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The case of the mystery ornament

5 Jan

Yesterday, as I was dragging my Christmas tree to the curb for the Village to pick up, I was reminded of a nice story that happened seven years ago this week.

In the first week of January 2016, My husband and I had decided to take a winter hike at Helmer Nature Center in Irondequoit. It happens that Helmer is the location where the Town of Irondequoit collects Christmas trees every year for recycling. We noticed that someone had placed an ornament on top of a post near the pile of trees. Clearly, some family had left it on their tree, a kind person had noticed it and put it somewhere obvious in case the family came back looking for it.

At my husband’s suggestion, I snapped a photo of the ornament and posted it on my Facebook page. I was still writing a weekly column for the Democrat and Chronicle at the time, so the page had a lot of readership. Someone at Channel 13 saw the post and did a short piece on their newscast. That caught the attention of the Irondequoit family who had lost the ornament, the Rusters.

Turns out the photo is of (then) 22-year old Teigan Ruster, who was just a year old when it was taken. The family returned to Helmer Nature Center the next day and was thrilled to get the ornament back.  

The whole story was picked by by Channel 13 reporter Matt Molloy, who actually came to interview me at the Webster Thomas High School library where I was working at the time. Click here to see his report.

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(posted 1/5/2023)

Looking back at the year in blogs

30 Dec

As I like to do at the end of the year, a few days ago I took a stroll back through all of the blogs I wrote in 2022. It’s always a fun exercise, as I’m reminded of all of the events, business openings and closings, people and places that I found to share with you all. It’s a nice reminder of the rich and close-knit community we have here in Webster.

In the last 12 months I posted a whopping 276 blogs, which I credit in part to having more time to research and write now that I’m retired. Most of those were about special events. They began in February with the month-long Fall in Love With Webster, which highlighted our village businesses, restaurants and pubs. In April, we welcomed the return of Community Arts Day and the Greater Rochester Peep Show, and a brand new event, the Webster BID Easter Egg Hunt. Also in April, I reported on the official renaming of North Ponds Park to Charles E. Sexton Park in honor of the town’s first recreation director.

Later in the spring and summer I posted photos from the Memorial Day Parade and Firemen’s Parade, the Jazz Festival and a special Thank You Celebration honoring Revolutionary War patriots, the military and first responders. In September I dragged myself through the mud to tell you about the Webster Recreation Center’s annual Mud Run. October brought the Beer Walk and Village Oktoberfest, the Pumpkin Parade and the Trick-or-Treat Trail. And in December, I wrote about the newly christened Webster’s Winter Wonderland and Wreaths Across America Day at Webster Union Cemetery.

Businesses were also a frequent blog topic. I wrote about new businesses including M/Body Fitness, My Roommates Closet, the new Mama Lor’s on Lake Rd., Curated, Woodland Silk Screening, Woof’s Indoor Dog Park, Chad Cassano Studios and Crafty Christy’s. I also shared news from many existing businesses, like when Cobblestone on Main presented a huge check to Miracle Field, when Amy at the North Bee was selling hand-made beeswax ornaments to benefit the Ukraine, when Barry’s Old School Irish celebrated their 11th anniversary, Serenity Life celebrated its first, and some cute stories about Goat Yoga and Happy Feet Dancers.

I also shared positive news from our schools, like the Webster Marching Band’s annual Autumn Fanfare, the OWL Cafe at Schlegel Elementary School, the fairy trail behind State Rd. Elementary, and the beautiful murals decorating the halls of Webster Thomas High School.

I was there when Webster Thomas presented a mock DWI crash scenario before prom, and wrote about a moving exhibit on race at the library created by Schlegel Rd. fifth graders. I followed the class of 2022 as they paraded through their former elementary schools, and as they strolled through a luminary walk in their honor along the Chiyoda Trail.

Some of my favorite blogs were about the people who make up the fabric of our community. Like Jim Lockwood, Webster’s very own Santa Claus; Florence Kinney, “Mrs. Claus,” who reached her goal this year of donating 100,000 holiday gifts to children; Mike Fitzsimmons, the only known person with spina bifida to ever run an ultra marathon; Webster lacrosse standout Dr. Steve Cochi; and Cadet Nurse Corps veteran Marie Gyles. I also remembered two well-loved Websterites we lost this year, Lee Burgess and Pat Copeland.

I introduced you all to some organizations you might not have heard much about — or even known about — before: the Webster Chamber of Commerce, Heroes on the Water, the Senior Singers, Heritage Christian Stables, the Joe Obbie Farmers’ Market and the medical equipment loan closet. I also shared some good deeds from our local Girl Scouts.

