bubonic plague. I have zero desire to glance at large posters of underwear-clad women while shopping for unmentionables that will hopefully, if the company's done their marketing right, make me think I look like those women. Besides that, I'm not one of those women who desires to carry her pink-striped VS shopping bag around the mall like a badge of honor. I don't want people to know what brand or type of underwear I'm wearing. Soapbox aside, I gathered from Bisutti's story that she had modeled, won the VS competition, become a Christian, then quit modeling, in that order.

I was wrong. (Not the first time, shockingly.) According to Bisutti, she became a Christian around the age of 14 or 15, just before she set off for New York solo to really start her modeling career. At first I thought, Good, this is the right example of coming to Christ. God doesn't ask us to change ourselves and then come to Him, but come to Him and let Him change us. Bisutti didn't once think modeling and Christianity clashed. She did feel that becoming a Christian helped her see herself as beautiful regardless of what others said, but that feeling wavered considerably when she was called fat and found herself on a fruit cleanse one holiday in order to lose a considerable amount of weight for Fashion Week. 

Honestly, she was set up to fail. Her faith in Christ was so new that jetting off to New York at the age of 16 and immersing herself in the modeling industry did not provide the spiritually enriching environment she needed. Instead, she ignored countless red flags and continually gave in, starving herself, losing weight, and participating in photo shoots she once considered (and still considered, to a certain degree) inappropriate. She was fueled by a lustful desire to be the best and to make it to the top of the modeling ladder; she would do anything to get there. 

It started getting a little fuzzy for me after Bisutti married, and, according to her, really dug into God's Word and sought His will for her life. When the Victoria's Secret flyer landed in her hands, she thought this could be God's will for her. What?! I guess I have a hard time understanding Bisutti's naivete. Did she really think strutting down a runway in lingerie was God-honoring? I realize she hadn't been raised to consider modesty, but she presumably wasn't stupid. You might say she was "only" 19, but the girl writing this post is "only" 20 and can use the common sense God gave her. Bisutti mentions that she didn't realize how that type of clothing affected men. Seriously? Previous experiences she wrote about would suggest otherwise. She knew she was beautiful, and she knew she affected at least the men around her in an often negative way. She knew how to walk a runway and work a crowd, popping her hips and blowing kisses. She wanted to be sensuous and sexy. So how does that fit in with her proclaimed desire to live for God in every way? I just don't know. I can't explain it. Was she just that naive and clueless, or did she simply allow her over-powering desire to be the best cloud her judgment?

Bisutti also suggests, several times, that her husband didn't know anything about modeling, and that he didn't realize what entering the Victoria's Secret competition meant. Really? I feel like you would have to be living under a rock to not know about Victoria's Secret. Even if he didn't, did he not think it odd when his wife showed off the new bathing suit she would be wearing at the casting call? While reading the last half of this book, I repeatedly muttered to myself, People can't be this naive. I don't know, maybe they can. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to parade around in barely there lingerie but became physically ill in the presence of nude dancers. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to participate in photo shoots for magazines targeting men but became irate when some of her pictures turned up on inappropriate websites. It is odd to me that Bisutti didn't mind showing her "stuff" and working the crowd but would never accept alcohol offered to her because she was underage. There is a huge disconnect from reality somewhere in here.

Add to that the statement Victoria's Secret made after Bisuitti shared her story. They say she was never a Victoria's Secret "Angel" and that she never had a modeling contract with them. However, they do say she requested a contract from them multiple times. To them, it is incorrect for Bisutti to refer to herself as a former Victoria's Secret model, because they never gave her that title. True, this could amount to no more than a he said she said argument, but I thought it worth mentioning. Make of it what you will.

I truly hope that the change in Bisutti is a product of her growing relationship with God. I pray that she can influence young girls in a positive way. I'm No Angel was interesting to read, with (thankfully!) very good writing for a memoir type book. I didn't find any tiring sections or places where I wished the editor had given more than a once over. I'm No Angel gave me a lot to think about concerning modeling, beauty, and God's will for our lives. I learned more about the behind the scenes of modeling than I ever wanted to know. (I won't say I was surprised, though.) I am happy that Bisutti is using her past to tell others about Jesus. I pray that with the upcoming publication of her devotional book, many young girls will see themselves in a new Light. I also pray that God will bless Bisutti's future endeavors with a touch more common sense than her last ones.

