Settin’ goals

Wow. WordPress has really beefed up its efforts to encourage blogging.

After I published my last post, I noticed a widget with suggestions for future blog topics. Once I recovered from my FCAT flashbacks, one prompt caught my attention: “Exactly half of the year is now over. List 10 things you want to do before 2012 begins.”

Why thank you for the bucket-list style challenge, folks. I’ve had a number of goals floating around in my head, and this provides me an opportunity to share them.

  1. As you know, I’d like to run a 5K. No race commitment yet, but I’m training.
  2. Attend a Florida football game for the first time as an alumna.
  3. Save $1,000 from here out. With my pay, that’s going to take a LOT of frugality.
  4. Visit my dad’s family in North Carolina. I haven’t been there in years.
  5. See my best friends more than twice. Now that we’re dispersed, that’ll be a challenge.
  6. Turn 23. Duhhh.
  7. Spend the holidays with my family — without missing work. Thank you Saturday Christmas! (Hey, I’ve got five vacation days and I’m being VERY protective of them.)
  8. It should come as no surprise that I’d like to lose weight. But I’m adding it because it is possible that I could accomplish No. 1 and still not shed a pound.
  9. Get a puppy. Which actually won’t happen while I’m in this lease, which is a kicker because I have a great place.
  10. This one’s open. I’ll add something new to the list when it comes to mind.

Here’s to hoping WP prompts me to reevaluate my goals come the new year!

What’s on your list?

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Congrats, self!

Today I finished week two, day one of C25K.

“Wow, congrats, Danielle — that’s like a toddler being proud it licked a garbage can,” you’re probably thinking.*

For me, this is a HUGE deal. According to the record in my phone (drat! The app tracks my failures, too), I’ve attempted this program seven times without sticking to it in the future.

I tried in the beginning of January. I tried at the end of January. Looks like I finished the first week in February. And once more in May.

Between January and April, I worked out an average of two days per week with a trainer and did a lot of interval training with weights, so I wasn’t totally useless.

But. I did keep giving up on myself. My shins hurt (thanks, shin splints), my calves hurt, I felt silly running on the indoor track. It was too hot to run outside, and yet treadmills were too cranky about my interval choices. I tried every excuse in the book to cut my efforts short.

I even tried day one twice this week. Once, my calves hurt way too bad and I gave up halfway through to bike instead. The second time, to be fair, I accidentally skipped my warm-up and walked through the first run, completed the other five and then cooled down on a bike but hit the “done” button before the app thought I was done. Hey, if the app doesn’t believe I finished it, then I really can’t tell it I did.

Now I’m realizing that my sneakers aren’t going to run themselves, and I’ve got to set a tangible, quantifiable goal to keep me on the straight and narrow.

So Sunday, I’ll do day two and day three will follow suit.

Let’s make a deal: If I haven’t gloated about finishing week three, day one by this time next week, you have full permission to ask me why and then call me on every one of my excuses.

If my will isn’t motivation enough, the threat of all four of my blog’s readers calling me a cop-out totally will be.

*Weird analogy, but that was the first to come to mind. And it made me laugh.  

, , , , ,

Leave a comment


I have a very volatile relationship with my blog.

I created it at the urging of professors who guaranteed that aspiring writers must demonstrate through all possible channels that they are, indeed, capable of writing. And following AP style instructions. And complying with ethical guidelines.

(Notice that? I just wrote two phrases that don’t constitute complete sentences, but since I’m not actively seeking employment, I’m fully confident this won’t rattle my career.)

But I’ve always had questions and reservations about the rules for journalists who blog. For one, most blogs have a conversational tone. Now I’m not sure about you, but I find it pretty hard to hold an interesting conversation without bringing my opinion into it. But wait! Journalists aren’t supposed to express opinions. We’re “just the facts, ma’am” for the sake of credibility, so we’re not burned at the stake for having an agenda. On a side note, that’s a funny thought, because I know now that very few TV stations refrain from editorializing, and most papers are accused of having a partisan bias. 

Also, if the point of my blog is to woo potential employers, wouldn’t it be risky to opine on many topics, because, as we all know, it’s really really hard to not offend anyone these days?

