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Girls on the Run needs you!

8 Jan

A couple of years ago I volunteered for a short time with the Girls on the Run team from Schlegel Elementary School. I fancy myself a runner, so thought I could use my positive experience with running to encourage these young ladies, some of whom had never run any distance before.

What I discovered is that the program is about so much more than running.

For sure, the girls do a lot of running. But what really impressed me about Girls on the Run is the program’s focus on life skills, confidence, positive self-image and personal and community connections — all while encouraging physical activity.

The eight-week program is for girls in 3rd through 8th grade, and is run entirely by volunteer coaches who follow a structured curriculum and engage their teams with fun, interactive lessons. Teams meet twice a week in person or virtually, and the season culminates with everyone participating in a 5K. The year I helped out, that event was held at MCC. It was a huge party with lots of teams and hundreds of girls coming together to celebrate their successes.

Right now Girls on the Run needs more coaches to help bring this inspirational program as many young ladies as possible. Coaches do not need to be athletes but must be at least 18 years old to serve as an assistant or 21 to serve as a head coach. All volunteer coaches must complete a background check and attend a virtual training session.

It could be a life-changing decision for everyone involved. As one coach said,

“It was so rewarding to be part of the girls’ journey to becoming empowered women. And I can’t begin to describe how changed I am as a person by learning the curriculum alongside them.”

For more information about coaching and Girls on the Run of Greater Rochester, click here.

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Here’s where you can recycle your Christmas tree

31 Dec

I don’t know about you, but I put off taking down my Christmas tree until at least New Year’s Day. This year it may stay up even longer because it brings me much needed daily joy breaks.

When it does finally get stuffed out the door however, I don’t like setting it out with the garbage. Seems like a very undignified end for a tree which served us so proudly as a glorious symbol of the season. Instead, I try to pay it forward and recycle it to be turned into mulch for next spring’s gardeners or pine chips for the trails.

Here’s some info on a few nearby places you can do that:

Webster: According to the Town’s website, you can drop your tree off at the Town High Department, 1005 Picture Parkway, betweem now and Feb. 28.

Penfield: The Penfield DPW is accepting trees at their facility, 1607 Jackson Rd. You’ll see a sign to the right of the facility’s gate, and you can drop it off right there. You can also leave the tree with the regular brush pickup.

Irondequoit has a Trees for Trails program, which is descrbed on their Facebook page:

Rather than put your Christmas tree to the curb after Dec. 25, bring it to Helmer Nature Center, where it will be used to create wood chips that mitigate trail erosion. Starting Dec. 26, bring your tree to the Helmer parking lot for recycling. We will collect trees until the Jan. 16th Trees for Trails event when volunteers will help unload your tree and High Falls Tree Service and Irondequoit Lawn & Landscape will be on-site recycling trees. This will happen from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Helmer Nature Center is located at 154 Pinegrove Ave.

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A happy story for Christmas Day

25 Dec

As we near the day we can finally say goodbye to a difficult 2020 and welcome a fresh new 2021, it helps to remember that some good things actually did come out of this awful year. Here’s a story about one of them.

Almost every week since the beginning of April, 5-year Julia Meyers has been playing virtual Yahtzee with her new friend Marion, a resident of Maplewood Nursing Home.

Julia and Marion playing via Google Duo

They get together via Google Duo, usually on Tuesday afternoons, and spend about a half hour playing one game of Yahtzee, each using her own dice and board. Marion is assisted by Maplewood’s Volunteer Coordinator Lori Porte, and Julia’s mom Linda helps her. But despite the board-side assistance, there’s plenty of excitement and conversation passed back and forth between the competitors themselves. And judging from the end of the game I watched earlier this week, the competition is pretty fierce.

It was Linda who originally came up with the idea as a way to have Julia connect with one of the residents.

I reached out to The Maplewood when the pandemic started because I was looking for a way my daughter could give back during these hard times. My grandmother spent time at Maplewood before she passed away in 2014 so that was my connection.

They first tried just video-chatting with another resident, but that didn’t work very well. Someone came up with the idea to play a game instead, and suggested Yahtzee. Lori found a resident whom she thought would be able to follow along pretty well and enjoy playing with somebody she’d never met before.

The games were on.

Both young and old have benefited from the weekly interactions. Julia gets to practice her math and number-writing skills. Marion enjoys seeing Julia and her 5-month old brother William every week.

The games have forged a friendship that reaches beyond the computer screen. Just before Thanksgiving, they even got to “meet” through the window. Marion and Lori used the occasion to give Julia a wooden jewelry box inscribed with her name. Before they presented the gift, Marion even asked Lori to line its drawers with purple felt, Julia’s favorite color.

More recently, Julia and Linda gave Marion her own Yahtzee game for Christmas — so she didn’t have to continue using Maplewood’s game — and a frame with a picture from the window visit, where Marion can keep track of the Yahtzee scores. Recently, Linda even discovered that one of Marion’s children is a neighbor of theirs.