Whenever I could, I tried highlight what I considered snippets of small-town life, like my neighborhood lemonade entrepreneur, stories about the kindness of strangers, how Covid brought one bunch of neighbors together.

And on the 10th anniversary of the Christmas Eve shooting in West Webster, I pulled together a publication with several stories showing how that tragedy truly brought our community together.

I often indulged in my love of history. Encouraged by my new role as author of the Webster Museum’s monthly History Bit feature, I wrote about the beautiful, hand-carved Burkhardt Family Creche; found out more about the two houses on Corning Park which used to be one; and shared some “Rules for teachers” from 1872 that proved that teaching has always been a labor of love.

I even got to be a part of Webster’s history myself when I portrayed Martha Cottreall during the West Webster Cemetery’s history tour. There were even a few history mysteries, like when I tried to learn more about John S. Gerling, Milton R. Case and the Webster Women’s Hall of Fame, and helped return an old photo album to its family.

Occasionally (usually when I needed something to post during a dry spell) I’d dredge up a “bygone blog.” Among those were the parental stupidity index, my diaper bag theory of motherhood, the psychology of dinner dishes, the resort town of Webster, NY, and a letter to my son as he moved out of town.

Finally, there were many times when I asked your indulgence, dear readers, as I wrote about some things happening in my life. These were sometimes funny, but mostly thrown out there for my own enjoyment.

Among my favorites were: admitting that I have a word problem; reflecting on hikes I took through Four Mile Creek in the fall and winter, and Whiting Rd. Nature Preserve; thoughts on my first week of school post-retirement; my magnet collection; the Tale of the Wandering Box Spring (I was the fairy, BTW, if you didn’t figure it out); looking like a terrorist when I run in the winter; my annual barefoot snow walk tradition; and recollections from my old neighborhood.

And I started the year with the most personal story of all, titled The Power of Words, where I revealed the four simple words that sparked my career in writing.

Whew. That was really long and complicated. And it didn’t even come close to touching on all of the blogs I wrote this year.

But I know lot of you are still reading, because you are the folks who’ve been with me all year. And you’re the reason I write this blog. I’ve said it before and it’s worth repeating: even though I enjoy doing this, it would get pretty old if I thought my words weren’t making a difference.

So thank you all for being faithful readers. I wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2023, and I look forward to continuing to spread good news from our hometown.

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(posted 12/30/2022)

A very Webster Christmas tree

24 Dec

As we near the end of the year, here’s a festive look back at many of the stories I covered in my blog in 2022. Perhaps you’ll remember a few of them.

Merry Christmas my friends. I hope you’re able to spend the holidays with family and close friends.

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(posted 12/24/2022)

A walk down memory lane to fill a dry spot

5 Dec

Just two weeks ago, I had so many blog ideas piling up that once, maybe twice, I actually published two blogs on one day to get them all posted in a timely manner.

Fast forward to this week, and I got nuthin’.

Oh, I’m working on a few things. Later this week, or example, I’ll be telling you about the new MBody fitness studio in the village, and I want to stop by the new Mexican restaurant on Ridge Rd. Plus, of course, I’m waiting for news about when the Wreaths Across America truck is scheduled to come through town.

But in the meantime, I got thinking about two years ago, when we were deep in the throes of the pandemic, and we were all looking forward to a rather untraditional holiday season. I was reading through the blogs I wrote that month, and came across a few which I thought you might like to see again (or never saw the first time).

This first one just made me giggle…again. I posted in on Dec. 15, 2020:

Some holiday giggles

We all could use a little laugh right about now as Christmas-time stress compounds the stress we already have thanks to COVID.

So I thought I’d share these images with you, of a scene I came across in Irondequoit last weekend. All I could think of was, “Arlo Guthrie told us all about the ‘Thanksgiving Day Massacree.’ How come we haven’t heard anything about this obvious Christmas Day Massacree?”

It got worse when I got to the Rec Center, where I saw clear evidence of a hit-and-run.

Webster’s “Reverse” Parade of Lights

Do you remember how, since the Village of Webster couldn’t hold its annual Parade of Lights, we held a “reverse” parade instead? It was a very ambitious idea where participating businesses and first responders would set up in a big Xerox parking lot, and community members would drive through the line-up to enjoy the lights and music.

It worked very well, but was so popular that traffic backed up for hours, even onto the highway.

I was there most of the day, and took several videos of the event. I won’t repost them all here, but you can click here to see them and read the original blog from this week two years ago, Dec. 6, 2020.

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(posted 12/5/2022)

Bygone blog — Parental stupidity index

29 Nov

This is the latest in my on-again, off-again series of Bygone Blogs, in which I’m re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the last 14 years. This one was originally published on October 8, 2008.

