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Bygone blog: Summer camp

14 Jul

This is the seventh in my series of Bygone Blogs, in which I am re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the last 10 years. This one was originally published on June 20, 2011. I post it today in honor of all the kids (young and old) who are going off to camp this summer. 

A letter to my son at camp

Lenore Skenazy had a funny column in Sunday morning’s newspaper. Maybe you saw it; she had come across a website which actually gave instructions to parents on how to write a letter to their child at camp. Now, I didn’t go so far as to try to find that website, but I suspect the advice is aimed at parents whose young children are at a sleep-away camp, perhaps for the first time.

My daughter showed me the column yesterday.  She suggested I follow the website’s instructions and send a letter to my son, who left for camp Friday morning.  I thought that was a terrific idea.

But since my son is 21 years old and will be spending his entire summer as a counselor at the YMCA’s Camp Gorham in the Adirondacks, mine reads a bit differently:

Dear Sean,

I hope you had a safe trip to camp on Friday morning. Actually, I know you did; your dad took you there personally since we won’t let you have your own car until you can pay collision costs yourself for a change.

I miss you already. I was just remarking on that as I gathered your laundry from the floor in your room and rediscovered the color of your carpet.  I will miss all the charming peculiarities that make you unique and that bring us such joy at home.

Like your superhuman ability to eat an entire box of cereal in just two bowlfuls. And an entire 29-ounce can of peaches in one sitting.

I will miss seeing what new musical instrument you have decided to befriend this week. I will miss the way you can see music in everything. Like when you “conduct” the directional signal in my car as it makes its steady blinky noise, and how you can turn any surface in the house into an impromptu drum when we least expect it. I will miss having to high-step through my office so as to not step on a cymbal or flute or tambourine.

I will miss hearing the “SLAM!  THUNK!” when you come in from teaching in the evening, slamming the door behind you and dropping everything you carry within a one-foot radius. I will miss having to kick you out of the lounge chair because Dad and I want to use the TV ourselves for a change.  I will miss worrying if you’ll be up in time for your appointments because you stayed up all night playing video games.

Yes, I will miss all of these things, because as aggravating as they all are, they all mean you’re home and you’re safe. And that’s all a mom needs to know.

So have fun at camp this summer, Sean. I’ll miss you. But I’ll try to remember that I get you nine months of the year, so it’s only fair those kids at Camp Gorham get you the other three months.

They have no idea how lucky they are.

Love, Mom

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Webster Library to host unique photography exhibit

30 Apr

Everybody has a story. That’s the intriguing premise behind a brand new photography exhibit opening Tuesday at the Webster Public Library.

Created by Linda Dow Hayes of Hayes Photography, the exhibit features portraits and personal narratives of 25 Webster Central School District faculty and staff members

Hayes, who works as a teaching assistant at Webster Thomas High School, has always been interested in creating insightful portraits. The project grew from remarks made by Webster CSD superintendent Carm Gumina on the opening day of school last year, when he talked about the fact that all faculty and staff members have stories to tell.

Hayes took that thought and ran with it, creating her very personal and meaningful “We All Have a Story” exhibit, where she takes a closer look at the lives and stories of more than two dozen staff members.

“The idea of connecting with interested faculty and staff members by taking their portraits was something that I felt might work to help me grow as an artist and connect with the community-at-large,” Hayes said.

The exhibit, which runs the entire month of May, will be open to the public during the library’s normal business hours, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., friday from 10 to 6, and Saturday from 10 to 5.

The public is invited to an opening reception on Wednesday May 2 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Webster Public Library is located at 980 Ridge Road.

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Deb Carpenter recognized for service

26 Apr

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Congratulations to Deb Carpenter for recently marking almost 30 years of service to Webster Parks and Recreation!

The occasion was marked on Tuesday with a surprise party at the Rec, scheduled right after the Froggy Fitness class which she helps out with. She was presented with a plaque while surrounded by many of those students. Deb also runs the Rec’s Soccer Squirts and Preschool Track and Field programs throughout the year for 3 to 5-year olds.

Deb originally started with the Parks and Recreation Department in 1984. She worked at North Ponds Park and summer camps every summer when she was home from college, then in 1998 she started helping with youth programs again and just never stopped.

According to Recreation Supervisor Julie Schillaci, Deb is “full of energy and the kids just love coming to her classes!”