The overall game score is pretty close. Julia won again on Tuesday, so she’s up 15 games to 13. But Marion needn’t worry. She’ll have plenty of chances to catch up. Julia said she’s planning to keep playing the games for “29,000 years.”

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Holiday music and a visit from Santa

24 Dec

Here are a few holiday delights for you and your family on this Christmas Eve.

The first is a beautiful rendition of O Holy Night, shared by Carly Thomas, the orchestra director at Klem North and Schlegel Rd. elementary schools.

Carly is a member of several orchestras, and is normally very busy performing holiday concerts at this time of year. But as there’s nothing normal about this year, one of her orchestras decided to try something different. They recruited some vocalists and put together a COVID-friendly arrangement of O Holy Night, recording their parts individually.

The result is incredible. Carly is the violinist in the red sweater against a white background.

Next, here’s a special treat for children and adults alike. Santa himself reading the Christmas Eve classic, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. This video was originally posted on the 2020 Webster Holiday Parade of Lights Facebook page.

May you all have a blessed holiday, enjoy your family, and please remember to be safe so that we can all get back to celebrating Christmas properly once again next year.

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COVID or not, we WILL barefoot snow walk.

16 Dec
At my sister’s house in Greene, Christmas-time 2018. The temps were hitting record lows that week.

So many things are different about this holiday season. But come hell or high water, my family WILL be doing a barefoot snow walk.

My regular blog readers have heard about this unusual tradition. My paternal grandmother (“Gia Gia”) originated the challenge about 75 years ago, when she took off her shoes and socks in the dead of winter and tromped barefoot in the snow to the far side of her yard and back. It was a distance of perhaps 100 feet each way. Pretty much every year since, my family has been holding annual barefoot snow walks whenever we get together for the holidays.

It’s a foregone conclusion: before the turkey gets sliced or the gifts get opened, we gather up towels, remove socks and shoes, roll up the pants, set up a photographer or two, sprint out the back door into the snow, and — while holding one another for emotional and physical support — smile for the cameras.

(While we scream through gritted teeth, “Take it already!” “What do you mean you need one more!?” “No, I am not moving over!” “Why didn’t you turn the camera on before we got out here!?” “I AM smiling!”)

Then, after the photographers are thoroughly accommodated, we run screaming back into the house to re-acquaint ourselves with our feet.

This year, of course, we won’t be gathering for Christmas. So we’ve had to come up with a creative solution to keep the tradition going: the first-ever Zoom Barefoot Snow Walk.

My running buddy Mike Bodine actually came up with the idea, and after giving it some thought I realized it was inspired. So a set time has been arranged, texts have been sent, and the Zoom invite has been emailed. On Christmas morning, I, my kids, my siblings and a smattering of nephews — representing at least four states — will, at the appointed time, Zoom barefoot into whatever snow we happen to have.

It will be epic. And it will be recorded.

How about you? What unusual holiday traditions does your family have? How are you celebrating this unusual holiday safely and creatively?

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Some holiday giggles

15 Dec

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.

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O Christmas tree….

10 Dec

Continuing my theme of it’s-such-a-stinky-year-I-want-to-get-Christmas-started-early, I convinced my husband the other day to make our annual trek to the Christmas tree farm a good week earlier than we usually do.

It was actually a more complicated process than it might sound, requiring quite a bit of unexpected research. It started when we got a mailing from the farm we usually patronize, informing us that the price for a cut-your-own tree was going up from $35 to $50.

That was a bit of a shocker. And it got us thinking that we might need to shop around.

I start asking friends for recommendations, hoping to find someplace a bit more reasonable. Long story short, those places do exist, but most of them are too far afield to make it worth the gas money trade-off. Because so many people recommended Woody Acres — which happens to be about three miles from our house — we ultimately decided to go there, even though their trees also cost $50. Our original choice seemed to be getting picked over a bit anyway.

I was blown away by the incredible selection of beautiful trees I saw there. It only took us 15 minutes, and only a few steps off a main path, to find a great tree, so perfectly shaped that it looks like it came from a movie. My eyes were a bit bigger than my Christmas tree nook, however, and we had to angle and shove it in much like the Grinch tried to shove a Christmas tree up the chimney.

A lot of you out there probably still have to find your perfect tree, and I know that this weekend will be a busy one for tree shoppers. So if you need to shop around, here are some local options. You’ll want to check their websites or Facebook pages to check pricing and see if they have pre-cut, cut-your-own, or both.

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Chorus of the Genesee is driven to perform despite COVID

1 Dec

Nothing, not even a global pandemic, was going to stop Webster’s own Chorus of the Genesee from making beautiful music.

The Chorus, which normally rehearses every week at the Harmony House in the Village of Webster, has found a creative way to continue their rehearsals while maintaining safe social distancing.

Like many of the chapters in the district, the Chorus has been meeting regularly via Zoom. But since mid-October, the’ve also been gathering in a parking lot off of East Main Street for live, stay-in-your-car rehearsals.

