Monthly Archives: March 2014

Lessons in Immersion

Frustration shows you’re learning. Confusion is just confusing.
When writing a news story a reporter has to research his or her topic and fact check more than they breathe. They don’t pass go and they certainly don’t provide their opinion. In short reporters don’t exist.
You carry that rule with you from your first news story to your grave— remaining objective, but effective. After a while it becomes second nature. You omit the “I’s”, refrain from the “we’s” and you don’t dare say “in my opinion—“unless you’re Nancy Grace. So when I was told to write an immersion piece I was taken by surprise.

An immersion piece uses the writer to take the reader to a certain place and time. The reader’s senses depend solely on those of the writer making them [the writer] a vital part of the story.
Therefore, when I began writing I had no idea where to start. Being overwhelmed with the power of “I” it was hard to narrow down my experiences to those that were important and those that were not. I assumed that since I was entering a different realm of writing my previous knowledge was irrelevant. However I found that just as you have to be careful about what you put in a news article, you have to also be selective about what you put in an immersion piece. William Zinsser said it best, “ … you must keep a tight rein on your subjective self … and keep an objective eye on the reader.”
With this in mind I weed out all the unimportant details- like how sweaty I was after a workout- and include those that provide a new vantage point for the reader. I’m learning to combine this new form of writing with my journalistic style, and in turn I’m becoming a better journalist.

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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Be Professional


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Against all odds

I went to college.

“BY definition, foster children have been delinquent, abandoned, neglected, physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused … two-thirds never go to college and very few graduate … those who do have an uncommon resilience,”  said New York Times in October 2013.

Five of those listed apply to me. Four applied to me from first to sixth grade. One applies to me now. I guess you can say that I’m abnormally resilient because even after it all I still smile, and laugh, and believe in myself and others.

I was physically abused from the age of six to eleven, sexually abused from age ten to eleven, and by age twelve I was homeless at no fault of my own. (The only upside to being homeless was that the abuse stopped– or at least it did for me. My mom took what I wasn’t getting.)  I was placed in foster care a week before my twelfth birthday, and I only had my younger brother to keep me going. We didn’t see my mom for a year and when we did we had to live with my grandma. Yet through it all I smiled and didn’t complain.  Now I’m a college sophomore majoring in journalism. But I didn’t avoid all the stereotypes.

I was a run away for about 3 days- left all my purses and shoes at home, so I had to go back and get them. (That’s how they got me– packing light has never been my specialty.) I lost my virginity younger than most of my friends. When the guy and I broke up it hurt more than I could have ever imagined, and I lashed out even more. (It was the whole not having a father complex I suppose.) My lashing out got me into a lot of trouble and by the time I turned sixteen I had learn more affective ways to express myself.

However, I learned a little too late and it resulted in me getting raped a few days after my sixteenth birthday. It was the beginning of my sophomore year in high school.  I was broken for a few months. I still smiled and everything, but being raped again brought back horrible memories. I felt like that was what my life was always going to be: abuse and let downs.

Thankfully I had a great family– literally and figuratively speaking– and they helped me through it all. Many didn’t think I was going to make it through high school– let alone graduate with scholarships. The idea of me not being pregnant seemed nothing short of a miracle to many, and of course people questioned my influence as a young lady in a church, but I kept going. I kept smiling. I kept encouraging, and I kept my head up. I got through it all and I’ve made it where I am now. Believe it or not I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had because I can help those in the same position(s) or heading for the same trouble. I’m now a single college student, without any children, a lot of great friends and even better dreams, so I would say that the New York Times was right– I am pretty resilient.

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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Be Encouraged


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She’s growing up

“Hannah your mom brought you that?”

“No. I brought it.”

“Hannah you brought that with your money?”


“You have a job?”


Her name is Alexia, and I’ve known her for seven years. When we met she was about four. She was smart and she was driven. She was driven to be like myself and every other girl older than her. So every time I came to church with something new she came with the same questions.  (And she still does.)