Because of these misgivings, I decided I would play my blog safe and only write about my professional development. I’ve merely skimmed the surface of topics that are truly close to my heart, and I’ve ignored politics altogether. And my blog has really suffered as a result.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’m so excited about stories that I call everyone who loves me and tell them everything but I’m also keen enough to know that few people care about the slow-construction of my professional ego.  My reservations have made me too dry, too safe and pretty dull.

To combat this issue, I’ve been thinking of writing more about personal matters (a tricky idea, since I work in such a small market and value my privacy) and about what makes me tick on a macro-scale. I’ve been mentally crafting guidelines that would enable me to loosen up (and embrace!) my blog while keeping me within my ethical bounds.

The number one thing that’s plagued me recently? These ridiculous grand-standers who refuse to compromise for the sake of the country. Yesterday, I decided that it would be kosher for me to report on my general view of politics and tackle this monster. It would be acceptable, I decided, to blog about political ideas that I am not likely to write about in the line of duty. That’d be fair, right?

This morning, I went to work riled about Congress and ready to write. And wouldn’t you know, my editor asked me to localize a story about the national debt fiasco. Basically, my angle is: How might the Liberty County economy be affected if our representatives fail to find a solution by Tuesday?

Damn the luck! It’s a good story, if I do say so myself. But now I guess it means I’ll have to hold my tongue.

How do you think journalists should proceed when blogging?

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Kara’s struggle

Photo by James Farmer/

Let me tell you my biggest secret: If you and I dine together and there is a bread basket sitting between us, I cannot focus on what you’re saying. I’ll try, but really I’m focused on not consuming the entire basket.

As a writer, reader and weight-conscious woman, the lede above is one of the most powerful ones I have ever read.

Writer Arianne Cohen wrote it for a Marie Claire article, How To Stop Binge Eating, but when I read it, I felt just like the writers of “Killing Me Softly” must have felt once upon a time.

Yesterday morning when I tuned in to NPR and heard Kara Curtis share her own struggle with obesity, I felt that same, familiar sting. I could relate to everything she was saying, short of eating “a pureed concoction of hemp and rice protein, coconut milk and avocado” for breakfast.

I suppose I could add a couple more caveats: namely, I’m not as heavy as she is, and I have not struggled for quite as long. But our similarities and attitudes toward ourselves and food still unite us.

 “It’s a very schizophrenic relationship we have with obesity,” Curtis says. “I understand it as addiction, but then there’s also this other piece of me that knows that there is a lack of willingness on my part. So really, who’s to blame for that? Me!”

When I heard this, my mind was racing, screeching “Yes! Yes! I’m to blame but skinnies don’t understand my struggle but then if I were better, I could be one, too!”

This is my inner struggle. And sadly, it’s not mine alone. Like Kara, I will begin an earnest effort to control my cravings, but all too often a cookie or brownie or clandestine trip to McDonald’s gets the best of me, and my confidence tumbles with my will-power.

Food, it seems, beckons us on a deeper level.

The thought process goes something like this: I’m stressed, and a sweet treat would rev me up and get me through this. Ooh, I scrounged up 75 cents, that’ll get me a candy bar in the vending machine. Wow, this is good. Wait, why am I eating this? Did I really just eat that? Well, the fact that I only ate natural foods and a dab of mayo on my whole wheat sandwich is now negated. Wait. Weren’t there other treats in the fridge? Fitness isn’t coming today, so instant gratification will have to do instead.

This mindset has controlled me for years. It’s a trap, truly. It’s nearly impossible to hop on the wagon and stay there. I did a great job this spring while training with Lucy; I never lost more than three quantifiable pounds, but my body became firmer and leaner. But a perfect storm happened: I tried to combine all of my favorite college pastimes (which too often include food and alcohol) into a raucous month, and at the end of it, my membership to the gym expired. So did my resolve.

Now that I’m pouring the foundation for my true adult habits and routines, I’m trying to make a change for the better. As I wrote earlier, I’m trying to cook more and make healthier choices (substituting ground turkey for ground beef, eating more seafood, using whole wheat options, reducing added sugars, cutting my drinking significantly) and am once again setting fitness goals.

The hardest thing to change? My mindset. Like Kara, I need to stop volleying between self-pity and shame and step up to the plate. It’s time to realize that though my shape does not define me, my own behaviors certainly have power to define my shape.

For an eye-opening look at obesity by the numbers, check out this “Obesity in America, By the Numbers” graphic representation. 

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Goin’ culinary


Salmon, quinoa & asparagus. Yum!