Parental Stupidity Index

WARNING! Mathematics ahead!
(But stay with me, because you might find this interesting.)

My husband and I have a 14-year old. She thinks we’re stupid.

Now this phenomenon — which I’ll call “Perceived Parental Intelligence,” or PPI — is not unusual. Matter of fact, it’s so commonplace I’m surprised there hasn’t been any serious quantitative research on the subject. So of course, I’ve decided to give it a shot.

As I see it, the PPI phenomenon proceeds something like this: from birth to pre-teen, children think their parents are the smartest people in the world. At about 9 or 10 years old, that perception begins to sag. Then, at around 11 years old, the PPI takes a precipitous drop and continues to drop (i.e. parents continue to get stupider) until children’s mid to late-teen years.

It’s at this time, roughly coinciding with the college years, that Perceived Parental Intelligence begins a slow and steady crawl back up. Not surprisingly, the index takes an abrupt upswing in the late 20s, when children start having children of their own, and they wonder how on earth their parents managed to raise a family without going psycho.

For visual learners, below you’ll see how the PPI phenomenon looks when graphed.

Point A, a child’s early years, are when parents are percieved to be really smart and know everything.

Point B, when a child enters the pre-teen years, parents begin their quick descent into stupidity.

At Point C, when grandchildren are born, parents all of a sudden look like Einstein.

I’m curious to see if other families are seeing the same phenomenon. I also encourage replication of this study. I wonder, for example, if Point B — where the PPI begins to decline — is a constant.

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(posted 11/28/2022)

Remembering Pat Copeland

2 Nov

I heard some sad news the other day. Pat Copeland, one of the Village of Webster’s bright spots, has passed away.

I didn’t know Pat very well, but I did get to meet her a few years ago when her daughter Molly organized a surprise car and truck parade for her 90th birthday. I heard about it on Facebook and made very sure I was there for the festivities.

Precisely at noon on April 28, 2020, dozens of cars, truck and jeeps covered in banners and balloons, led by emergency vehicles all sounding their sirens and air horns, streamed past Pat’s East Main St. home as she watched with a huge grin on her face. The parade even included a drum majorette, Webster’s own Denise Baller of Dancing With Denise.

Denise still remembers the day well.

I met (Pat) after seeing a post from Molly saying she wanted to have a parade for her mom for her birthday, and wanted to have a majorette in the parade. Well, my days at Bishop Kearney were filled with high kicking as a majorette in the BK Marching Kings, so I located an old uniform and boots and coordinated with Molly to be part of the parade!

As my mom had just passed away, I knew how important it was to fulfill the desires of her elderly mom. So I was so happy to be a part of such a special day and create such a nice memory for both of them.

Another very special moment that day, Molly remembers, is when an opera singer, who had once sung the National Anthem at a Florida Marlins game, sang it and “God Bless America” for Pat. Molly wrote, “Finding such a needle in a haystack was the Lord at work giving me a hand in creating such a day!”

The community came out in droves to drive by, honk their horns and lean out their windows yelling “happy birthday!” Many others stood along the sidewalk to watch the festivities. (Click here for the blog I wrote that day.)

Pat was rather blown away by it all. In a television interview she sat for after the parade was over, she told the reporter, “I don’t know where they all came from. (Molly) certainly went out of her way to create a birthday I will remember forever.”

“I’m overwhelmed. I just couldn’t breathe,” she added. “It’s a wonderful gift, a marvelous gift.”

Pat passed away on Saturday Oct. 15, at the age of 92. Her daughter Molly writes that she was not afraid to pass, that she was looking forward to seeing her brother, sisters, husband and friends.

Molly wrote, “The entire family, immediate and extended, will miss her dearly as she never left anyone with anything less than a smile.” It’s fitting, then, that in her later days, the Village of Webster community was able to bring a smile to her face.

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(posted 11/2/2022)

My magnet collection is growing

4 Oct

Late last night, my husband and I returned from a week-long holiday in Copenhagen. It wasn’t a country we’d every thought would be on our traveling bucket list. But when he saw an conference scheduled for at Roskilde University that dovetailed with his research agenda, he jumped at the excuse to spend some time in Denmark.

And of course I joined him.

Through the wonders of the internet, before I even left town I was able to schedule a half dozen blogs to post throughout the week ahead, so you probably didn’t even notice any glitches. Of course, if you were up in the wee hours of the morning and saw one of my blogs post at 1 a.m., you might have wondered.

We were hoping that the typical cool, rainy weather that Denmark’s known for in October would also take a holiday, but that wasn’t to be the case. Still, umbrellas in hand, we explored about as much of Copenhagen that could be explored, and one day even took a train north to small-town Elsinore to check out that charming old seaside community. And of course, since we were literally so close to Sweden that we could see it across the Øresund strait, we had to spend some time there.

