Currently: The Midnight Resolution

Well I’ve been absent. Lo siento. Class. Moving. Things people don’t care about.

I’ve been a vegetarian for over a year now and missed commemorating my one-year anniversary. I’ve wanted to write about my experience for some time now and finally had an opportunity when I was given an assignment for class. Read on…

I awoke in a sweat. My stomach was churning. Rotting flesh. Rotting flesh. It was all I could think about. Startled awake in the middle of the night by the unsettled feeling of my beef stroganoff dinner, I made a resolution – the outcomes of which, I could not have anticipated in that moment.

Spurred by a desire for change and the book Skinny Bitch I resolved to become a vegetarian just over a year ago. In that time I have gained an entirely new perspective on food and the food industry, and discovered a newfound respect for my body and the things it can do.

The decision was not one I spent much time deliberating and came as a surprise to just about everyone who knew me. My parents, while supportive, were skeptical. My sister didn’t think I would last. My brother, the cool Brooklynite that he was, didn’t think anything of it. One of the first things I discovered about my new lifestyle was that whenever you tell someone you have become a vegetarian, generally the response is “What made you do it?” The first time I was asked that question, it forced me to actually put into words why I had done what I had, and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about my choice. Now, I have it narrowed down to a quick “curiosity/animal rights/chemicals in the food industry,” answer.

If I’m going to be completely honest, one of the motivating factors behind my dietary change was weight loss, although I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time. Here’s what I learned: just because French fries and cookies are acceptable in a vegetarian lifestyle, does not mean you can justify eating more of them simply because you are no longer eating meat. It was not until I understood this fundamental rule that my new diet choice really began to make sense.

I started to actually think (what a unique concept) about what I was consuming. I gave merit to the food I was putting into my body. What were the ingredients? What were the benefits of eating this? And the most important question of all: how am I going to feel after I eat this? Hummus became my new best friend. I returned to the old apple-a-day routine that I’d grown accustomed to in high school. I tried tofu again. And again. I actually liked it. That’s not to say there were no French fries or cookies in my diet, I just stopped to think before mindlessly shoving them into my pie hole. Eventually there was weight loss, but it did not happen quickly or strictly from a vegetarian lifestyle.

When I resolved to stop eating meat, I did not know how long it would last, but after a few months, I decided to try it for at least a whole year. I felt like I had something to prove, if only to myself. I was curious. I wanted to know more about what I was eating. I read books and articles about food, animals and the food industry. I discovered that when I thought about what I was putting into my body, I felt better inside and out. I felt as if not eating meat had made me lighter. I had energy. I felt great. Most importantly I was happy. I am happy – happier and healthier than I can remember.

As my one-year anniversary approached, I seriously contemplated incorporating meat back into my diet. I didn’t. I did nothing special to commemorate the occasion. I didn’t cook a big meat-free meal or celebrate with friends. I don’t even know that I mentioned it to my parents. I did recently go buy another book about food and the food industry though, which has continued to feed my curiosity and reinforce my commitment to this lifestyle.

There are still times when I think fondly of my old favorite pork, beef and chicken dishes – even of the beef stroganoff that put me over the edge – but for now I’m sticking to the resolution I made in the middle of the night. My choice to become a vegetarian has given me something to believe in. As hokey as that may sound, it’s true. It is an adventure that I began blindly on my own, an adventure that has given me a deeper understanding of food and the importance of nutrition. It’s an adventure that has been exciting and enlightening, and has taught me the power of persistence and conviction. It’s an adventure that has taught me more than I expected and an adventure I will continue indefinitely.

Breaking:

I had my SECOND TO LAST (!!!!!) G.A. shift on Thursday.

I’m glad I no longer dread them. (#progress ? yes.)

We caught wind of some interesting news early on in the morning and somehow, breaking the story fell into my lap. (Not complaining.) I called the Boone County Sherriff’s Department to confirm the story and get whatever details I could.

FACT: Covering breaking news is very exciting.

FACT: Having something actually newsworthy to cover on a G.A shift makes you feel good about your work.

I followed the story closely with a few other reporters throughout the day, and as information came in we collaborated on the original story. I didn’t get many more details while I was on duty but I managed to write another little blurb.

It was an exciting (read: busy) day in the newsroom, which always makes for a good shift.

I am glad for the experience.

New Team Players

We received a news release last week announcing the naming of two new players in the Columbia Public School District: Dr. Kim Presko and Dr. Jolene Yoakum.

Presko is currently in the CPS district as the principal at Oakland Junior High School. Her new role as principal for Battle High School, while technically not effective until July 2012, begins now with her participation in many planning meetings.

Yoakum is currently working for the Seguin Independent School District in Seguin, Texas. She has been an educator since 1979 and is originally from the Kansas City area. Effective July 2012, she will succeed Wanda Brown as assistant superintendent for secondary education.

I had the opportunity to talk with Yoakum about her new position last week. It may have taken three different phone calls but I finally was able to get enough information to write a story that worked.

Hopefully, if nothing else, it will serve as an introduction of Yoakum to the community.

Filling the Gap

Anymore, multimedia knowledge is essential to journalism, no matter what kind. One of the requirements of our reporting class is to create a multimedia project for the Missourian’s website.

I was partnered with a member from my beat and we had three weeks to brainstorm, record audio, take photos and create a multimedia package. My partner Simina and I decided to tell the story of Buddy Packs.

The Buddy Pack program is unique to Columbia (and the other cities in Central and Northeast Missouri served by the food bank). It’s a really wonderful program that provides food for the weekend to hungry elementary school children.

Poverty and hunger in Missouri are growing. Recent numbers from the Columbia Public School district show that forty percent of students are receiving free or reduced lunch. Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, informed us that Missouri is ranked fifth worst in the nation for food insecurity for children under the age of 18. Just a few years ago we were ranked eighth worst. Currently, the Buddy Pack program is providing 8,500 buddy packs per week across 32 different counties, but Kirkpatrick told us that the number of children who actually qualify is more than six times higher.

I was astonished to hear this.

No child should be hungry. This is huge problem and I certainly don’t have the solution for it, but the least I can do is make others aware. I’m thankful for the work of the Food Bank, Columbia Public Schools and the numerous volunteers who continue to help make the Buddy Pack program work.

I’d like to think that 8,500 children are equally thankful.

Speak Your Mind

Wednesday night, I attended the second Speak Your Mind forum of the semester at Hickman High School. The topic was the U.S. economy.

These forums have been going on at Hickman for 20+ years. Each year a group of seniors is selected by English teacher George Frissell to be on the Speak Your Mind committee. The committee puts out a suggestion box for possible topics at the beginning of the year then compiles the top ideas and the student body votes for their favorites.

The committee invites “experts” on the various topics to be panelists at the forums. Only students are allowed to ask questions of the panelists, and while questions may be directed at a specific panelist, all are given the opportunity to answer.

I’d heard about the first forum through my story with Brendan on social networking, but I hadn’t seen the forum first-hand until Wednesday.

What a great experience for high schoolers to learn more about current events and to get to ask the questions that interest them. I thought it was a unique opportunity for all parties involved.

Deadline on a World Café

I wrote my first deadline story the other night. And it wasn’t that bad! (The deadline experience or my story.)

I covered one of the Columbia Public School District’s World Cafés. The school districtheld the meeting to discuss its current financial situation. It is in a dire position: the district is running out of money. According to CPS Superintendent Chris Belcher, the district could be running a deficit of $14 million in the next five years and total expenditures will exceed total revenue in the next three.

As someone who has attended public schools her entire life, this thought scares me. While I didn’t attend Columbia Public Schools, it is my understanding that the Des Moines Public School District and many others across the country are facing similar dilemmas.

I hate to hear that the district has to cut funding for extra programs or extra positions. I have such fond memories from my time in the public schools, largely from school-related extracurricular activities, and I hope that future generations will be able to enjoy similar positive experiences.

I am interested to see what option the school board is going to propose to raise funds, and then how the community votes on that option in the spring.

Promoting Wellness

I worked a general assignment shift again yesterday and actually got my hands on a very cool story. The Columbia (Missouri) Housing Authority has partnered up with a company called Burrell Behavioral Health to better provide services to residents at two of the Housing Authority’s buildings.

The two buildings, Oak and Paquin Towers provide low-income housing for the elderly, near-elderly and disabled. The most amazing thing about the new partnership is that all of the services, which range from substance abuse support groups to financial building, are available to all residents at no charge. So amazing. I think acts like this frequently go with little recognition, so I’d just like to take a moment to reiterate: mental health services are going to be provided to ALL residents at NO cost. This has the potential to make a lot of lives much better.

I had the opportunity to speak with Phil Steinhaus, the CEO for Columbia Housing Authority, about the new project. He was very friendly and full of information, which of course made writing my article that much easier. I sent him a link to the story once it was published last night and received a response thanking me and inviting me to an ice cream social at Paquin this morning. Alas, I had class, but it’s always nice to feel your work is appreciated. Warm fuzzies.