I’ve always loved cook books.

Let’s rephrase that: I’ve always loved to look at cook books. With their flashy pictures, pops of color and endless stream of ideas, you’d think they were the perfect resource for a professional/domestic goddess in training. But I always manage to forget about them.

But now I have to thank for saving me from my inner Amelia Bedelia. (Confession: In the last month, I’ve misread “teaspoon” for “tablespoon” and popped a batch of cupcakes into the oven without adding the eggs.)

Since moving to Georgia, I’ve found that I spend a LOT more time in the kitchen than I ever did before. In Gainesville, my staples were Tijuana Flats, Jimmy John’s, 35 cent wings at Swamp, Boca Fiesta, Panera — you get the point. Dining out in college was social and practical (most of my groceries went bad because I was never home to eat them).

But now, eating out is a luxury. I’ve fully converted to being a cook at home, brown-bag lunch kind of gal it’s just as practical here as going out was in college. Since my conversion, I’ve spent hours perusing*, and I love that it offers more interactivity than any cook book. I can pick and choose which ingredients I want to use, learn how to shop effectively for a maximum number of ingredients, and choose from lists of meals by genre. It’s uh-maze-ing.

Lowcountry boil with turkey kielbasa.

Since becoming a foodie/meal planner extraordinaire with the help of my beau, Jon, who truly deserves much of the credit in the kitchen I’ve experimented with familiar foods, tried new recipes and even opened myself up to new foods like quinoa. We’ve also conquered a euphoric salmon recipe (and I don’t really like salmon!), pulled pork, and fresh peach cobbler. 

I’ve also taken a real interest in the local food movement and farmer’s markets and can’t wait to integrate more reasonably priced, locally sourced, fresh and in-season items into my life. First stop: $5 shrimp fresh off the coast via the Richmond Hill Farmer’s Market. Mmm-Mmm. 

Here’s to ushering in a whole new era!

*I did not receive any compensation for this post. I’m a genuine fan. 

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Lemonade reactions spin out of control

The Midway lemonade stand story I blogged about Friday has gone viral and then some.

And now, reader reactions have gone too far.

Rumors swirled in the office this morning that the Midway Police Department has been receiving death threats and that Chief Morningstar’s house was shot with a pellet gun. Tonight local TV media reported that Mayor Clemontine Washington and the city attorney have ordered the cops not to discuss the matters.

I do not regret breaking the story  it was a worthy human interest piece but I regret the absolute stupidity that some people have exhibited in response. Comments, calls and donations are understandable, but really: Who cares so much about whether these girls make it to the water park that they are willing to break the law and bring violence into the equation?

Seeking someone out at his or her home and offering threats is absolutely wrong in the majority of situations, including this one. It is also worth mentioning, as many before me have offered in comments, that there are greater issues at play in this story: an overzealous city ordinance and legal jargon so complicated that the average resident can’t understand the ordinance anyway. Like Morningstar said, her job is not to write the rules, only to enforce them.

It may seem that the police exhibited a lack of sensitivity when acting in the situation and that they possibly disregarded “slices of Americana” as one source said, but the bottom line is that they did not do anything wrong or corrupt, and they certainly did not do anything to deserve this backlash.

What do you think of the situation?

Curious how things are shaping up for the girls? Read my follow-up story here. 

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Visions of palmetto bugs

I’ve got something bugging me.


joe's apartment

Seems like I've moved in with Joe.

In the last week, we’ve seen three palmetto bugs in our apartment. Very little skeeves me more.

Once upon a time, seeing anything that vaguely resembled a roach or palmetto bug was guaranteed to make me shriek. And maybe cry. Three former roommates can testify to my cowardly panic: I’ve jarred them from sleep, pulled them from the shower, and even jumped the couch.

One time I called my boyfriend and asked him to drive across town in the middle of the night, all because I was too afraid to come within killing distance (you never know, the roles could reverse and I could fall prey).

You know what also gets me going? When my hero (or heroine, in the case of my former roomies) sits on his duff waiting until the right time to take action. This happened the other night when my roach-y senses were tingling. Drying my hair in the bedroom, I saw something move above our kitchen door out of the corner of my eye. Wouldn’t you know it: a giant, dirty palmetto. It meandered along the wall, inching closer to our stackable washer and dryer.

“Uh, babe, we’ve got another roach,” I said. I know, the term is incorrect, but it’s fewer syllables.