** I decided not to link to anything but the book itself because most webpages referring to Mrs. Bisutti include her more revealing modeling images, and, as you'll read in one of the quotes below, Bisutti prefers those didn't exist.

Adults don't always realize the profound effect their words can have on young kids--girls in particular. These people mean well, of course. What harm could possibly come from telling a little girl she's pretty? Technically, none--unless that's the only affirmation she ever hears. Unless that's the only reason she gets attention.
Page 15

I'd been treating God like a genie in a lamp, making childish wishes and then waiting for Him to deliver. But God didn't send His Son to die on the cross so that one day I could become a famous fashion model.
Page 98

And thanks to the Internet, there will always be dozens of images of me out there I wish didn't exist. They stand as a sobering reminder of where I've been--but also as tangible proof of how far God has brought me since then. While those images may never go away, I can assure you the girl in them no longer exists.
Page 237
Author: Kylie Bisutti
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Publication: 2013
Pages: 301
ISBN: 9781414383866

1.13.2014

10 Things Nursing School Taught Me

My second semester of nursing school begins in just a few days, and I'm thinking about all of the things I learned last semester. It's one thing to learn the skills, like tracheal suctioning and subQ injections, and an entirely different thing to learn the critical thinking, the how and why and what can I do. I felt pretty confident going in, but by the time I stepped out of the skills lab and onto the hospital floor I felt anything but. Though I never reached a point when I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing in every situation, I learned to recognize my strengths and ask for help with my weaknesses.

I'm not jumping up and down with joy at the thought of this coming semester, probably because I'm still pretty tired from the last one. But I do feel like I can go into this  one with a little more clarity and hopefully a lot more humility. This semester I'm enrolled in mental health, med surg, and research. I felt a little meh about mental health until I received the syllabus, and now I think it might be my favorite class. I hope! The following list contains a few things my first semester of nursing school taught me (humor included).

1.  There's no such thing as too many highlighters.

2.  Failing to read every chapter of that massive textbook is OK. Better to understand the big picture than to swamp your mind with too many details at first.

3.  NCLEX-style questions really are different! Learning how to answer them correctly equals answering test questions correctly.

4.  Clinical is about the patient, not you.

5.  You learn more about nursing from your patients than from your instructors.

6.  Respect the uniform. Patients and visitors think you know things, like how to get the IV pump to stop beeping (second semester skill) and where the cafeteria is located.

7.  Select all that apply questions are possibly weapons of mass nursing student destruction.

8.  You can have a life during nursing school as long as you make the time for one.

9.  What happens at clinical stays at clinical. Protect your patients' privacy. (Think HIPAA.)

10.  Nursing school is hard and sometimes frustrating, but the patients are wonderful and the ability to do even a little something to make them feel better makes up for it.

I'll end with this comic strip, because I'm positive this is how I am now around family and friends.

1.06.2014

Book Review \\ The Selection by Kiera Cass



When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me. I didn't want to be royalty. And I didn't want to be a One. I didn't even want to try.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is another title to put on the dystopian fiction shelf. I have to say, though, that its dystopian qualities are unlike those of Divergent or The Hunger Games. This is a more laid back, romantic version. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but, coming from those series, my expectations were probably a little too high. The Selection does deliver as far as likable heroines go, but the story is a little slow at times, and the excitement of new dresses isn't exactly the excitement of battle scenes.

Still, it's nice to meet a heroine who isn't out killing people and then struggling with PTSD. America Singer is likable and brave in her own right as she leaves her beloved family to be part of the Selection, a group of young woman chosen to vie for Prince Maxon's attentions. Only one will end up with a ring on her hand and a crown on her head. It's sort of a game show meets speed dating. The prince does his best to "date" each women in order to narrow down his prospects, and the girls participate in near weekly televised interviews. I've read that some have compared it to Esther's story in the Bible, but I would say that is an extremely loose connection, one that I personally wouldn't suggest.

The first person, past tense writing style is enjoyable. America's descriptions of life around her is interesting, from her modest home to the impeccable palace. If I could actually go to that palace, I would. Her largest troubles revolve around her boyfriend from home, Aspen, who dumped her just before she was selected, and Prince Maxon, who is surprisingly different from the prince who appears on the television screen. And even if she doesn't want to be part of the Selection, she has her family to think about. The compensation they receive for her participation is not only appreciated but also needed. A love triangle follows, of course, which is perhaps the thing I dislike most. Overdone much?