Now she’s using lip gloss and body spray, and she’s learned to roll her eyes.  (Wonderful.) She’s growing up into beautiful young lady, but she has some challenges to face and that’s where I come in.  Just the other day I noticed Alexia getting excited because her dress is getting shorter. My first reaction was anger. (She’s too young to want to show off the little goods she does have. I’m still trying to figure out how to handle mine, and she’s ready to flaunt hers? No, just no.) But then I remembered how I felt at her age when my favorite skirt started getting shorter. I was excited too, and that’s when I realized that she wasn’t wrong for feeling that way. We were wrong for teaching it to her.

Short dresses and tight clothes seem to be the staple item in women clothing.  So Alexia’s first sign that she’s growing up is her short dress. She isn’t excited cause she wants to show off anything. She’s excited because she’s growing up. She realizes that she’s not a little girl anymore and, though that may bother her at times, it’s exciting.  So instead of getting mad at her, I sit her down and tell her that there’s more to growing up than getting attention and showing body parts. (I, of course, give her the rated G version of the convo.) I make sure she know it’s her brains that make her a young lady and not how she looks or what she wears.  I tell her that it’s how she carries herself that makes her beautiful, but she needs more. So I show her in the way I live. (After all she does look up to me, so she’s watching what I do. ) I hold off on a boyfriend because I want her to know that a man doesn’t make you a woman, but an education does. She knows I have guy friends, but she also knows that I’m involved back at my college, and I study hard.  I avoid dressing too provocative because I want her to know that showing skin doesn’t make you a woman. (Sometimes I’ll even wear a floral pattern or a graphic tee, so she understands that we’re not so different after all.)

Watching her grow, I’ve noticed that sometimes being upset and disappointed doesn’t do anything but break her spirit. My grandpa always said that “Those that know better do better.” (I think he was on to something.) Therefore, I can’t be mad with the way she acts sometimes because she doesn’t know any better. It’s my job– as the big sister because she refuses to call me anything else– to teach her better. She listens too. Sure I may have to remind her, but she gets what I’m saying. She’s growing up, but she’ll always be my princess. However now I’m not just her playmate, but also a confidante and an advisor. She’ll always be my princess, but she’s becoming a queen– and it’s my job to help her get her crown.

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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Be Encouraged


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Cruelty-free beauty


Be eco-friendly and still keep that sun-kissed glow with these DIY recipes and beauty products.

Face masks:

   Homemade Strawberry Mask-

       Strawberries are rich in antioxidants; therefore they promote the anti-aging of skin cells. They are also rich in vitamin C, which plays a role in the production of collagen, allowing for firm, elastic skin. Strawberries also contain salicylic acid, which can rid skin of dead cells. They help whiten and protect skin from diseases, which allows them to reduce the appearance of under-eye dark circles. A simply DIY mask includes the following:

•8-9 fresh strawberries

•3 tablespoons of honey

Mash the strawberries in a bowl and add the honey. Clean your hands and use a sanitized brush to apply the mixture all over your face. Leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes. Wash off with warm water, pat dry and moisturize.

  Honey Cinnamon Face Mask –

Cinnamon is believed to shrink issue, and honey is considered an anti-bacterial agent. Either way, this facial mask works as a wonderful cleanser and a delicious topping. What you’ll need:

•1 tablespoon of honey

•1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder

•1 teaspoon of nutmeg powder

Mix the ingredients, and apply the mask to clean skin. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then wash off with lukewarm water. Moisturize and repeat weekly.


Make-Up International is a cruelty-free brand offering foundations, eyeliner and mascaras. The brand has been cruelty-free since 1987 and also supports the Child Safety Education Fund, providing anti-bullying programs and supplies to schools.

Clinique’s Perfectly Real foundation provides for a natural coverage that comes at no cost for our furry friends. It’s also lightweight and oil-free.

Revlon ColorStay foundation provides an assortment of cruelty-free shades for a low cost. It provides medium to full coverage and lasts all day.

EcoTools offers cruelty-free brushes, bathing tools, hair brushes and lashes all packaged in recycled material. Their motto: “Look beautiful, live beautifully.”

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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Articles


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