“I’ll get it in a minute,” he answered, not flinching from his “Call of Duty” game.

For the next five minutes, I watched that thing cover a lot of ground in the same spot. When it inched closer to the dryer — and escape into the abyss — I freaked. “Dude! You’re going to lose it and then we’ll find it in bed later tonight!” I insisted.

By the time he got up, the little bugger was nowhere to be found. Not behind the washing machine, not on the sink, not on the floor or the adjacent wall. We lost it! 

Since then, visions of palmetto bugs have danced in my head. I see it nesting in the toaster, lapping up stray liquids, gorging on coffee grinds. I imagine it’ll rear its ugly head when I reach into my clothes, or make its presence known while in the shower. It plagued me for hours.

“Palmetto bugs,” I’ve wondered. “Does being closer to “The Palmetto State” mean I’m closer to them?”

Seldom the optimist, Jon’s upbeat gene has kicked into overdrive in the wake of Roachgate. “It’s probably outside,” he’s said multiple times. Doubtful.

But surprisingly, my fear hasn’t totally crippled me. I haven’t really screamed here (confession: I have scurried away in disgust), and I’ve slept soundly two nights. Perhaps he did me a favor by forcing me to live in unison with this creature.

And maybe I’ve conquered my fear. Or at least stopped it from conquering me.

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

When life gives you lemons…

The girls pose before they deconstructed the stand, courtesy of Amy Roberts.

Last Wednesday, in my third week as a staff writer at The Coastal Courier, I broke a story about Georgia’s Midway Police Department shutting down a lemonade stand run by young girls.

“Lemonade stand operation goes sour” was a hit. It riled the community, instigating more than 18 callers to contact the paper’s “Sound Off” line, and I took calls from at least three people who wanted to donate money or Splash in the ‘Boro tickets to the family of four.

This morning, I learned that the local TV markets adapted the story for themselves. Savannah ABC/Fox affiliate WJCL picked up the story this week and ran it complete with footage and expanded comments from Chief of Police Kelli Morningstar. They’ve even done a follow-up, and it seems that since their audience is larger than ours, they’ve stirred up even more ruckus.

I’ve heard (but have no been able to confirm, since we don’t have a TV in the office) that CNN and “Fox and Friends” picked up the story this morning, and I’m eager to see where it goes in the future. But at the same time, I want my small-town paper, The Coastal Courier, to get the credit for breaking this story. Without a Facebook tip from the girls’ mother, Amy Roberts, and my diligent investigating, it seems that no one would know this little slice of life.

I have a couple more tidbits about the article that I would like to share, since it’s taken off in such a big way:

  1. It may sound snarky, but I broke the story, and I’d like to reiterate that. Mine was published on July 6, and WJCL’s first online mention of it is July 13.
  2. Kudos to reporter Maura Kennedy. She cracked Morningstar’s shell and got her to explain herself more fully. Perhaps she realized after reading my story that speaking openly with the media is the best way to get your point of view across. When I spoke with Morningstar last week, she seemed very reluctant to speak about the topic. It was hard to get too much more than a yes or no answer out of her, and I even asked her if she had anything else she wanted to share or clarify. Her answer? “No ma’am.”
  3. While we’ve received great feedback in support of the girls, some have written scathing letters accusing involved reporters of bias. I’m not out to speak on behalf of anyone else who has taken on this story, but I know that I pride myself on presenting both sides. My piece has accounts from both the mother and the officer, as well as support from many in county permitting offices that explains why the police were justified in taking action. While I ended my story with an opinionated quote, I took great caution to present the entire story without bias and objectively.
  4. This experience is casting light on an aspect of media competition that I never learned about in school. I know that ethics and tactics are very different among newspaper, magazine and television reporters, but I’m surprised about how cut-throat it is. When WJCL reported the story, they must have staged some footage (and I’m surprised the police department participated!), because I know damn well that the lemonade stand was already taken down by the time I began reporting my story — that’s the whole reason my source felt the need to make the matter public. Makes me pretty skeptical now of television footage I see in the future.

Guess you’d call this a jumping off point, eh?

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


My crash course in crime

Photo by Brandon Anderson/Flickr

Everything I need to know about crime reporting, I learned today.

OK, maybe not everything. But the bulk.