My final thoughts? The Selection is enjoyable but not exciting. It's an interesting idea that's fairly executed. Fans of young adult fiction will probably enjoy it, but those who decide to pass on it shouldn't worry about missing out on a whole lot. I disliked the occasional expletive (d---, h---) because they added zero to the story; plus, they made me decrease my like of America. Neither did I like America's relationship with Aspen, because it seems to be based mostly on physical attraction and geographical proximity. Though not explicit, in a couple of places they, as another blogger so eloquently stated, and the best way I can explain it, "mess around," only harbored by laws that would imprison them if they went any further. I think that's a bit ridiculous, since they sneak around their parents and the city's curfew anyway. Prince Maxon's character, in my opinion, is much more likable. (Side note. I don't know if I missed a description of Maxon's accent. I feel like it has to be British, but of course there isn't such a thing in this futuristic world. His "my dears" and general dialogue make me think British.)

The second book in the series, The Elite, was published in 2013, and the third book, The One, will be published in May of this year. A couple of other reviews to read: Dreaming Under the Same Moon (where I got the idea to read The Selection and where I "borrowed" that eloquent phrasing) and Characterized.
Title: The Selection (The Selection #1)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication: 2012
Pages: 327
ISBN: 9780062059932
Many thanks to my local library!

1.03.2014

Book Review \\ Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering


From the tip of his black Homburg to the crease in his cheviot trousers, he's the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered.

Drew Farthering is an avid reader of mysteries, but he's quite surprised when he stumbles across one in real life. With help from his good friend Nick and American visitor Madeline, Drew draws upon all his knowledge of mysteries to solve the crime. He'd better be careful though, because this mystery hits closer to home than he realizes.

Rules of Murder is a fun mystery set on the backdrop of 1930s England. The characters and dialogue are perhaps the book's best, but I hate to say that because it means leaving out a very important part: the murder mystery. I love reading a mystery that has me guessing. Weaved into the madness is an interesting side story surrounding author Ronald Knox's ten commandments for mystery writers. Julianna Deering breaks or bends them all, but successfully delivers an enjoyable whodunnit murder mystery.

Title: Rules of Murder
Author: Julianna Deering
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Publication date: August 1, 2013
Number of pages: 336
ISBN: 0764210955
Many thanks to the publisher for
sending me a copy of the book
in exchange for an honest review!

12.19.2013

*Sigh*

Man was not created to be separated from his creator; hence he sighs, longing for home. The creation was never intended to be inhabited by evil; hence she sighs, yearning for the Garden. And conversations with God were never intended to depend on a translator; hence the Spirit groans on our behalf, looking to a day when humans will see God face to face. \\ Max Lucado in God Came Near
I've done a lot of sighing lately. In the middle of the semester I sighed because I was overwhelmed and ready for Thanksgiving break. At the end of the semester I sighed in relief; my first semester of nursing school is behind me! Now I sigh, frustrated and a little sad. When I look back on this year I see a lot of great things, but I also see a lot of hard things that unfortunately aren't going away just because the calendar will soon read 2014.

I often sigh when I crawl into bed at night, a mixture of relief and exhaustion. Some days require deeper sighs than others. I sigh sometimes when I talk to God, especially when I can't figure out how to say out loud what the deepest part of me feels. I love the section in Romans 8 that talks about the Holy Spirit praying for us:
If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. \\ The Message
Imagine that. God hears our sighs and groans and He knows. He knows! Whatever is in the deepest cracks of our souls, God knows. And He heals. Oh, He heals. It's not enough that the Holy Spirit interprets our wordless aching. That's why Jesus came on that Christmas long ago. God couldn't just listen to us and not heal us. He came, He died, He rose, and He heals.
And in the agony of Jesus lies our hope. Had he not sighed, had he not felt the burden for what was not intended, we would be in a pitiful condition. Had he simply chalked it all up to the inevitable or washed his hands of the whole stinking mess, what hope would we have? But he didn't. . . . He groans for the day when all sighs will cease, when what was intended to be will be. \\ Max Lucado in God Came Near