CS: Self-Defense

For those of you who haven’t met me, I’m 5’7″ and athletic; I walk with some level of urgency, and my steps are solid and certain. Plus, I’m black. All of this means that when I go out in public, even at night, I’m not particularly afraid for my safety. God bless the thief who tries to rob a Black girl who’s rushing to her car to escape a cold February evening. But that night, I felt fear for the first time. I wasn’t on my couch watching a scary movie or barreling down a roller coaster alongside friends. Last Wednesday, as I was walking to my car in the dark, a thin-frame emerged from the nearby parking lot and followed my exact path – only a few feet behind.

When I was young, I spent a significant amount of time in my father’s office building. After school, I would head there, and go up to his office to say hi and pray that he would give me fifty cents to buy a kiss cake in the shop next door. I’d sit in an empty room or the kitchen and do homework while the snack kept me company. And I’d wait happily for my dad to come downstairs and take me home. I spent over a decade following this routine, and one day, one of daddy’s coworkers joined me in the kitchen. I felt I had little of value to say to this grown woman, but she sweetly engaged with me in between bites of her food. One of her first questions was this, “what do you want to be?”

My answer was immediate: “A writer.” Nothing else made sense to me then. Nothing else makes sense to me now. I sat there and watched as her face changed, and she stared at me with some level of shock in her eyes. She mentioned after a moment that mine was a great and rare dream. And with that, I understood how beautiful it was to be given a passion that few understand, and no school or mentor could effectively teach. I lived for great stories, and that mattered.

I believe that we don’t care enough for some of the most precious parts of ourselves because we can’t see them. We shower and eat well to take care of a body we can physically see and touch. But we neglect the softer aspects of who we are because what is unseen is often forgotten by our fickle minds and hearts.

The young man following me, if seen in the daytime, would be ignored. He was young and scrawny, wearing a hoodie that made him look pale under the weak glow of the streetlamp. He kept a brisk pace, matching mine. I looked at my car. It was nice: red, sporty, somewhat clean with relatively new tires. It was all he could take from me, but I panicked, thinking that he would assume I was lying if I said I had no money with me. I hurried to my car and jumped in. Do you ever get that feeling as though there’s acid being poured over your heart? My chest burned and my fingers shook slightly, as I looked back. The young man walked past. I watched as he kept looking back at my car as he walked into the darkness.

I was eager to protect my body, my car and everything in it. Maybe even protect the future this young man might have wanted to take from me, but I find it interesting that there are things just as valuable that I don’t fear losing.

When I was 15 and I decided to legitimize my dream of becoming a writer and publish my work, nothing could stop me. And I mean that. You could have burned the manuscripts or set my computer on fire, and 9 months later I still would have published. Three years afterward, I was working on a big project; one that I was preparing to publish as my second book. But with only a few words from a close friend of mine, undermining my story idea, I never touched that tale again. Literally – I’d being writing for months, and after that day, I never returned to the word document.

As we grow older, we lose our zeal and determination, even though it should grow in order for us to stand strong against a critical and discouraging world. My desire to produce crazy good stories eroded as I gave too much credence to others’ perceptions.

I sat idly by, and chose not to defend something of incredible value to me. And there’s no excuse for that.

There’s a lot that can infringe on the unseen parts of your life. These thieves can rob you of your ambitions, of your strength and vitality, and even undermine your character if you’re not diligent to protect yourself. Without paying attention, your social life can rob you of your morals. Your family drama can erode your belief in love and marriage. The small but sharp criticisms of your parents can stunt your confidence. Specifically, caring too much about the opinions of others, and not investing enough time in building yourself up, can do more damage than you realize. These are thin blades, cutting and peeling away at our treasure over time. And we barely notice it happening. On the other end of things, is a simple lack of focus. We should want to see those hidden parts of ourselves flourish, but we grow lazy in favor of immediate gratification. Or things that feed our pride like the affections of others.

Or pursuing material things that make us feel accomplished and powerful.

Your legacy isn’t tied up in your salary or how nice your car is. Your children will not be impressed by how good your makeup is, nor will they care about how passionately you follow cricket. Today and in the future, what matters are three things: the way you treat others, the way you manage your resources, and the way your steward your gifts/talents (for the good or ill of others). Those things make up your legacy. And they deserve your attention and protection.

When I was 17, I cared so much about what my friend thought of my writing, I let her steal that story from me. Instead, I should have fought back, and pushed through the discomfort. I should have registered her criticism as destructive, and ignored it in order to protect what was shaping up to be a great story. Last Wednesday, I shouldn’t have been walking to my car by myself – at night. I should’ve asked someone to come with me, or carried pepper spray. These are no-brainers, yet we almost never do them.

***

There are things in your life right now that’s precious and worth protecting. Fight for them, don’t let quiet thieves rob you of your passion or undercut your character. I don’t care much for pop culture, but let me just say here that you have to ignore the haters, and grind behind the scenes. No one will do it for you. And if you let poor time management, what others think and a lack of focus describe your entire existence, then you are leaving the doors and windows of your very being open, and inviting thieves to come in and destroy it all.

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PP: Holistic Health Symposium Media Advisory

MEDIA ADVISORY

20 May, 2015

Contact: Davina Bruno

Email: davinbruno@hotmail.com

 

AUSTIN, Texas, 28 May, 2015 – The Holistic Health Symposium is a free conference informing the public about the health significance of a mind, body, and spirit balance. It is part of an ongoing community health awareness program, which allows holistic practitioners and community members to gather and discuss health issues that are relevant to Austin.

Striving to be a yearly event, the symposium is in response to the fact that Texas is one of the nation’s most obese states, ranking as #12 on the CBS News report. Austin is a relatively fit city, however, holistic health teaches prevention of maladies like obesity, instead of curative exercise treatments and stringent diets. It is a message for everyone.

The World Community Club, student clubs at the Austin Community College and The University of Texas at Austin, Gilbert Tuhabonye, members of Austin ISD, other media outlets and community organizations are only a few of the guests that have been invited to the event.  

The conference begins at 6:30pm with healthy refreshments and a time of socializing, and the panel discussion begins at 7p.m. and ends at 8 p.m. It will be held at the Carver Museum on 1165 Angelina Street, Austin, Texas.

 

         The City of Austin is proud to comply with the

                     American with Disabilities Act. If you require special

                         assistance for participation in our program or the use

   of this facility, please call 512-974-4926

CS: The Pursuit of Happiness

I was born a creative. My favorite books growing up were two craft manuals and a cookbook on the shelf near the study room. They were not only memorized in my prepubescent mind, but they were mesmerizing. I spent hours every day during my summers pouring over those pages, and gathering glue and paper, or the baking flour that remained from the previous day’s adventure, hoping that my newest creation would be the pinnacle of culinary or artistic expression. They were often mediocre at best, and even at that age, I knew not to be proud of it. So I tried different recipes, hoping to stumble upon a specialty, something my hands and heart naturally yielded to. I hope it’s not too late to make such discoveries because I put those hobbies away a long time ago, in favor for a rat race where there is no apparent finish line.

My life goal isn’t one that is encouraged by academia. In fact, I didn’t know any writers in college, people courageous enough to follow an unconventional dream; instead, I was surrounded by budding professionals nailing down internships and buying nice blazers. Everyone was preparing to be employees, and I got sucked into that vacuum of normalcy. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I knew several established authors to mentor me, show me that a different path exists. Maybe I wouldn’t have stopped writing in college, and maybe all the creativity I held inside of me wouldn’t have been exchanged for a 3.9 GPA, and letters from honor societies.

I was on the phone, driving home from a job interview. The job was going to be mundane, and even when I toured the facility, all I could think of were small, tired rats running in a closed loop, energized only by the hope for a bigger piece of cheese at the end of the day. The building was clean, white and modern; there were a few yoga balls and even a dog sleeping under one of the tables. It was a millennials’ dream, more or less. But I was anything but excited about it. As I drove, I couldn’t help but remember all those details, and how unhappy I would be there.

My boyfriend didn’t like that I was interviewing for jobs that I’d hate, and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I was rounding the corner of Riverside and Congress when I paused. After I told him what I really wanted to do, something inside me shifted. All of a sudden, I saw myself in a career that didn’t bring in a steady paycheck and no benefits. I was walking outside of the norm, where the terrain was uneven, and very few others were brave enough to tread there. But I had verbalized my dream to the one person I could count on to keep me accountable on a daily basis, and there was no turning back.

The thing is, the education system doesn’t encourage the type of lifestyle where you make your own future. It creates employees. That’s it; it prepares people for the office setting, to do a task, do it well and maybe even get a raise after a few months. It tells you to make sacrifices beyond reason so that your GPA and resume stands out among a stack of 600, but doesn’t tell you that nepotism and connections will still outdo all of your hard work. For the average millennial, the job I interviewed for is the pinnacle, the absolute zenith where there is potential for a bright future. For me, that job was literally a place where my unhappiness would grow.

I didn’t get it by the way.

And that’s the thing: for years, I was convinced that the way to make it in the world was to work hard and impress the adults. I wanted to be a journalist as a teenager, but my father told me to do public relations because the pay was better. I listened to him, and everyone else who screamed incessantly that money was a key factor, power and success were it’s suite-mates, and I should want, more than anything, to live in their company. So I forsook my loves. I didn’t bake for two years; not once during that time did I pick up a book outside of my assigned readings, and for sure I didn’t have enough time to craft or draw. I wrote my first story in college at the tail end of my last semester and I sacrificed the things that made me happy, so that I could become a worker who would always be too tired to pursue personal ambitions. And the Christians would say that your happiness doesn’t come from anything in this world, but from God. I’d differ, my joy comes from Jesus, that will never change. But I am happiest when I create, and that creativity is a gift given from God for me to enjoy. It breaks up my days and makes me smile.

I have very few regrets in this life. One of them is turning my back on my passions in pursuit of the American Dream, and we all know what that’s worth in this economy. I got my first job through a summer-long endeavor following up and pestering one of my business connections, not because of my resume. Now, having a solid resume for my age, I work at a second-rate restaurant serving wings and beer. My GPA can’t save me now, neither can all those hours invested in public relations. None of it can. The only thing that is keeping me afloat is the dream I’ve buried for a long time.

I don’t need a 401K to retire comfortably, nor do I need a job with paid vacation days. However, I need a job that is easy on my body, and kind to my mental health. One where I can make a living, and also make a life – give that some thought and you’d see that they’re two very different things.

God created everyone with the natural ability to do one or a few things that align with their purpose. I know many people who have an eye for business and effect real change in the organizations they work for, change that work for God’s glory. Others are photographers creating with purpose, or administrators doing church planting work. For me, I am happiest when I slow down, look at an empty medium, and fill it with beauty. Whether it’s an empty cookie sheet, blank canvas or blank word document. I realize that I grow restless and unhappy when I am away from this part of life.

So even though I studied PR, I wasn’t made to fill my days with press conferences and event planning, and even though I’m a great marketing consultant, I never want to return to that life.

But for this new year, I’m making a commitment to myself unlike those I’ve made in the past. I’m dedicating time and other resources to self-care and the unabashed pursuit of my passions. It’s the only way that I can thrive and grow as a person. It’s something I believe very strongly in, because as I worked to grow other people’s businesses or listen to others’ woes, I neglected myself, and it’s a gross infraction that stands tall in my mind as a personal failure. I’m going to set aside time to read and to work on my goals. I’m going to create and build, and do all of it for me. I stopped seeing this as selfish a long time ago, because when I’m bitter about where I am, and unhappy out of exhaustion and stress, nobody wins, and at that point I have little left inside of me to give to others.

I want to get to a place where I spend most of my time working on stories that will inspire change. At the end of that day, I hope to be so full of happiness and fulfillment that it overflows from my very being, and it inspires others to follow their hearts as well. So for this new year, I pray that you all do some serious introspection and answer honestly: “Is this what I want to do with my life?”

If it’s not, the ball is in your court. As long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late to make a change.

CS + PP: The City of Waco

Waco Texas sits between the two bustling metropolises of Austin and Dallas, and certainly doesn’t skip a beat when it comes to shadowing the vibrancy of its sister cities. Waco presents visitors with a culinary oasis, filled with Asian, Italian and American flavors, and brings the convenience of food parks and trucks to hungry workers, shoppers and excitement-seekers.

Industrious citizens are wise in bringing such an excellent variety of food to the table, because this diversity pairs well with the cultural and educational landscape of the town. Home to Baylor University, Waco is also the known for its numerous art galleries, zoos and breweries, most notably the Dr. Pepper Museum and the Bear Habitat sponsored by Baylor and its citizens’ love for animal preservation.

Beyond these excellent attractions, the true community-minded spirit of Waco can clearly be seen in its Cultural District. Here, visitors and locals enjoy poetry readings, festivals, live music, exhibitions and other events that are both engaging and family-friendly. Lovers of theater are continually entertained by Waco’s therapeutic array of symphonies, theater groups and dance companies, each bringing a unique brand of creativity. For people wanting to experience and not just observe the city’s culture, several large festivals pop up each year, attracting visitors from other states and cities to join in the fun. From the Heart O’ Texas Chili Festival to the Cinco de Mayo Fest, events run almost through the entire year.  

And of course, as a college town, Waco‘s nightlife is thriving; there’s no shortage of specialty pubs and restaurants, and that suites the population just fine. Apart from the entertainment draws of the city, Waco is a shopper’s paradise. For higher-end shoppers, there’s specialty boutiques galore, eager to cater to wild and extravagant needs. For penny wise shoppers, antique and thrift stores abound, not to mention art and gift shops. With this Texas town, there’s an obvious and almost electric attraction that flows very directly from the people.