In my time at UF, I learned some basics in editing (things like avoid using prejudicial terms and constructions) and how to access public records. Today, I was thrown in in media res, as they say in film with a Lake City Police Department press release and a resource list of numbers.

After about 30 minutes writing and another 10 confirming details and fine-tuning, I produced my first crime story: Employee accused of stealing drugs from Lake City CVS.

It’s not Pulitzer-winning material, but it offered some challenges: How do I overcome the fact that this is third-hand information and still make sense? How can I maximize the value of this story? Why is it important, and what are the elements that people care about?
Let’s recount the things they don’t teach in the J-school:

  1. How to handle calling a suspect. It’s true everyone deserves their chance to speak, but it seems a bit awkward to call and say, “Hey, so, uh, I have an arrest report and I’m wondering whether you’d like to comment on it.” I stressed for a couple minutes over how to approach the issue when calling my suspect’s number, and once I finally worked up the courage to call, I hit gold: out of service. Whew! (Truth is, once I was coached into how to say things, I calmed down a lot. And now I’m bummed I didn’t get to practice.)
  2. The list of persons in custody at the jail is not always accurate. At least according to the woman I spoke with, who said that my suspect was still there when the list did not. Hmph. Glad I called to ask.
  3. Police really are jargon-y. This is a big joke in the J-school, but I saw it in play today. My online editor made some minor changes that made my story read more like a civilian re-telling than a convoluted account. This goes hand-in-hand with the “don’t get stuck using the same words your source uses” lesson, where remembering synonyms reigns supreme.

Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet, I’m eager to use these skills more often.

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Congrats, Will and Kate!

I snapped Big Ben while in London in 2007.

Have you ever noticed how pervasive princesses are in American culture? If not, please take a moment to ponder.

It’s a bit funny that a nation whose founders staunchly opposed monarch power still socializes its children to believe that every girl will find her prince.

Cinderella, Belle and Aurora were all the rage when my generation was coming of age. In addition to watching movies that ended in “…and they all lived happily ever after,” we played Pretty Pretty Princess and fought over who got to be queen first (at least that’s how I remember the game evolving).

And as the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William rapidly approaches, I’m hearing two distinct reactions. One is outright elation: Which dress will she choose? How similar will this be to Diana and Charles? The other is much less enthused:  Why do we care? Why do the British care so much? Aren’t there bigger issues (budget woes, tornado devastation) to worry about?

I propose we strike a balance between these two mindsets. Now, before I get too deep into this post, I would like to make some concessions:

  1. I’m a total Anglophile. I’ve visited England twice, with stops in Liverpool, York, London, Bath and other small towns along the way. One of my family’s dearest friends is British and has shared her culture with us since I was about 8 years old; thanks to her influence, I adore Cadbury’s MiniEggs, hard cider, BBCA and British humor.
  2. Despite working in the news and absorbing it like a sponge, I do believe that we tend to oversaturate certain topics — like tomorrow’s royal nuptials. Two weeks ago, I copy-edited and designed a travel centerpiece about how to enjoy the ceremony, and ever since, it seems like I can’t turn on CNN, E! or Bravo without hearing something about Kate or Will.
These caveats aside, I believe that the royal nuptials are a big deal. And I also believe that there are more important issues at hand in any given part of the world. But I think it is disrespectful for Americans to make value judgments on the British (or even other Americans) by trivializing this obsession. Why, you ask?
  1. Royal weddings are historical traditions. Monarchs ruled before our country was ever founded, and their whims were the basis for feast days and ceremonies. It’s a time-honored aspect of life, and though the Royal Family is now more symbolic than autonomous, they’re still beloved.
  2. This event is the embodiment of (almost) every girl’s socially-constructed fairytale. Any female would be lying if she said that she has never once imagined life as a royal, with ladies-in-waiting and a handsome, life-altering heir to the throne at her side. This seemingly trivial event is the personification of many childhood fancies, and it allows us to live vicariously through Kate.
  3. There are countless problems that plague the earth: natural disasters, poverty, fighting, corruption. You get the point. But every now and then, isn’t it necessary to stop worrying about the things you can’t change and stop and smell the roses? Besides, no one throws these responses into men’s faces when they drool over the launch of a new NFL season or NBA playoffs.
Whetever your take on the matter is, I know I’ll be celebrating with tea and biscuits (read: cookies) and the finest of news footage.
How do you feel about the impending royal nuptials?

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment