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What Tina Says About Strangers

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I’ve always stood quite strongly with my parent’s rule of never talking to strangers. I grew up with safety in mind, to say the least. I remember specific examples of being told to be wary of strangers even at quite the young age. When I would travel to a department store with my grandmother, she would advise my sister and me not to “take off” from her, because we would be kidnapped. She’d pinpoint a certain person, an older gentleman, typically — and would advise us that he was a “bad man” and would snatch us if we ever left her side.

As an adult, I realize that she was only trying to protect her granddaughters, even if her actions were a bit extreme. However, such severe precautions of safety have not seemed to fade away. For some, this mindset is wise. After all, as college students, we’re constantly being reminded of how to stay alert to our surroundings, how to travel only in pairs after sunset, and how to steer away from any suspicious looking individuals. For myself, I’ve followed such guidelines and could have been awarded the gold medal of safety excellence if such a decoration existed. Yet, after an experience I had just this past week with the kindness of a stranger — who I may have otherwise brushed away — I think I may let the guard dogs relax just a bit.

When I have any free time on my hands, which is typically in the evening, I like to do what many 21–year–old women find such joy in dong — shopping. Since my Dominican career began, I’ve spent many nights walking from store-to-store in the downtown Oak Park area around Harlem and Lake, usually too money-conscious to buy anything, but curious enough to spend hours searching. On one certain Wednesday, I found myself there past sunset, arms full of bags from Trader Joes and Walgreens. It was only about 7 p.m., yet I was already in Tina-Ninja mode, automatically assuming that someone would want to attack me. There were a number of individuals around, and I put great effort into keeping my distance from anyone else. I remember holding all of my bags in one hand, just in case I had to use the other one, had my purse glued to my side, and my phone in grabbing distance. I had assumed the typical Tina stance.

As I was absorbed in my world of possible impending danger, I began to cross the busy Harlem and Lake intersection, heading to wait for the Dominican shuttle. Suddenly, I felt a jerk on my arm and was forcefully pulled back onto the sidewalk. I quickly swung my body around and snatched my arm back, my heartbeat increasing
in speed. The man who I thought was trying to attack me seemed to be two times my size, and hovered over me as the cold night air escaped my mouth in puffs of white vapor. Suddenly, I saw a car just barely miss me, flying down Harlem well over the speed limit. As I glanced up at the man, who I now realized had saved me from being hit by the careless driver due to having my head in the clouds, he looked down at me with only a few final words leaving his mouth:

“Don’t be so quick next time.”

Another typical Tina thing to do is to look for the symbolism behind every word, situation and opportunity. As I reflect upon this night, I think about what the man had said: “Don’t be so quick next time.” While I know he was talking about crossing the street without paying attention, I feel that there was more to it. That I shouldn’t be quick to judge. That I shouldn’t be so quick to let my fears overshadow someone’s good intentions. That I shouldn’t be so quick to cast aside a stranger, a stranger who saw reason to help me even though I was a stranger to them.

I’m sharing this story for a reason. Of course, I want you all to be safe, to use common knowledge, to allow your senses to keep yourself out of harms way. But, at the same time, I want you all to understand that a “stranger” isn’t always
a bad thing, and in fact, can be just the person you need in your life to reach such a powerful realization. At the end of the day, all people deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And, for such a scaredy-pants, this is the just the evidence I needed.

With an open mind that I hope to share,

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer


What Tina says: Getting back into the swing of things

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I’ve often heard the expression “getting back into the swing of things” applied to the undertaking that one bears when re-entering into once familiar territory. With that being said, I cannot think of a better expression to use to describe the feeling that a student gets during the first couple weeks of a new academic semester. Suddenly, as though it crashed out of nowhere, the all-too-short winter break comes to a rapid end, as students stumble back onto campus with the overwhelming feeling of, “Haven’t I been here before?” With the holidays behind us and the warm spring months still quite some time away, having to adjust back to a life without the mass amounts of over sleeping and TV show reruns that winter break allotted many of us seems quite bleak. Quite honestly, “getting back into the swing of things” is a lot easier said than done.

For myself, I’ve never handled the beginning of a new semester very well. I’ve been known to make a fuss out of having to start focusing on a grander topic again, aside from the under-stimulating material on MTV’s True Life or such lazy day activities. I love the excitement and the promise a new semester always brings, but having to pull myself out of my self-induced “winter vacation coma” poses its own challenges. Because of my awareness of the difficulty this time period holds, I’ve developed some strategies in making sure that “starting off on the right foot” in a new semester is both feasible and enjoyable. After all, a new semester might be the breath of fresh winter air we all need.

Settle in and settle down
As a resident student at Dominican, I’ve found that a large part of preparing myself for an upcoming semester is getting my dorm room in order. It took me a week after moving in to finally get all my clothing and random life accessories put away in their proper spots — sorry for the wrinkles that are now apparent in my wardrobe. However, once I mustered up enough motivation to do so, I felt an immediate sense of relief lift off of my shoulders. Having all of my physical belongings back in order made me feel intellectually and emotionally ready for the semester, too. If you’re a commuter student, consider reorganizing your workspace at home and tidying up your living area to feel similar immediate stress relief.

Schedules, lists and to-do’s
A new semester brings forth a new schedule that needs to be kept in order. I recently shared a story with a fellow DU student about how I ended up sitting through an entire philosophy class that I wasn’t a member of, simply because I read my schedule wrong. Luckily, the professor didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t on their roster and I slipped under the radar of humiliation. To avoid a similar mishap, make sure that you have your schedule handy at all times. Another bonus is being able to identify all of your free time that can be spent catching up with friends, venturing in dreamland or doing other enjoyable activities.

With wishes for a successful new semester — I welcome you back home!

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer

Avoiding Those Extra Holiday Pounds

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The holiday season is officially upon us, and along with those joyous and fun times, extra amounts of food and weight are sure to follow. At homes like mine, it is almost unthinkable to turn down that second or third plate of delicious home-cooked food. So while you look forward to that savory serving of rice, that glistening plate of ham and those freshly baked biscuits, here are some tips to make sure you have tons of fun and not tons of extra pounds.

  1. Keep Active. If this means following your usual exercise routine or coming up with an entirely new one, do it. It’s really tempting to kick back with a plate of food and the NFL on television, but it is more helpful in the long run to keep your body up and running. Exercising frequently gives you that added boost to get through those stressful days of chores and finish that decorating in no time.
  2. Cardio, cardio, cardio. One of the most important aspects of exercising is keeping your heart rate up and your blood flowing.  So working on cardio during the holidays is a definite must. Whether it’s five or ten minutes a day, every second helps keep those lurking pounds away. Jogging around the block, doing three minutes of jumping jacks and even boxing are all effective and fun ways to stay fit.
  3. Get Others Involved. Staying healthy does not have to be a lonely activity, especially if there are plenty of family members around.  Playing a game of football in the backyard or at a park before that big meal can be just as rewarding as watching the game. Make snow shoveling a contest that not only cleans sidewalks but also works up quite a sweat.  Even walking around the neighborhood enjoying the decorations encourages fitness.
  4. Self-control. Probably the most important and difficult tip to follow is not only knowing what you shouldn’t eat but also actually not eating it. Never eat a big meal on an empty stomach since you’re more likely to overindulge then. Avoid large quantities of alcohol and eggnog since plenty of empty calories come from both.  Try to eat smaller meals throughout the day; that way you will be in more control at the dinner table.

Having fun and eating with family can still be enjoyable while watching what you eat and how you enjoy the holidays. So instead of picking up that drumstick, grab a piece of fruit and a football and celebrate the season healthfully!

Anthony Garcia, Staff Writer

What Tina Says

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As the Christmas season settles in every year, there are a few wonderful aspects that make me truly feel the holiday spirit. Songs of Santa Claus mischief and the birth of Christ blaring on the radio, peppermint candy canes used as hot chocolate mixers and the typically ornate and sometimes silly Christmas cards that make their way into my families mailbox are my sturdy top three. While there is no lack of joyous tunes all around (93.9 The Lite turns into a Christmas station even before Thanksgiving), and I will never deny myself the sweet satisfaction of a Tina’s Special ‘Tis the Season cocoa, it seems that Christmas cards are slowly, but surely, fading away. When I was young, the weeks approaching Christmas contained heavily packed mailboxes, ours of which often overflowed with messages of a healthy New Year and updates about some great uncle’s most recent surgery (everybody loves the family report letters!) However, in the last few years, I’ve noticed our family intake of Christmas cards grew dim and the list of recipients of our own cards dwindled in response. While this unfortunate occurrence steals a little bit of my Christmas cheer, it does a better job of shining light on an even greater issue: The downfall of snail mail.