I took a ton of photos, of course, and those are great, but I’ve decided I’m going to chronicle my adventures with a fridge magnet purchased from each of the countries I visit in our travels. So this morning I added two new magnets to my fridge, one from Copenhagen — specifically, the beautiful Nyhavn neighborhood — and one from Sweden. They joined the one I got from Barcelona on a cruise we took over the summer.

We’re not planning any more world traveling for a while, but I’m hoping next spring I’ll be adding a few more magnets from Ireland, England, and maybe even Wales. In the meantime, it’s good to be home and get my blogging feet back under me again.

I think my husband is glad I’ve decided to collect magnets from every country we visit, instead of my original plan: hoodies. I understand where he’s coming from; hoodies are harder to hang on the fridge.

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(posted 10/4/2022)

The marching band has followed me to the village

17 Aug

For years, when we were still living in North Penfield just off of Hatch Rd., we would occasionally hear the Webster Marching Band practicing in the Webster Schroeder parking lot. The school was more than a mile away, but every once in a while the prevailing winds would carry the music all the way to our house, and we could clearly hear snippets of the tunes they were working on.

Hearing the music drifting in on the warm breezes was one of the little things I always enjoyed about summer. Since we moved to the village three years ago, I’ve missed that simple pleasure.

But I got it back this summer.

Thanks to some set of circumstances, the Webster Marching Band has been displaced from their usual stomping grounds at Schroeder, and this summer are holding their practices at Spry Middle School, basically right across the street from my village home.

It’s like I’m getting a preview of this year’s program. And if it’s anything like last year’s — when the band took top State honors — it will be an award winner.

That’s just one more great thing about living in the village: music at the pubs, music at the gazebo, music in the streets … and now music across the street from me.

At least for a few more weeks.

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(posted 8/18/2022)

Bygone blog — a letter to my son

14 Aug

My husband and I spent Saturday moving my son Sean to the Bronx, where he’ll soon begin a new teaching job. It took us more than six hours to get there, and the rest of the day to unpack the U-Haul before turning around to drive three more hours to crash at my sister’s house overnight.

So basically, it was a nonstop day which didn’t allow me much time to think about what the move will mean to all of our lives. You see, for the last month, Sean has been living with us, having had to vacate his Webster apartment at the end of June. His comings and goings, culinary eccentricities and unkempt room were reminiscent of his college days.

It was wonderful.

But now he’s gone, and since he’ll probably love his new job and living in the Big City, I expect it’ll be for good this time. As I sat on my porch in the much quieter, much emptier house, I was thinking about that, and remembered this blog I posted in June, 2011. I’ve reposted it once before, but it seems especially appropos today.

A letter to my son at camp

(originally posted June 20, 2011)

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

I could have written pretty much this same letter today, with just a few changes towards the end:

So have a great life in the Bronx, Sean. I’ll miss you. But I’ll try to remember that you will come back to visit sometimes on long weekends and holiday vacations (emphasis on “WILL“), and it’s only fair that those kids at Horace Mann School will get you the rest of the time.

They have no idea how lucky they are.

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(posted 8/14/2022)

Bygone blog — my diaper bag theory of motherhood

7 Aug

This is the latest in my on-again, off-again series of Bygone Blogs, in which I am re-posting some of my favorite blogs from the last 14 years.

I was reminded of this particular blog when I happened across a new mother at a park recently. It was originally published on March 29, 2009.

Diaper bag theory of motherhood

Have you ever noticed how you can tell how many babies a mother has had by the size of her diaper bag?
Here’s my theory:

First baby:

Diaper bag rivals the suitcase you would pack for a week’s trip to Europe. It contains:

  • changing pad
  • at least a half dozen diapers
  • baby wipes
  • baby oil
  • baby powder
  • four extra Binkies (in case the one currently in use falls to the ground, a second in case the first backup falls to the ground, and two more … just in case)
  • two bottles of formula
  • three burp cloths
  • two changes of clothes
  • at least three rattles or other kind of highly educational and stimulating toys
  • blanket
  • band-aids
  • Neosporin
  • Children’s Tylenol

(And if you’re planning to be out for more than an hour, double everything.)

Second baby:

Diaper bag is about the size of an insulated lunch box. Inside is stuffed:

  • a couple of diapers
  • diaper wipes
  • burp cloth
  • spare Onesie
  • one extra Binkie (if you remember)
  • a bottle of formula or water
  • rattle

Third baby:

No bag necesary. You stuff a diaper into your back pocket and you’re all set.

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(posted 8/7/2022)