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Thoughts from the trail

21 Apr

In honor of Earth Day, I decided to bring several Wegmans bags with me today on my regular Barry’s Runner’s Saturday fun run/walk, and pick up trash as I ran.

I don’t run the bike path much anymore since I’m afraid of turning an ankle, but I do enjoy running along the Hojack Trail and through North Ponds Park. I’m sorry to say I was able to fill five bags with trash along that almost 3-mile route. (And I had run out of bags before I made it back to North Ave. in the village, or I could have filled three more.)

Here are a few thoughts from my trashy run:

  • There was less trash along the Hojack than I expected, which either means 1) someone had already been by there and picked up a lot or 2) people who hike the Hojack are generally nature lovers who choose not to trash it. (I hope it is the latter.)
  • I didn’t find any cigarette butts, which was a real surprise. Usually when I do these trash collections, I find them all over the place.
  • I did, however, find enough returnables to buy a six pack of my own.
  • Thank you to the three dog owners who were kind enough to clean up after your dogs. Maybe next time DON’T throw the bag into the woods.

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Webster PTSA spreads kindness one locker at a time

29 Mar

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I love stories like this one.

Thursday morning, every single student in all four Webster secondary schools arrived to find inspirational notes taped to their lockers.

The project was coordinated and implemented by the Webster Central PTSA, several of whose members fanned out Wednesday night to affix about 6,000 positive messages.

The project was enthusiastically embraced by Superintendent Carm Gumina and principals at all four schools — Spry and Willink middle schools and Thomas and Schroeder high schools.

 

PTSA co-president Stacie Peters wrote, “We are so proud of our students and how they handled themselves on March 14th that we thought it was perfect timing to follow up with the uplifting messages.” It was on the 14th that Webster students came together as one to show their support for the students in Parkland, Florida.

Kindness is so simple to spread, and is the best way I know of to solve the serious problems our country is facing right now. We can only hope that this next generation learns that lesson and will lead the way and start the healing process — and that reasonable, rational adults will start listening to them.

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Letters to Santa

24 Dec

Many of you know that I have a direct line to the North Pole. Santa and I are kind of on a first-name basis.

His name is Santa Jim, and he’s Webster’s resident head-elf, appearing at functions all over town, in both winter and summer. He’s also been the Eastview Mall Santa for years.

I got to know Jim when I interviewed him for my East Extra column three years ago. I have since come to know him as a kind, generous soul, befitting his alter-ego. So I wasn’t surprised when he emailed me a few days ago, saying,

Each morning when I arrive at the Eastview Mall Santa site I empty the Santa Mail box that sets next to the big chair. I usually sit for a few minutes before work and read a few of the letters the children have given to Santa from the day before with all their Christmas wishes and hopes. … They are so cute.  

Santa Jim the kind elf thought of me as he was reading those letters, and packaged up several of them for me to look at, and share with my readers. He wrote,

There isn’t anything special in them. It’s just a peek into the hearts, minds and eyes of these precious little children who truly believe in Santa Claus.

But they are special. Some were typed on a computer, others were fill-in-the blank forms that looked like they were done in school. Others were neatly printed, and a few were clearly penned by the parents, with the child providing a scribbled signature. Many had multi-colored words, holiday sketches and portraits of Santa.

They asked for a lot of the “hot” toys, like Hatchimals and Legos, but more than one requested that Santa make sure that other children in need would have their wishes fulfilled. One child had slipped “dad to be happy” on his list in between a Fitbit and an X-box controller. And a few of them asked after Rudolph.

Here are some of the things the children wrote:

  • Dear Santa, I’m writing for my little brothers. The boys have been perfect angels except for their non-sleeping-at-night-ness. 
  • I want some makeup PLEAS. And Santa ALL the kids are counting on you! 
  • Please have the elves pick me something nice! 
  • I would love it if for Christmas I could have a drone. You know, the things you fly with a remote-control. I would love for it to have a camera, but I totally understand if it’s too big and expensive. 
  • Good presits for the por. Good presits for my family and evrey body els. eny thing you thingk I wod like.

Thank you, Santa Jim, for reminding us what it was like when believing in Santa Claus was one of the best things about Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. May it bring you simple joys and happiness.

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Here we go a’caroling…

20 Dec

group shot

The streets of Webster were alive with the sound of music earlier this week as two separate groups strolled the neighborhoods, caroling at businesses and houses along the way.

The first of the musical meanderings took place Monday night, when BID president Robyn Whittaker hosted almost 30 friends, business acquaintances and assorted other local residents on her second annual village caroling party.

And a party it was. Participants first gathered at The Coach, where Robyn had provided plenty of soda, beer, hot cider (spiked if you wanted to) and pizza. When 7 p.m. rolled around, everyone filed out of the pub, and that took a while because there were about 30 of us. First stop was for a group photo in front of the Coach. Then it was off to do some singing.

The stops were pretty much determined on the fly, depending on what businesses were open and what homes seemed to be occupied. In about an hour, the tuneful group had visited the Webster Barbershop, Rubino’s, Brimont Bistro, and about a dozen homes. The business owners were tolerant; some of the homeowners were hesitant to come out, but most others happily stood on their cold porches — occasionally with small babies or children in tow — to enjoy the music.  But no matter who the group was singing for (or not singing for), the enthusiasm and the singing never waned, continuing even as everyone walked from house to house on the streets and sidewalks.

The very next evening, I joined the Chorus of the Genesee for their annual Soup & Carol Night. Unlike Robyn’s event, which is brand new, the Chorus has been hosting this evening of caroling for at least 24 years. There were also a whole lot more people at this event. I counted about 60 men, women, children and dogs. I was told that it was more than double what the Chorus usually draws. It helped, I think, that the weather was pretty pleasant.

Everyone gathered at the Harmony House, enjoying coffee and cookies, sheets of music and Santa hats were handed out, and when 7 p.m. rolled around, everyone filed out into the street.

The first stop, as it has been every year, was Webster Eyecare Associates, which is pretty much across the street from the Harmony House. The folks there have come to expect this annual visit by the Chorus carolers, and this year — for the first time — had donut holes and hot chocolate for the chilly singers.

I hope you had a chance to enjoy, or even participate in, one or both of these caroling events. This is what small-town life is all about.

This is truly Webster.

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Webster Legion surprises veteran with “new” car

30 Nov
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US Army veteran Brandi Christie with her new minivan. 

When US Army veteran Brandi Christie and her children were invited to a family-friendly veterans’ event Thursday night at Webster’s Cottreall-Warner American Legion Post #942, she thought she was just going to watch her favorite band perform.

The Sons of the American Legion had a different idea. By the end of the night, Brandi had been handed the keys to a newly refurbished 2008 Nissan Quest minivan.

The donation was the culmination of a partnership between the Sons and a terrific organization called Operation Build Up. Based in Conesus, Operation Build Up is dedicated to preventing veteran homelessness and suicides.

According to Justin Cogswell, the organization’s founder, “We want to help veterans in their darkest moments. When they trip and fall, we as a country should work to help them up.”

One of the main ways Operation Build Up accomplishes that is by purchasing (or receiving in donations) used cars, fixing them up, making them road-worthy, then giving them to veterans in need. They typically rebuild three to four vehicles a month, spending upwards of $800 — and hundreds of volunteer hours — on each one.

The Sons began working with Operation Build Up about a month ago, when member Bill VerHagen invited Cogswell to one of their meetings to talk about his organization.

Sons Commander Nate Burdick remembered the meeting.

“We wrote a $1,000 check right then, then everyone went home and donated more,” he said. Immediately after that meeting, the post’s Auxiliary Unit donated another $1,000 to help with future builds.

Working hand-in-hand with Operation Build Up fits perfectly with the Sons’ mission, Burdick said.

“The Sons of the American Legion are directly trying to touch any veteran in any way we can to support them. It’s veterans doing work for veterans, It was a perfect storm for what we are trying to do.”

Thursday night’s presentation was especially timely for Brandi. A 15-year veteran of the US Army, she still serves in the Army Reserve. But her family recently lost their vehicle, so she’s been missing the required drills.

In addition to the minivan, the Sons also handed Brandi a check for $500, so she didn’t even have to worry about paying for registration and insurance.

Brandi’s four young children weren’t forgotten, either.  As they scrambled into the back seats of their spacious new minivan, her daughter and three sons each discovered a stuffed dog and stuffed Christmas stocking awaiting them.

After finally accepting that she wasn’t dreaming, Brandi had but one question when she saw her the vehicle for the first time. True to the selfless nature of all veterans, she asked through happy tears, “Is there something we can do to pay you back?”

“No, you don’t need to do anything,” Cogswell answered. “This is America right here.”

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Learn more about Operation Build Up and find out how you can help this great organization support our veterans in need. Visit www.operationbuildup.com 

 

 

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Memories of Barry’s on the occasion of the pub’s 6th anniversary

10 Nov
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Danny and Jessica Barry, the new owners of Barry’s Old School Irish, two days before the pub’s soft opening in September, 2011.

It’s no secret that Barry’s Old School Irish, in Webster village, is one of my favorite places in the world. From the day I first walked through the door and met baby-faced Danny and his even younger wife (Jessica wasn’t even 21 yet), I knew the place was going to be special.

Turns out, I was right. Thanks to the simple passion these two young people have for creating a truly family-oriented, traditional Irish pub, Barry’s has become a cornerstone in the village of Webster’s social scene for people who come for the friendly welcomes, excellent food, Barry’s Runners, perfectly poured pints, weekend live music, Irish whiskies, outdoor patio, Irish music sessions, folk music sessions, euchre, Notre Dame football, trivia, book club, Boondock Saints, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, New Year’s Eve parties, Wren Day parties, and so much more.

Tomorrow — Saturday, November 11 — Barry’s Old School Irish , 2 West Main Street in Webster, will turn six years old. In those years, I’ve tried several times to explain here just what makes it so special. What makes it different from other “Irish” pubs. Rather than try to do so again, I thought I’d re-post a few blogs I wrote in honor of previous anniversaries, which kinds of sum things up rather well.

If you’ve known the pub for a while, they should make for some interesting reading and bring back some nice memories.

This first one was for their first anniversary, posted on October 27, 2012.

This evening, Barry’s Old School Irish Pub and Bakery on Webster’s 4-corners will celebrate its one-year anniversary. In anticipation of that happy event, I sat at my computer last night, poised to craft the perfect blog about what has become my very favorite Webster hangout.

Fingers at the ready, I started to think. What exactly IS it about Barry’s that makes the place so special? The beer? The to-die-for Guinness chocolate cake? The live music? There are just so many things about Barry’s that make it a pleasant place to be. But what is it that makes Barry’s unique?

It took me a little while, but finally it dawned on me. I realized why I go back there every Friday night. And some Saturdays and Wednesdays. And the occasional Sunday afternoon. It’s Mary Jane, Mike and Patrick. Tim, Jerry and Robyn. Debbie, Sarah, Chris and Julie. Kim, Mac and Maura, Brendan and Gordon. These are the people of Barry’s, and every single one of them has become part of my extended family.

Funny thing about these extended family members, though, is that I couldn’t tell your most of their last names. Plus, I didn’t know ANY of them a year ago. But thanks to Barry’s, I’m now closer to these people than to most of my “regular” extended family members.

You see, any Irish pub can serve a Guinness. Any restaurant/bakery can serve up great dinners and desserts. But there aren’t many places where you can walk in and immediately feel like family.

But that’s the way it is at Barry’s. The feeling in this little place is just … different. It’s like everyone there is only a stranger because you haven’t met them yet — but by the end of the night you probably will. I’ve heard people refer to it as a “family bar,” which is a really weird phrase, but sums up the atmosphere perfectly. Just like the pubs in ol’ Ireland, Barry’s Old school Irish has become a community gathering place, in the mornings for coffee, scones or breakfast buffet (bring the kids!), lunchtime for some incredible Shepherd’s Pie, and evening for a pint and some live music. …

Oh, yeah, totally forgot to mention the momma and papa of this extended family of mine. Danny and Jessica Barry own this little slice of Ireland in the middle of the village. If you ask me, when they moved in and transformed what used to be a very ugly and embarrassing “Living Waters” property, they transformed the village of Webster as well. I am blessed to be able to call them friends. Tonight I will not be toasting their success as much as thanking them for being a part of our lives.

And this one, posted November 12, 2015.

Believe it or not, sometimes I am at a complete loss for words.

That’s been the case these last few days as I’ve been pondering what to say about Barry’s Old School Irish. You see, my favorite Irish pub is turning four years old this weekend. And as I think about how far Barry’s has come in those years, so many great memories try to elbow in for my attention that it’s tough organizing them all.

So I decided to go back to the beginning.

I still clearly remember the first time I walked into Barry’s. Like most Webster residents, I’d been keeping a close eye on the building at the corner of Main and South Ave., pleased to see the old plumbing shop getting cleaned up, and wondering exactly what an “Irish pub and bakery” would look like.

On a Thursday afternoon in September, two days before Barry’s was to officially open, I stopped in to check out the new place, and met Danny and Jessica Barry for the first time.