It can be said without dispute that the majority of our society no longer sends true “letters” to anyone; actual hand-written, sealed with love, “Hope you are well and please write back” letters. In a world of impersonal text messages, constant Facebook updates and sterile emails, the art of letter writing has seem to have fallen by the wayside along with stamp collecting and other “vintage activities.” The pastime of the college student writing home or to friends afar no longer exists; the thoughtful ,romantic pieces from lovers has faded. With technology on the rise, our traditional ways of communication have been replaced by means of quick responses as our minds and bodies grow more impatient with each new development made. While I’m all for the benefits that these communication staples hold, I have a growing concern for the loss of this truly beautiful hobby. As it is this Christmas season, I can’t help but wonder if my children will be emailing Santa, for efficiency sake.

Therefore, my wish for you all as this new year approaches is to rethink how you speak with those you love. By all means, don’t hold back on the funny text messages or Twitter replies, but allow yourself to take a moment of your day and to write to someone you feel would really appreciate it.  And, in return, I hope you can feel the satisfaction of knowing that someone out there will be doing the same for you.

After all, 44 cents can speak volumes and do the heart a world of good.

With well-wishes and words of joy,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours.

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer

What Tina Says: Thanksgiving Allergies

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Within the weeks before the fourth Thursday of November rolls around, the typical American mind starts fantasizing about what kind of delicacies that year’s Thanksgiving feast will bring. Some of us want nothing more than to stuff our faces with all of the turkey we can get our hands on, while others crave a plate full of stuffing or dressing. For me, I have always been quite the fan of green bean casseroles. While both of my parents find this dish to be incredibly unappetizing, this glorious side dish has always held a special place in my heart and I have taken it upon myself to prepare this dish every year. However, as I was thinking about my Thanksgiving plans the other afternoon, I came to a harsh realization: I will no longer be able to enjoy this Turkey Day staple.

This past May, I underwent a number of allergy tests after suffering from symptoms of food allergies in the months prior. Though I already knew that I had a nut allergy, something seemed to be a bit off-kilter. Expecting to be allergic to something mainly insignificant to my diet, like red bell peppers or artichokes, I was shocked when the results of my allergy tests came in: wheat, corn, eggs, soy, sesame, peanuts and most tree nuts. While I was relieved that I now knew why I was feeling so ill all the time, including breaks-outs of hives and feeling sick to my stomach, I knew that my diet was now about to change drastically. In order to cut these allergens from my body, I basically stopped eating a lot of American staples, including things like popcorn, pizza and bagels. However, this is my first “holiday season” of having to remain conscious of my allergies, a new challenge within itself. It’s true, it was difficult to skip the hamburger bun on the Fourth of July and to bypass the corn on the cob on Labor Day, but so far the greatest trial is yet in store.

This holiday realization reminds me of the fact that so many individuals, especially children, are now being diagnosed with food allergies or sensitivities in recent years. With Celiac Disease on the rise and peanut-free tables being set in grade schools, I’m led to question whether the typical American holiday dishes will cease to exist in the future. With so many people unable to consume wheat or gluten, will your mother’s corn bread recipe lay dormant in her recipe box? Will your grandmother’s pecan pie become too risky to prepare in the same kitchen that the evening’s bird will be roasting in? Will the spread that we’ve all come to know and love become so greatly altered that it will no longer hold the same Thanksgiving charm?

Yes, it’s true, the spirit of Thanksgiving lies in the recognition of how much you have been blessed with in your life, a value that is often overlooked. However, the bottom line remains the same: It just isn’t Thanksgiving without something satisfying and traditional to eat, allergies or not.

