Archive for December, 2008

Thank you to the CMH Emergency Room staff!

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m ashamed to admit that I had one of those moments of self pity on the way home from work yesterday. You know, when you think about how much your life sucks. But honestly, I didn’t really have much to complain about. What was I moping about? Stupid things, like being dateless for New Year’s and the ex-boyfriend who has been harassing me for months trying to sue me or have me arrested over a cat. Hardly worth a full out pity party.

But when I got home, a phone call put everything into a little better perspective. It was from my mom, telling me that my father was in the emergency room.

Now, if you don’t have the pleasure of knowing my father, let me tell you a little about him. My father is the strongest person I know. There is nothing weak about the man, even at 74.

Sickness just doesn’t fit with his persona, or his physique. It clashes with his 6’4” frame, and the very way he carries himself. Even though he retired from the NYPD more than 30 years ago, he still has that commanding presence guaranteed to intimidate lesser mortals and teenage boys.

He has only been truly ill a handful of times that I’m aware of. It’s always seemed a logical assumption that germs, bacteria and disease knew they wouldn’t stand a chance, so took to avoiding him altogether.

He is also fiercely proud, and will probably stop speaking to me indefinitely when he finds out I wrote this. He didn’t even want me to call my siblings.

For him, letting anyone know that he isn’t immortal is almost worse than being sick. He does not admit weakness, which is probably why he’s such a rotten patient at the best of times. Put him in a backless gown, deprive him of his evening martini, and you better look out.

I’m sure that didn’t make the jobs of anyone on staff at Chenango Memorial’s ER last night, any easier. But you never would have known it by the quality of care he received. Every last one of them was fantastic. They treated my father with so much respect and took such good care of him, that I can not fully express my gratitude.

I know theirs is often a thankless job, and our local hospital takes more than its fair share of criticism, but I have nothing but praise for their tremendous efforts to keep my father comfortable and diagnose his condition.

I’d love to thank each and every one of them personally, but I’m afraid I didn’t catch every name. I do want to particularly thank Cherokee, Cathy, Missy, Meredith, Cindy, Dr. Harper, Dr. Waters and Dr. Cook. You were all wonderful. Thank you so much for taking care of my dad.

Oh, and if you see my dad, you did not hear this from me!

A ladybug Christmas

Friday, December 26th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

My coworkers and I trundled into work this morning, bleary eyed from all that Christmas cheer. After deadline we spent some time swapping tales of our all-to-brief holiday.

Theirs were spent either hopping from one house to another, or hosting a slew of friends and family for the Yuletide festivities. Though less hectic, mine was no less enjoyable.

With my siblings spread out across the East Coast (in New Hampshire, Tennessee and the Florida Keys), it was just me and my parents this year. It was the first one I’ve spent at home in entirely too long.

We opened presents in the morning, a process that was interrupted repeatedly by phone calls from other loved ones wishing us a merry holiday.

I love to watch people open gifts I’ve picked out for them. For me, finding that perfect gift is the best part of Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting presents, too. And I think Santa was pretty good to me this year.

At least I thought so until I a gift my mother described as “the funny one.”

She told me this as I was fishing a non-descript white box out of a festive bag piled high with red and green tissue paper. Hmmm… Funny, I thought, what could she mean by that. My confusion grew when I opened the box to find what appeared to be a clear, hand-blown glass ornament. It was only after I turned the globe in my hand that I saw what my mother thought was so amusing.

The glass ball had one adornment: A crimson glass ladybug perched on verdant green leaf.

My mother thought this was hysterical, and was practically rolling on the floor. Me? Not so much. You see, I don’t like lady bugs. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say I’m scared to death of them.

Most people are afraid of things like spiders or snakes, flying maybe, or the color chartreuse. But not me. I can take all of those nasties in stride. But put a tiny little bug most people think of as cute in front of me and I start quaking in my boots.

My phobia dates back about ten years. I was living in Arlington, VA at the time, and had traveled up to visit my parents one weekend. I was exhausted when I arrived, and ended up falling asleep when I brought my bags upstairs. I woke a couple of hours later with a tickle in my ear. A tickle which turned into a buzzing.

When the incessant noise stopped for a moment, my wits returned. And I was able to connect the beastie driving me to the brink of insanity with the number of ladybugs I could now clearly see all over the window sill and bedside lamp.

Then it started buzzing again and all I could think about was the fact that I was at least 20 minutes away from medical attention and that I was going to lose my mind if I had to wait that long to get it out.

Luckily, my mother came to my rescue. Apparently, Stagnaro kids have a long history of getting things stuck in our ears. In the upper recesses of our king-sized medicine cabinet, she located the ear syringe she’d used to extricate a bean from my bother Ken’s aural cavity 20 or 30 years before. With it, she was able to drive the infernal lady bug from my ear and restore my sanity.

The experience basically scarred me forever. But, as evidenced by the ornament, the rest of my family finds it quite humorous.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly enough. We listened to some Christmas music, did some snowmobiling, and yes, finally watched A Christmas Story. (I did enjoy it, but I’m not sure I would classify it as life-changing, not in relation to my ladybug experience anyway.)

Because it was just the three of us, we decided to forgo our usual roast turkey and I roasted a loin of pork instead. It was a delicious ending to the day.

When I went to bed a little earlier than usual, my parents didn’t seem to notice. They thought I was worn out from the snowmobiling, but really I just wanted for a bit of peace and quiet. It may be a full year until Christmas comes around again, but I’ll need every bit of it to properly plot my ladybug revenge.

Like my holiday leftovers, it will be a dish better served cold.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

My mother’s birthday was yesterday. It was the first one I’ve gotten to spend with her in an awfully long time and, even though I spent a good deal of the day as slave labor, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Like most mothers and daughters, our relationship has had its tumultuous times. I remember her telling me that her mother had been her best friend, and that some day I’d feel that way, too. My adolescent and teenage years were just too clouded by hormones and angst to see it that way.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come around. I truly appreciate her as the wise, wonderful woman and mother she is. And I consider myself incredibly lucky to be her daughter.

My mother has always been my moral compass, letting me know right and wrong with directives that consistently began with the phrase, “No daughter of mine…”

“No daughter of mine would use that kind of language.”

“No daughter of mine would be caught dead in that bar.”

“No daughter of mine would ever write about her family and post it on the internet.”

You get the picture. While I wish I could say that I no longer receive these lectures, it would be an out and out lie. I just got one last week.

Whether I agree with or follow her advice, I have to admit that she is usually right. (A lesson I’ve learned the hard way.) But regardless of my choices, I have always had her full support. She’s even makes a valiant effort not to rub it in when she’s proved correct. Again. Except for the whole happy dance thing.

Sure, sometimes we fall back into those old roles; me as the willful teenager and her as the exasperated mother. But never for long. We find too much happiness in spending time together, whether it’s playing golf, shopping or just talking.

At 33, I am proud to say that I love my mother with all of my heart, and that she is indeed my best friend. I treasure the time we spend together. My greatest wish in life is to make her proud. And to age as gracefully as she has.

Happy Birthday, Mom.

The weather outside is frightful…

Friday, December 19th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

They certainly had those lyrics right. It really is getting frightful out there. I think we are definitely well on our way to getting that 6 to 10 inches being forecast. More in higher elevations, of course, as well as out in the sticks where I live.

This morning it seemed like another phantom storm. Schools were closed when not a flake had fallen, but the critics became noticably silent when it began to snow in earnest around 11. Wow, did it ever come quick.

I have to say it is definitely putting a cramp in my plans. My brother and his family were due to fly in this afternoon, but now they won’t be leaving Tennessee until tomorrow.

And that Christmas shopping I’ve been putting off? No chance that is getting done tonight. We’ll have to wait and see what the roads look like tomorrow, I guess.

My advice is to get home, be safe and don’t do anything silly out there on those roads.

I personally plan on paying head to the aforementioned song. I’m going home to curl up in front of the fire, where it will undoubtedly be so delightful.

The good news is, we won’t just have to dream of a white Christmas this year.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Anticipated snow days

Friday, December 19th, 2008
Tyler Murphy

The faith in weather reporting must have improved in the past decade because several area school have announced closures and early dismissals without the actual fall of a single snow flake.

I don’t remember that ever happening to us in school and to be honest I’m a little jealous that students today get anticipated snow days, all of ours were defiantly reactive snow days.

Not to put the school administrations down, I could certainly see the better side of this coin. For one you won’t have an afternoon evacuation (early dismissal) while in the middle of a snow storm. Although I recall the entertaining and frantic distribution of elementary students as Middle and High School students piled onto snow covered buses.

Often you’d just go hang out a a friend’s house who lived in town for the second half of the day or if you were lucky enough, a girlfriend’s house because odds are the working parents wouldn’t be home on an early dismissal.

Maybe this is sign of my time. I can hear myself in the not to distant future; “back in my day kids didn’t get any snow days unless there was actually snow outside.”

Just thought it was a little strange.

The joys of winter driving

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I know I’ve complained about bad driving before, but during last week’s snow storm, I think I encountered a few of the worst drivers on the face of the earth. I admit, I’m no master driver myself, but the drivers I saw on my way home last Thursday made me look like Mario Andretti.

It was after dark by the time I started heading home and the snow was falling fast. The roads were covered and everyone was driving slowly to avoid an accident. When I turned onto 16 and started heading toward my house, I noticed an immediate slow down in traffic. The reason was two cars in front of me.

A younger person was driving so slow that a line of five cars quickly formed behind them. The kid was driving a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour. That fact in itself would not be enough to annoy me. Driving in nasty conditions can be nerve wracking, especially if you don’t have much experience.

No, the annoying part was that the car driving so slowly was doing so while traveling in the wrong lane. Saying the car was in the middle of the road would be an understatement of massive proportions. The car was in the wrong lane for the majority of the trip. What made matters worse was the fact that whenever another car came from the opposite direction, the driver of the first car would be forced to slam the breaks and swerve back into the correct lane. (Not a smart move on slippery roads.)

What makes the situation even better was the impatient driver several cars behind me. After following the young driver for several miles, one of the cars at the end of our little caravan decided he’d had enough and tried to pass. Ignoring the other eight cars he would have to drive by to reach the front of the line, the guy flew by everyone, obviously in a hurry to reach his final destination. Unfortunately, when he reached the front of the line, he had to wait for the driver of the first car to hit the brakes and try to swerve back into the correct lane before he could pass.

Watching the way some people drive in winter in makes me want to pull them over and start taking licenses away.

The Readers Have Spoken

Monday, December 15th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I have officially been triple dog dared. But don’t worry, I won’t shoot my eye out.
When I blogged last week about not having seen the movie A Christmas Story, I never dreamed I would elicit such a response from our online readers. It all goes to prove that I really am the only one on the planet who hasn’t seen the classic holiday film.

In addition to quite a few posted comments, I’ve gotten emails, phone calls and even a couple of people stopping me in the halls. All incredulous that I haven’t seen it.

The response of two readers in particular, a husband and wife from Oxford, has topped it all off. And thanks to their efforts, I will definitely watch the movie this holiday season.

I first met Hank Burnor while covering an American Legion event earlier this year. “Col. Hank,” as he is known, is the Chenango County Commander of the veteran’s organization. I met his wife, Chris, at a Chenango County Farm Bureau event a couple of weeks later.

It was because of Col. Hank, that I ended up volunteering at the New York State Veteran’s Home in Oxford this past weekend. (You’ll get to read about that as part of our Delivering Christmas series.)

When I arrived at the Vets Home, Hank told me he had something for me. He departed momentarily and when he returned he presented me with my very own copy of A Christmas Story. He and Chris had gotten a good laugh out of my blog, he said, but they were stunned that I had never seen the movie.

Now I have no excuse. And I don’t have to wait for the 24-hour marathon.

The readers have spoken. I will resist no more. I’ll have family in town this weekend. I will encourage them to following the advice of our readers as well. We’ll put on our pajamas, pop some popcorn and curl up to watch the movie.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Drunk and Disorderly

Thursday, December 11th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I’ve heard of making a drunken fool of oneself at a bar or party, at a sporting event or even in the middle of the street. But at a town board meeting?

That seems like a sure fire way to ruin a good buzz. Or get arrested. Which is what almost happened to one Guilford resident last night when she made a scene at the monthly meeting of the town board.

As soon as she walked in I’d recognized the woman, who had made personal attacks against board members at the town’s public hearing in October. It made me really wish I’d chosen to go to the Coventry meeting instead. Or Oxford. Or Greene. But no, the die was already cast.

Once again, nothing was sacred when she got started. Including a board member who recently lost his mother. She stood during public comment and tried to hijack the meeting. More than once.

When asked if she had been drinking, she said it was none of anyone’s business and that she was in “a program.” After her forced exit (a fellow resident escorted her out when the board announced they would call the sheriff’s department to have her removed), those seated around her said they could smell the alcohol on her.

Apparently, the program isn’t working.

And I’m not sure what is worse. The thought that someone would behave like that drunk or sober.

The Town Supervisor commented that he had never seen anything like it in his 16 years on the board. When he struggled to find the right word to describe her attitude and actions, a high school student who attended the meeting for his government class filled in the blank.

“Disrespect,” he said. Boy, did he have some story to take back to class!

I’ve got a few words to add. How about disgraceful, rude and uncouth. And totally uncalled for.

Official letters to Santa depository

Thursday, December 11th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

For several years, The Evening Sun has been helping to make sure that letters sent by local children to Santa Claus reach the big man himself, but after receiving this year’s batch of letters to take to Mr. Claus, I realized this phenomenon may have reached an entirely new level.

On Tuesday, as I was looking over the newest batch of letters to send on to SC, I noticed the postmark on one of them. It wasn’t the general Binghamton postmark that I’ve seen on letters from our local children. It was postmarked Los Angeles, California. The address didn’t indicate that it should be sent to Santa Claus via The Evening Sun. It was simply addressed Santa Claus, North Pole.

I’m sure there are other agencies, closer to California, that also help children get their letters to Santa, but the fact that the letter made its way across the country and into my hands before it was safely delivered to Santa gave me a new sense of Christmas spirit. I can’t wait to see where else those special letters might come from.

Triple dog dare me?

Monday, December 8th, 2008
Melissa Stagnaro

I may be the only American never to have seen the classic holiday film, A Christmas Story. Every year, I hear references to BB guns, tongues stuck to flag poles and leg lamps. I know what movie they are talking about, but I’ve never actually seen it.

It’s obviously not for lack of opportunity. There seems to always be a 24 hour movie marathon on or about Christmas day, where it is shown continuously.

Yesterday I was in Barnes and Noble. They had an entire display devoted to movie paraphernalia – books, games, you name it. I went to a Christmas party last night and one of the guests was wearing a tie inspired by the movie. That lit up.

Someone actually purchased the house featured in the movie and has transformed it into a museum. Movie fans make an annual pilgrimage.

There are plenty of movies that I love and have seen repeatedly. I think everyone has one or two that they watch every time they are on. You’ve Got Mail is one of mine. While I may have tried a similar Meg Ryan-inspired hair style at some misguided moment in my life, I don’t own any clothing items or games inspired by that movie. I don’t even use AOL.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been behind the curve when it comes to  “classic” movies. I didn’t see Grease until I was in college, and only then after I’d gotten dragged to the Broadway version. ET? Don’t remember it at all. Titanic? I deemed it entirely too depressing just based on the theme song and swore I’d never seen it. There aren’t enough tissues on the planet.

I’ll admit that there are times I feel a little left out of this whole Christmas Story thing. I’ve just never really seen the allure.

Maybe I’m just worried that the movie itself won’t live up to all the hype. If I do see it, and hate it, I’ll really be the odd one out.

But I’ve been thinking more and more about this movie. If it is able to inspire a grown man to sport a light up tie, maybe I should give it a try.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that I finally break down and watch it. Although I may need an added incentive. Do you triple dog dare me?