They struck me right away as very friendly, very enthusiastic and very young. They talked to me of their passion, how they wanted to model their new pub after the public houses (a.k.a. “pubs”) they had frequented in Ireland on their honeymoon just months before. The walls were bare, the taps hadn’t been installed yet, and they had little more than coffee to sell in the bakery. Yet they envisioned that their little corner pub would someday become a genuine community gathering place.

It didn’t take long for Danny and Jessica to realize that dream, and they continue to live it every day, by nurturing the kind of atmosphere that makes Barry’s unlike any other place in the world.

It’s a place where pretty much every patron is welcomed by name, with a smile and a wave; where the owners KNOW if it’s your first time, and make a point to introduce themselves; where young couples get engaged and older couples celebrate their anniversaries; where patrons will clear space at their table on busy nights and pull up an extra stool for a stranger, and new friends are made over pick-up games of euchre; where there’s an actual COUCH in the bar for people to curl up in with their pints, and on New Year’s Eve, the pub crowd cheers each time a new patron comes in; where the owner will order-in pizza at 1 am for the handful of remaining patrons, rather than kicking them out for the night; where celebrating Irish heritage through music, dance and literature is an opportunity, not a gimmick; where the entire pub will toast to birthdays, special events, happy occasions, sad occasions, or just because Notre Dame is winning.

Where everyone who walks through the door is instantly part of the family.

Sure, there have been a lot of changes over the last several years, as Barry’s Old School Irish has matured. Dear old friends have moved away, and so many new friends have discovered the pub that it’s hard to find a place to sit on many nights. The food and drink menus have expanded, and the walls are now crammed with photos, knick knacks and memorabilia. Danny and Jessica have welcomed two beautiful daughters, Maley and Rory, and are now expecting their first son.

But one great truth has remained constant. It’s all about the people.

“One thing that Jess and I have stayed with since we’ve opened is that the people that come in here come first,” Danny Barry said. “We take pride in everything we do, whether it be food or drinks or the events that we’re lucky enough to host, but everything is second to the people that fill these walls. The memories that we get to create together, the moments that happen in here, happy and sad, those are all because of the people that fill these walls.”

On Saturday, November 11, Danny and Jessica Barry will celebrate their little pub’s sixth anniversary. Anyone who has ever walked through its doors, and therefore has immediately become pub family, is encouraged to attend and raise a pint in honor of the occasion. Be sure to wear GREEN — Dan and Jess want to make the evening a GREEN-OUT.

Click here for more details about the upcomoing festivities, but you can expect:

• Live Irish Music by Barry’s Crossing from 7:30-11 p.m. (You may remember this was the very first band to play at Barry’s, back before they were even a band and Danny billed them as “Irish musicians.” They ultimately named their band after Barry’s and  have played every anniversary party since.)

• Irish Whiskey toast on the house @ 9:45 p.m.

• Irish dancers and Jack the Piper

If you’ve read this far, you might also be interested in reading the very first blog I wrote about Barry’s.

I leave you with a few more memories from the pub’s six years:

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Bygone Blog: Spam, spam, spam

2 Oct

This is the sixth in my series of Bygone Blogs, in which I am re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the last 8 years. This one was originally published on August 25, 2012.

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Looking for some cheap entertainment? Poke through your spam folder sometime. Don’t worry, if you don’t actually click on a link, you’re safe. I do this every once in a while when I get bored. I visit my Gmail spam folder and see how many people want to give me money or need help carrying all their money-stuffed suitcases to the United States, or consider me a perfect candidate for a cheap loan. (I don’t get the male enhancement ads very much anymore. Maybe they wised up.)

So those always make me giggle. But if I’m in the mood for some real gut-breaking laughs, I check the spam comments I get on my WordPress blog. Most of them try to commend me on my excellent blog and insightful comments.

At least I think that’s the case. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.  Here’s an example (and I swear, I did not edit this for clarity):

I wanted to post you that very small remark in order to say thanks a lot as before with your spectacular suggestions you’ve shown here. This is simply remarkably open-handed of people like you to offer unreservedly exactly what a number of people would have offered as an e book in order to make some cash for their own end, notably seeing that you might have tried it in case you wanted. These tactics also acted to be the great way to recognize that the rest have similar zeal just as mine to understand a little more with regard to this matter. Certainly there are thousands of more fun instances up front for folks who read your site.

Thanks. I guess?

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