As I focus on this Turkey Day challenge, I find myself looking for a reason as to why so many individuals find themselves suffering from food allergies this day in age. When I was growing up with a nut allergy, I remember how odd it seemed to explain to my little friends that I couldn’t enjoy a piece of their PB and J at lunch. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, looking at a book that explained how to tell your classmates about a food allergy, as if the process would seem a bit more comfortable if coming from a picture book. Years later in college, I still find very few of my friends with the same allergies I have; however, more and more of them are being tested for food intolerances due to developing symptoms. If you peer into an elementary school today, you see a rather different picture than when I was there. An EpiPen supply is standard protocol in the nurse’s office and teachers are requesting treats to be free of nuts, eggs, or other ingredients that members of the class may not be able to eat. While I find these efforts of good nature, I can’t help but question why this is all necessary. Is this newfound food allergy epidemic a biological result? A societal consequence? The product of the foods that we’re eating? I’ve never been one for science, and the human body continues to baffle me, but someone must be able to shed light on this developing problem. If so, please feel free to contact me. All information will be well-received and greatly appreciated.

With pumpkin pies to skip and croissants to deny, I ask that those of you who are lucky enough to enjoy these treats to please take an extra bite for me. For my sake, make it a big one. To those of you preparing Thanksgiving feasts, please be sure to ask your guests if any food items disagree with them. After all, dessert shouldn’t consist of a glass of water and Benadryl.

With humble thanks and a satisfied belly to come,

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer

What Tina Says: Keep Clean and Carry On

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If you have ever had the joy of being around me when I’m feeling under the weather, you know how much of a baby I become. No, really, I morph into a completely helpless infant – with a floor full of balled-up Kleenexes and a distinctly chapped upper lip, both symbolic of my inner turmoil. Typically, I’ll whine for the duration of my illness and make it known that I’ve come down with the tiniest cold or flu. I’ve spent a lot of my life thus far feeling less than healthy. Diagnosed with asthma and indoor/outdoor allergies at 3, I’ve spent a great deal of time sneezing and sucking down Albuterol inhalers due to a new growth of pollen, a cuddly old cat or other such triggers. I received allergy shots from my family physician for a number of years to make my seasonal allergies more tolerable. Growing up with such a low immunity, I’ve always held “getting sick” as an extreme threat. Add “flu season” into the mix of my already harsh allergies, and you find yourself with one paranoid Tina.

In all reality, I don’t handle getting ill very well, and going to class while I’m sick is the last thing on my mind. I’m all for multi-tasking, but I’ve never done too well with taking notes while simultaneously wiping my nose. And yet, with so much new information thrown at us everyday, making an active appearance in class is rather vital during this time in one’s educational journey. Therefore, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to make this challenge easier. After all, life waits for no one – sore throat or not.

For all our sakes, wash yourself!

While moping around in the same sweat suit for a couple days may seem like the best option at the time of being sick, do everyone a favor and allow yourself time to bathe. Taking a warm shower will not only loosen up any congestion, but will keep you in the same ritual that your morning (or evening) normally has. This habit will also benefit others, as you will no longer be harboring the germs that you basked in for the last 24 hours. And yes, you must throw on a new pair of sweat pants after you’re all squeaky clean. I promise, your friends will be rather happy with your decision.

As Mom always said: drink plenty of fluids.

I developed a love for tea as a direct result of how much I’ve consumed it during times of feeling unwell. As we all know, drinking warm fluids is known to soothe an irritated throat, help produce an active cough, and “cleanse one’s system” of undesirable microorganisms. While taking your dose of Dayquil, don’t forget this natural way of healing. Not a big fan of tea? Try heating up lemonade or apple juice or making broth to get the same effect. To supplement your intake of hot fluids, be sure to push plenty of clean water as well – even more than you would drink on a typical day. Keep a glass of water by your bedside.

Too ill to function? Stay in bed.

Yes, I’m aware that I just stated that going to class was of extreme importance, even when one isn’t feeling well. However, there are some days in which you just need to take it easy – be away from everyone else. If you’re running a high fever or are feeling just plain crummy – aside from consulting a professional – let your body rest. If you will be missing class, be sure to email your professor in advance and let them know of your absence. In a world of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, using the excuse of being “sick” is often read as an immediate scapegoat, but staying on positive attendance terms (meaning not skipping class just for fun) will allow you to spend a day or two in bed, guilt-free. Already missed the allotted number of classes and yet are feeling too dreadful to sit through your course? I suggest showing up to class and explaining that you’re not feeling well. After all, no one wants to catch whatever you have. Also, if you’re too unwell to go to class, that means you’re too unwell for work or leisure as well. So, forget about picking up those extra hours at your part-time job and call your friends to let them know that your night at the bar will have to wait.

As we all dive head first into this year’s flu season, I hope you find this both informative and delightful – especially if you’re already suffering from the Sickness Monster’s bite. Be sure to take care of yourself, my friends. This is the only body you have.

With tissue in hand and Lysol in tow,

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer

What Tina Says: A Letter To My Relationship-Obsessed Friend

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As those of us from the Midwest know, Sweetest Day was this past weekend. The less-publicized cousin of Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day is yet another reminder to some of us out there that we are, indeed, single. For myself, I don’t mind this situation at the moment. After all, I have a million other things to worry about. Between classes, work, clubs, and maintaining a healthy social life, I cannot begin to picture having to also juggle the efforts that are needed to be in a successful romantic relationship.  My biological clock is far from ticking, and I have absolutely no problem in waiting a handful of more years before responding to my call of being a mirror image of Martha Stewart. Now, I’m not saying that I would turn down Prince Charming if he showed up at my door upon a noble steed, especially if he resembled Patrick Dempsey. I’m simply saying that jumping from one insignificant relationship to another is beyond me. However, we all have that friend who disagrees with this. This is especially obvious in college, as some find tremendous pressure in having to settle down  (22 is the new 32). He or she is always on the prowl, trying to find the next relationship to spend a few months on. What they find in these short-term couplings is not immediately clear to me. Maybe it’s self-validation; maybe it’s a quick fix for loneliness or an attempt to mimic the luxurious lives of those seen in “Sex and the City” or “Entourage.” Whatever the case, this concept has been especially bothersome for me lately as I watch various individuals fall into the clutches of unhealthy romances or unreturned affection. With that in mind, I’ve decided to compose a letter directed especially to those who fit this criteria. This is not meant to be unsettling or harsh.  I want to provoke the idea that being single is not an illness and doesn’t need an immediate remedy. To all those who worry they will be “alone forever” and to those who hop from bed-to-bed in search of something meaningful, here’s a little something for you:

To my Relationship-Obsessed Friend:

Take a break. Really, breathe. Your success is not measured in whether or not you’re in a relationship. All those ladies or gentleman – you know, the ones that you fawn over – probably are not very good for you. And the affection that you’re longing for will never be returned if you’re searching in the wrong places. In a world overrun by eHarmony and over-crowded singles bars, I understand your concern to “find” that someone special, as if they’re wandering around aimlessly waiting for your arrival, but my advice to you is to stop looking. Honestly, relax for a minute and focus on yourself. Build up your self-esteem and tear down the assumption that being single automatically means that you’re undesirable. Not every individual that you’re interested in will hold a mutual feeling, so allow yourself to be a bit more selective. As Tim Gunn, the chief creative director of Liz Claiborne and TV Personality once said, “Trust that you are superb, and you are.” I now find myself telling you the same thing: You’re worth as much as you think you are, so value yourself in the highest. If you think you shine, you will shine, and that special someone – whoever they are, wherever they are – will spot you from afar. Being overly eager trumps all that, so be calm and open-minded and enjoy your single state of freedom to the fullest. You have the rest of your life to meet your perfect counterpart, I promise.

As a means of conclusion to this piece, I want to leave a few final notes:

To those of you who are in a relationship:

Treat it with care. If you’re meant to be with your partner, make it work, even when it seems difficult. You need to fight for those you love, and if you do not think that the fight is worth being with that individual, decide sooner rather than later. It is never ideal to remain physically in a relationship that your heart has already left. There is no shame is stepping back and moving forward in a different direction. On the other hand, if you’re happy with the one who you are with, consider yourself fortunate and treat your relationship with respect. .

To those of you who are content with being single:

Keep doing what you’re doing and be able to recognize something exceptional when you see it. There is never a need to rush into anything, especially at our age, so remember what the Turtle and the Hare taught us: Slow and steady wins the race. Treat any future relationships with warmth and gratitude and never feel the need to settle for someone who falls below your standards.

With this, I advise you all to do one last thing: Give out love; true, genuine care. Really, throw it to the masses. As much as you want, whenever you want. It’s the most inexpensive and valuable task that any of us can do, and in return, reaps the most benefits. After all, if it is love that you’re after, the best way to get it is to give it. So, love as much as you can with a full heart and open mind, and you’ll end up exactly where you’re meant to be.

Tina Cisarik, Staff Writer