Steve Caso, the 2021 Chorus of the Genesee’s incoming president, knows his way around IT, and set up a system of wireless mics that broadcast to a specific FM station on everyone’s car radio. (The frequency, 91.1, is a jazz station out of Toronto. Anyone in Webster who might have tried to tune them in on Tuesday nights might have heard the rehearsal.)

Ten Chorus members attended rehearsal last Tuesday night, their cars arranged in a semi-circle in the parking lot. They surrounded Music Director Steve Link, who wore small lights on his hands so they would show up in the dark. He’s the only unfortunate Chorus member who has to brave the cold, while everyone else stays in their warm cars.

The Chorus is preparing for a virtual holiday season contest on Dec. 17 called Holidays in Harmony. It will feature choruses, quartets, special guests and celebrity judges, all presented via Zoom. Stay tuned for more information about that.

Be prepared for a surprise or two with this event, too. Chorus President Dave Bay wrote,

Like all barbershoppers, our visual impact is as important in the delivery of a song as the singing, which is clearly a challenge when each of us is in a vehicle in the evening.

We’ll be unveiling our solution to this dilemma, inspired by the challenges posted by COVID: car-eography (as delivered by the Car-us of the Genesee).

The Chorus of the Genesee is a non-profit, educational organization devoted to preserving the original American art form of Barbershop Harmony. The Chorus rehearses in Webster, New York, but performs all over the greater Rochester area. A portion of their proceeds support both local and national service projects.

For more information about the Chorus, check their website.

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Looking for outstanding holiday light displays

23 Nov

I decided to put up my house Christmas decorations yesterday. It was about two weeks earlier than I normally decorate every year, but of course this is far from a normal year. I rationalized that now more than ever we need something uplifting in our lives, and looking at Christmas decorations always brightens my heart.

It’s obvious I’m not the only one who’s thinking this way. On our regular walks through the neighborhood, my husband and I are seeing more and more lights and decorations going up. He likened the early displays to the rainbows everyone was chalking on their sidewalks or posting in their windows in the spring. “It helps mark the beginning of the end of this dumpster fire of a year,” was I think the way he put it (although he used a more appropriate term instead of “dumpster fire.”)

Charlie and Cora Venishel’s Penfield home is alays a winter wonderland.

I would love to help spread the happiness by highlighting some of the best holiday displays here in my blog. Perhaps it could be the “12 Days of Holiday Happiness” series or something like that.

But to do that, I need your help. If you know of a particularly nice display in your neighborhood, please drop me an email. Or perhaps you’re proud of what you’ve done at your own home. Send me an email! I’ll come out and take a photo, then tell everyone about it.

And don’t forget that the Webster Museum is looking for great holiday photos for their gallery.

They explain on their website,

What brings you joy? Do you dress up your pets? Make your own ornaments or special treats? Decorate your house or yard? Have family traditions? If it makes you happy, it will make others happy too!

Take a photo, then share it with all of Webster in one of two ways. You can email your photo to or upload them (on the website).

I sent one in, picturing my family’s unusual tradition of stripping our shoes and socks off and walking barefoot in the snow. If you’re interested in seeing that weirdness, check it out on the museum website.

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So what are YOU doing for Halloween?

30 Oct

Halloween, like life in general this year, is going to look very different.

This awful virus is throwing a monkey wrench into plans to take the kids out trick-or-treating; there are real concerns about maintaining social distancing, staying masked, handling candy that a lot of others have handled … basically all the issues we’ve been living with for the past 7 months.

But of course, if you’re a kid, Halloween ranks up there with Christmas as the best holiday of the entire year. So I’m sure there are going to be a lot of trick-or-treaters out there Saturday, hand-in-hand with parents who’ll be making sure they stay safe and healthy.

I also know there will be a lot of homeowners ready to welcome them. Some have come with very creative candy-delivery systems to help make the whole experience safer.

Like this downspout-turned-candy-chute created by my friend David Peter:

I’m not quite that clever. But I will be taking advantage of Saturday evening’s not-necessary-warm-but-also-not-raining weather to sit outside in my driveway to welcome any trick-or-treaters who decide to come out.

I’ve been looking forward to this night for a whole year. Last year, my first one in our new village home, I felt like I really got cheated. We were told to expect several hundred visitors, and that often homeowners would set up tents and fire pits outside to hand out candy. So I was prepared with both the candy and the fire pit.

Photo courtesy P. Wyble

But as you may recall, the weather last year was awful: rainy, cold and very windy. So we retreated to our enclosed front porch, which was OK, but was not the village Halloween experience we’d been promised.

This year we’re looking forward to trying again.

I certainly understand if you’ve decided to do something else for Halloween in lieu of trick-or-treating. But anyone who comes down Fuller Ave. will be welcomed at our fire pit, and invited to take a few pieces of candy off the table we’ll set up at an appropriate social distance.

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