In Waco, we see not only ingenuity and industry, but a strong love for the environment, the community and of course the state of Texas. Residents stay, and visitors don’t want to leave, and that in itself, makes Waco a true treasure.

CS: It Follows

I woke up slowly, almost nervously. The curtains were pulled back, and the 8am sun forced my eyes open, illuminating my eyelids no matter how far I buried my face into the pillow. My first thought was a simple one: I’m home. My second, a bit more complex: what if I’d never left 3 years ago? I tried to imagine my life here again, and let those memories wash over my mind in hurried waves. I’d probably be teaching still, or maybe assisting the PR officer at a firm where daddy has connections. Or maybe I’d be a pretty-faced bank teller handing people money all day. Regardless, the quietness of home was difficult to adjust to in that moment, and I knew that my 23 year-old self would be unsatisfied with that type of quiet, limited life.

So why did my soul long for home with a desire I couldn’t ignore?

Early morning on September 12th this year, my boss texted me. She wasn’t in the office yet, but I already had my day pulled up on the computer, and was working away at sales leads. Her text held a different tone than usual: it was tense and businesslike, and her words curtly invited me to lunch with her that day. Anywhere I wanted. She didn’t explain why she was late or the purpose for the meeting but I knew… In my mind’s eye, I saw the last 2 weeks at the office. Her late arrivals, quietness, nervousness as she sat behind me monitoring my work. This was it.

And it was. The day my boss told me that the company was officially closing, I was fighting a cold. As she explained that sales have been struggling for a while, a cough gripped my throat, and my eyes watered. I hoped she wouldn’t think I was crying. But part of me was – because I felt like I was being blamed. I grew defensive because my job was hard enough – to sell print advertising which no one buys anymore. To convince people that this medium served a purpose equal to that of digital media. The conversation turned from kind, to passive aggressive, and when my chicken and waffles were half gone, I asked for a box, and left slightly ahead of her.

Her anxieties, like the demonic killer of the horror film “It Follows” found a new home. I can feel a solid heaviness in my heart constantly, and even now as I’m typing, it grips me in a very real way. It has followed me into interviews, and it keeps me awake at night out of an equally terrible fear of what a new day might bring. I never knew anxiety really existed, because I always felt immune to it. More than that, I knew, and know now that this type of anxiety is unGodly. It pains me to admit that this has followed me for the past 2 months, because I feel like somewhere, deep down, I don’t trust that God is in control of this. Somewhere He dropped the ball, and hasn’t noticed me down here struggling yet. This realization of my poor sense of faith wasn’t the catalyst I needed to pull me out of it apparently, because even though I had only a few hours of sleep in the prior 24 hours to my arrival home, I had trouble closing my eyes to rest…

I’m anxious now because I’m going back to no job, because of the mistakes I’ve made in my job hunt, because I’ve over-drafted my debit account too often, and accidentally exceeded my credit card limit buying this flight home. I’m anxious because this heart change is so hard, and I’m anxious because I feel like anything I find outside of this realm of brokenness will somehow be worst than what I’m feeling now. But in reality, my life is still okay. I still have a place to live, and a support system, and a back-up plan. I still have Jesus, and if He’s not enough, then I’ve been lying about my Christianity to myself and others. I still have my health, and I’m still well fed. So what’s the problem, why do I feel the need to return to a place that I may never live in again?

I think it’s because of that fact that when I lived in Grenada, anxiety truly was a myth. Peace was my home, and happiness my roommate, and Jesus was everywhere. In gospel songs on the radio, on people’s lips, moving freely through a more-or-less spiritually pure atmosphere. The moment I would feel my grip loosening, He would wrap His hands around mine and help me to hold on for as long as I needed to. What right did anxiety have in an environment like that?

Now as I’m here, my purpose is to reclaim that peace, and find my balance again. Yes, I know God’s peace is everywhere, even in Austin Texas, but this is where most of you can no longer relate, and I trust that where you cannot extend empathy, you can withhold judgment at my desire to travel far to find something as free and available as peace. I plan to bury myself in His word, speak out my frustrations as I pace around my empty house during the day, and take long, burdening walks in the hot sun. I’ve made the joke that I may not return. Honestly, there are few things tying me to America now, but I refuse to abandon the life I’ve work tirelessly to build there. I’ve risked and sacrificed a lot moving there by myself, and I will not let a few tough months sink me into despair.

I pray now that God honors my desire to overcome this, and forgives my anxiety. And I pray that I return without the burden of worry bearing down on my tired shoulders. If you’re struggling in the same way, let’s link arms and journey through this together (message me) ❤

PP: Goodie Mob to headline at Forty Acres Fest

Texas Union Student Events Center

Forty Acres Fest Committee

P.O. Box 7338

Austin, Texas 78713

512-475-6636

 

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                   Feb. 24, 2014

 

For more information contact: Davina Bruno

Public Relations Coordinator

davinabruno@hotmail.com

 

Goodie Mob to headline at Forty Acres Fest

       AUSTIN, Texas – Legendary hip-hop group Goodie Mob will headline at this year’s Forty Acres Fest to be held Saturday March 22, at the main mall at the University of Texas at Austin.

       Goodie Mob, a hip-hop musical group originating from Atlanta, comprises Cee-Lo Green and three other hip-hop artists. While pursuing a solo career since 1999, Green won five Grammy nominations for his hit song “Forget You!” among others. He recently returned to the group.

       Goodie Mob’s critically acclaimed record “Soul Food” began their four-album career in 1995 and ranked eighth on Billboard Magazine’s Hip Hop Albums chart. They will be the headline act.

       David Ramirez, a singer and songwriter from Austin, Texas, will be the festival’s opening act. He was called “one of America’s great undiscovered songwriters,” by Austin Monthly Magazine and is known to draw a large gathering of college students with his traditional folk music.

       “Chiddy Bang was pretty good (at last year’s fest) but I personally like the artist that’s coming this year better,” said sophomore Alexis Karis at a press conference on Feb. 24. “I think the music will be energetic and fun and I think that people will really enjoy it.”

“Forty Acres Fest showcases our finest asset at the University of Texas: our exceptional students, their involvement on campus and their commitment to service,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin at a news conference held Feb. 21.

       “Forty Acres Fest showcases our finest asset at the University of Texas: our exceptional students, their involvement on campus and their commitment to service,” said William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin at a news conference held Feb. 21.

       The event is free and lasts from noon to midnight. The main stage will feature music and entertainment all day before the main acts begin at 7 p.m.

        More than 200 student organizations will be in attendance with over 50 groups selling food and drinks for $1, and offering a host of fun activities.  

       The event is predicted to attract countless passers-by, “it’s in the thousands at least,” said Taylor Strickland who works for the Dean’s Squad, an affiliate organization of the Dean of Students.

        Held annually, Forty Acres Fest is the largest musical event at the university, and also the largest student-run event in the nation. The affair has a tradition of great musical acts. Past acts include Common and Little Richard.

        More information about the occasion can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

CS: Settling

The sounds in the house shifted steadily throughout the night. At first, there were stories in the kitchen, and the sound of vodka bottles being opened; laughter; the splashing of water in the hot tub outside. And then, the crying began. I felt like a relative newcomer to the group, so when one of the girls began throwing up in between long, heart-stopping wails, I felt helpless. When she came from the bathroom, dizzy and wet, I told her to sit on my lap. She was small, and curled up on my thighs, fitting neatly into the various curves of my body like a huge puzzle piece. And she grieved. Her body shook and her face was wet with tears. Her words were choppy, and in that moment, my heart broke so deeply for my friend, that I pulled her close, and fought back my own tears. He had broken up with her over a year ago, but when he left, he’d ripped out a huge part of her spirit. It was a grotesque act, and I saw it in the way her mouth would open in a soundless cry, and her eyes, normally lit up with wit and happiness, seemed blank.

In Christian circles, marriage is held high as the ultimate goal for women. I didn’t know this at first, but it became obvious soon enough. In Grenada, I was celebrated for my academic achievements, my intelligence and the ways I honored my family. In America, women are referenced in relation to their husbands. It’s odd to me, because I’d always imagined myself getting married in my late 20’s, so was I supposed to lay in wait in my apartment, pining daily for a man? A man to do what? To do what I couldn’t do myself? I’ll call BS on that one for myself, and for my grieving friend. And it’s definitely not just modern churches in the US. This rhetoric is everywhere.

***

When one of my roommates asked me if I was a lesbian, I froze. She and I had worked together for over 2 years, and the question not only stunned me, but it stung as well. The underlying implication sunk in: she could not imagine me with a man. It wasn’t too long after that that I started my journey through the wonderful world of online dating (if you know me well, I trust you read the sarcasm of that last statement). It was a year-long journey, with months of active profiles, months of being off-the-grid, and a long stretch where I was on multiple sites at once. I was determined to define my womanhood with the validation of a man. In retrospect, those were some of my bleakest months.

During that time, it became clear that I was thinking about it wrong, and not just thinking about “dating” wrong, but viewing myself incorrectly. When did that become obvious? When I found myself hinting to one guy that he needed to take me out on a real date, and when he did, he told me we were a poor fit spiritually, and should stop seeing each other. I can’t remember feeling more slighted by a guy, especially one I felt like I was settling for…

So after that, in the quiet of my bedroom with nothing to entertain myself except for a few books and social media, I came into my own. Instead of viewing my singleness as a curse, and hinging my self-worth and emotions on men, I decided that I was going to become every good thing I wanted in a guy. I wanted ambition, so I started grinding away at work on high speed; I wanted strength so I started pumping iron at the gym; I wanted a spiritual backbone, so I committed myself to service and learning at my church. There would be nothing I would one day look for in a guy, that I didn’t possess in myself. And by the end of the year, when I hopped onto another dating site, I was whole. And I was ready.

So whenever I was asked out on a date after that, I made it clear that the choice whether or not we moved forward was mine, not his. And I came home after each failed date, content that if I really wanted to be wined and dined, I could bank-roll myself. Now, I can look back and say that I’ve had adventures and grown beautifully – by myself. I smile now at the memories of solo road trips, concerts, movies, events and nice dinners; of the extra time I had to develop lifelong bonds, and the bravery to approach both women and men with an offering of friendship, learning their stories and being emotionally available. It was freeing.

Riding solo is a gift as much as being in a relationship is. Yes, I know this cliche is hard to believe, but it’s coming from someone who spent the first 22 years, 11 months and 3 weeks of her life preparing for the convent, and getting ready to die alone. I know how frustrating this is. But if you’re single, this is your time to invest in yourself the way no man will ever be able to; no one else will have more of an interest in your life than you. So grind, balance your checkbook, set the dance floor ablaze solo or with your squad, knowing that your happiness is in your own very capable hands.

For some balance, I will say that women do have very specific roles. I take absolute pride and pleasure in being a helper to my boyfriend, as much as is expected at this stage in our relationship. I love reassuring him, encouraging him, spoiling him whenever I can. However, we are called not only to be strong mothers and wives, but also to be industrious and to build (see Proverbs 31:10-31). But if you ever feel like you’re “less-than” because you’re single, then it’s time to focus on developing yourself; whatever you’re looking for in a guy, write it down, and challenge yourself to become all of those things.

And remember, God’s most treasured gift to humanity lived His entire life on earth as a bachelor… When you do get hitched, that is the time to cherish unity with someone else. Until then, have a single-hood that you will remember far beyond children and houses and retirement. Use this time to complete yourself because truly, any relationship where either person looks to other for completion, is unhealthy and sinking. Sweet lady, be the man of your life and thrive.

PP: UT Ranks 2nd in the Number of Alumni Volunteers for AmeriCorps

UT Ranks 2nd in the Number of Alumni Volunteers for AmeriCorps

By Davina Bruno

AUSTIN, Texas – The University of Texas at Austin ranked second in the number of university alumni that volunteered last year for AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs, according to an AmeriCorps report released Feb. 12.

AmeriCorps engages Americans in community service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment.

“I am grateful to AmeriCorps for the recognition and I am proud of the university’s tradition of volunteer service,” said William Powers Jr., president of the University of Texas at Austin. Last year the university contributed 116 undergraduate and graduate school alumni volunteers.

The university has been providing volunteers to AmeriCorps since the organization started in 1993 and has since contributed over 1,200 volunteers. In 2013, the University of Texas came second to the University of Washington in the number of alumni representing each school.

The university’s contribution of admirable volunteers “has been instrumental in helping AmeriCorps achieve its mission of improving the lives of all Americans,” said Emily Jabowski, director of AmeriCorps.

The organization also improves the lives of student volunteers by providing the student volunteers with benefits such as health care assistance, a stipend, and help to repay current student debts and graduate degree costs.

“In this tough economy, we’re advising students to look seriously at national and community service options,” said Michael Kaden, career counselor for the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

There are a number of capacities volunteers can fill including combating illiteracy, improving health services, cleaning parks and streams, and building affordable housing.

“I had a great experience in AmeriCorps,” said social work alumnus, Joe Racke who volunteered with AmeriCorps in 2013. “I got to help wonderful people, help our country and grow as a person.”

##

CS: The Changeling

I feel like I’m being bullied. Every time this thought crosses my mind, usually when I begrudgingly look at my reflection in the mirror, I think of the absolute blackness of my human nature to even think such a thing. I stare at my eyes. They’re one of the few things I feel gratitude for. My eyes and my lips. Everything else I squirm to keep looking at, thinking to myself and God that this struggle is so unnecessary.

I didn’t always feel this way about my appearance. A few months ago, you couldn’t convince me with any level of effectiveness that I needed makeup, and don’t even think that I would flinch under the weighty stare of any man. I would spend a long time in bathrooms, looking at my face, smiling meekly and adjusting my hair. You would see me smoothing out my dress against flat abs, and listening to the echoes of my high heels as I strutted down the hallway and back into the office. You didn’t like the way I looked? Well, my love, you don’t have to like what you see for me to go on living my life.

It’s odd to me now that I care even a lick about what other people think. Christmas of 2013 was when I decided that caring about others’ opinions was a foolish and unkind way to live your life, yet here I am. The voice in my head is loud when I’m talking to others; it isn’t actively engaging in whatever conversation I’m in. Instead, it is screaming with a deafening shriek, reminding me of each flaw, and abusively making me pay attention to them. This provokes silence when I’m in groups of people; if I’m talking, people will be looking at me, and if they’re looking at me, then they’ll see what I see everyday…

I realized how toxic this little demon was when I invited my boyfriend to a friendsgiving dinner a few weeks ago. Now understand this, my boyfriend is uncommonly good looking, so when I take him places, and see women whom I envy in some way, the foundation of my confidence, already damaged, continues to crack. And that’s what happened that night. It was a fun time; I laughed, ate, over ate, mingled, but on the way back to dropping him off, my subconscious mind was preparing a conversation I never planned on having.

I knew why he loved me because he had been gracious and transparent enough to explain it, but as we sat in my car, tiredness overcoming us both, I needed to hear it all again. I needed to know that of the women he’d seen that night, he was SURE that I was the one he wanted to do life with. My conscious mind was filled with truths about my beauty and identity being hidden in Christ, but my subconscious brain wasn’t willing to believe that right then.

I asked him why he loved me, ignoring the exhaustion darkening his face; he grew uncomfortable and I could tell that his patience was waning, but I pressed on. It was merciless, but so driven was my need for validation. So ceaseless. The night ended poorly and I struggled to explain myself to him via text later that evening.

It’s almost as though somewhere between the beginning of the year and now, I was knowingly replaced by a changeling, and the real Davina is elsewhere, in a different plane of existence radiating her confidence freely. In reality, I feel like I’m being bullied by God. The issues that I see when I look in the mirror – I don’t see them anywhere else, or not all on one person. It’s not an easy thing to admit, this utter irreverence toward God, His work in making me, and His image which I reflect, but it’s how I feel most days. Especially days like yesterday when my father looked over at me, and commented on my acne with disdain.

My boyfriend, strangers, mutual friends, random people I’ve met, men I’ve worked with, past dates, close friends, all openly reaffirm my beauty. But I’ll tell you something quite plainly, even though he’s been sweet enough to shower me with compliments, I’m the one who needs to do that firstly – and believe what I tell myself. I told him once that he needs to be confident in himself if his significant other finds him attractive. She’s the one who will see him the most and live proudly with what she sees. I see now that this is a lie. You have to be confident for you, because you see yourself the most – 24/7, 365. Everyone else factors little in this equation.

One of the most meaningful compliments I’ve ever received was from a close friend of mine. Our friendship is relatively new, but he consistently proves to be a gem in my circle of friends. I was talking about skin care and acne one night with some girls after Bible Study, and he lingered on the outskirts of the conversation. When the ladies and I were done, I turned to him and we left. Halfway down the stairs, we stopped. It was raining hard and neither of us was prepared for it. More so, I wasn’t prepared for what he said next, “Davina, I’ve never looked at you and thought, acne. I’ve only ever looked at you and thought: Davina.” I can’t quite explain why this has stayed with me, but the look in his eyes is one I will remember for the rest of my life.

My home here is full of mirrors, venomous, and lurking quietly around each corner. But I’m home alone most days, and have no choice but to face them. Apart from this very real push in learning to accept and celebrate myself, is the underlying truth that when God created the world, He said it was good. But when He ended creation by making man, He said it was very good. As someone, like everyone else, who is made in the image of God, looking at myself with anything less than joy and happiness is an automatic slap in the face of the God whom I look like. I would hate for my child to say that they hate a trait they inherited from me. Yes, some of the things I dislike about myself are tied to the brokenness of mankind, for I refuse to believe that God has acne etc., but this is how He made me, and He made me beautiful (that last part is an idea for a tattoo). Celebrations are in order.

PP: How to Stay Warm in a Tent

You don’t go camping for comfort; in fact, we know that you expect a certain level of discomfort when you go outdoors. That’s the point: to forsake everyday comforts and embrace nature without distractions. But being cold or facing ongoing chilly breezes can make even the most memorable sites miserable to camp in. Here are a few ways to avoid the chills and stay warm in a tent.

  1. The first thing you have to plan for is location. Most campgrounds that accommodate tent campers are enormous, spanning hundreds of acres of untouched forestry. This means that there will always be a few dozen spots that are well protected by trees and brush. Choose a spot that’s not only protected, but also well-ventilated. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the heat from your body and even your breath can cause condensation to build up inside your tent, and make everything slightly damp. By choosing a breezy site that’s surrounded by trees, you can avoid some of that biting cold that’s common to mountainous campsites.
  2. Most people consider space blankets or “emergency blankets,” as optional when camping. But more often than not, these blankets are a necessity when it’s difficult to maintain heat in a tent. You’d recognize them as the thin, metallic-looking blankets you’ll see on TV to keep crash victims warm, and they’re designed to be just as useful for staying warm in cold climates. They’re extremely compact, and the heat-reflective material can cast your own body heat back to you, if it’s duct-taped to the ceiling of your tent. As opposed to your body heat rising and leaving the tent, now it’s trapped by the space blanket keeping your living quarters nice and toasty.
  3. Use an insulated pad between you and the ground. I know, sleeping on an air mattress sounds like the perfect idea! However, these will become filled with cold air on even some of the warmest nights, and make it more difficult to maintain comfortable temperatures. Insulated pads offer more insulation than air mattresses, so even if you use an air mattress, place an insulated pad on top of it to get a great night’s sleep without sacrificing warmth.  
  4. Another creative idea is to use small, warm objects to heat up the colder spots in your tent. Use what you can! Fill a water bottle with hot water and place it in your sleeping bag near your toes, or use disposable heat packs or hand warmers. Just before heading into your tent for the night, you could even gather some warm rocks from around the campfire. Place them in old socks, and use them to turn the inner rim of your tent into a protective barrier against the cold. Be creative with the warm items you come into contact with throughout your day; they could come in handy at night time to keep the temperature comfortably high.
  5. A free and easy way to keep warm is to get moving before you get into the tent. By raising your body temperature right before turning in for the evening, you give yourself a better chance of keeping warm throughout the entire night. Opposingly, most people stay near the campfire or play games right before bed, exposing themselves to the cold and lowering their body temperature. This makes it harder to maintain a cozy warmth in the tent. So, do a few jumping jacks, go for a hike or a bike ride right before getting your tent for the night.
  6. This tip goes against what most of us are taught growing up, but when you’re camping in a cold climate, consider midnight snacking. Digestion naturally jolts your metabolic rate, creating bodily heat. If you wake up cold in the middle of the night, consider a high-calorie food such as chocolate, cheese or nuts, and strap in as your food digests and warms you up.
  7. Pack a “sleeping suit.” Most campers pack a sleeping bag, but you can go the extra mile to stay warm by wearing these dry, loose-fitting underwear. You can also wear a winter hat to prevent losing heat through your head. Keeping your hands and feet warm is huge when facing a cold climate because these body parts can suffer the most internal damage if exposed to low temperatures for too long. Wear gloves, multiple socks and Longjohns under your pants to avoid cold limbs.
  8. Limit opening the tent once it’s cold, and specifically during the night. Drink plenty of fluids during the day to stay hydrated, but slow down in the evening time and stop drinking an hour or two before bed. This would ensure that you don’t wake up to pee and let the warmth out of the tent- and the cold air in. This is doubly useful to remember because your body uses warmth to heat the urine that’s in your bladder to 98 degrees. The longer you hold your pee, the more warmth you lose, so avoid those late night trips to the leui! If you do wake up and have to pee, consider peeing in a bottle. Most people understandably dislike doing this, but in order to retain heat at night, designate a pee-bottle or jar. This can be tricky for women, but definitely possible. Thankfully, there’s gear suited for this very purpose!
  9. Finally, on the topic of liquids, prevention is better than a cure. Prevent spills in your tent by getting leak-proof water bottles and being extra careful when eating or drinking in your tent. We get it: eating a thermos-full of soup is great while sitting in a warm tent, but consider eating outside. In cold conditions, spills take longer to dry, and you wouldn’t want to get caught in a damp tent at dusk.

You have that incredible desire to go out into nature, and soak in the beauty of your surroundings. This urge is innate, beautiful and almost instinctual. And we want you to have amazing trips! So use these tips to keep toasty in your tents, sleep well, and get the most out of each day.