Ashley's Reporter Blog

Oil changes, yoga, golf, and air filter clocks

Sunday, October 16th, 2016
Ashley Babbitt

I had the pleasure of attending Classic Casino Night at the Northeast Classic Car Museum Friday. I found there is something I may enjoy more than Blackjack: Silent Auctions.
The items on the tables for the silent auction varied from jewelry to sports memorabilia to automotive items and beyond.
The tables – set up just before the entrance to the dining and gambling location in the NBT Bank Event Room – were filled and staffed with volunteers.
The organization of the silent auction was fantastic.
I did seek the insight from friend Joe Angelino on how it all worked. From that point, it was game on for Mrs. Managing Editor.
Golf packages, wrote my name down. Yoga set, wrote my name. Oil change? I need one, so why not? Framed and signed Syracuse University Basketball Final Four photo? Thought I needed it. A ring that was two and a half sizes too big for my fingers? You betcha. A signed football from a team I don’t like … Sure. A crockpot even though I already own two? Wrote my name down. A clock made out of a vehicle air filter … Need it.
I arrived a little late and the Kate Spade handbag and signed SU basketball were already claimed, so I lost out there.
It’s just nice to see some friendly competition outside of the gambling tables where those winnings could be used at the live auction.
A gentleman and I went back and forth on bids for a golf package at least four times.
I’d write my name on something, then eat, then go back out and check and see if someone out-bid me. If they did, I’d go up the required amount, then back into the main area.
Has the good golfing weather passed? I have no idea. But I learned that in a silent auction I have more control over the outcome than at a Blackjack table.
It was all in good fun, and all for a fantastic cause and a wonderful establishment, so it was well worth it.
Did I win everything I wrote my name on? Negative. I came to a point where I realized I wouldn’t be able to carry everything if didn’t draw the line at some point.
But I’d like to extend my gratitude to all of those who donated items for the silent (and live) auctions, the volunteers who kept the tables organized, and to the folks who went back and forth with me on various items.
Now, I can schedule my oil change and tire rotation, make sure I’m not late by checking the time on my air filter clock, while doing yoga as the husband is out playing golf (a total of 72 holes, if I’m not mistaken).

Ice cream trucks and Kosovo

Sunday, August 28th, 2016
Ashley Babbitt

Sunshine. Ice cream. Carefree summer days. That’s what the masses want. I understand.

But, I was brought up in a household where carefree was a stick of gum. I was not treated as though I couldn’t understand nor have an opinion on the reality of my world as I knew it.

For that, I am ever grateful.

I used to be able to walk into school and know what was going on in Kosovo in the mid-1990s.

On the other side of the coin, I used to know the exact time the ice cream truck drove past my house, and when to be outside.

It’s a balance of the good and the bad that both undoubtedly exist – no matter where you live or travel.

I have grown to be an adult that continues to recognize that.

As a newspaper editor, I cannot sugar coat reality. Some stories that print are things that folks don’t want to believe happens in our quaint county that I love. But it does.

It’s important to realize that with the bad comes also the good.

One day a reader told me that the tone of the paper was too negative. I asked her if she saw the paper from that day. She said yes.

That day the top story was about the 169th county fair. There was an inspiring story about children who prepared bagged lunches and handed them out to the homeless in New York City. There was a photo of law enforcement officers and Special Olympic athletes during their ‘Cops on Top” fundraiser to raise funds for the athletes. And finally a story about Monks rescuing passengers from a plane that had crashed.

To me, that’s reality, but a nice dose of uplifting reality. I didn’t see a whole lot of negative on the front page she was referring to, but she then divulged that her issue was that second-hand smoke at the fair could harm small children.

I understand where she is coming from. Yes, second-hand smoke is not desirable, especially around small children. But as a disclaimer to all readers, I cannot control your thoughts following a story about an event that has taken place in Chenango for 169 years. I encouraged her to write a letter to the editor on the topic, but she said she’d rather not.

Months back I attended a question and answer session regarding the newspaper, and was asked why more “good news” isn’t printed.

My answer was two-fold: When I have happy news to print, I’ll try my hardest to get it into the paper in a timely fashion. Yet “good news” is not what comes to me often. Let’s say I have 426 new emails in my inbox Monday morning, I’ll be lucky if one is a “good news” item. I encouraged – and continue to encourage – readers to send in anything happy and positive they would like a reporter to follow up on. Their email addresses are as follows:,, and Send all the happy, uplifting, inspiring, motivational, community-based events to one of those three reporters, Matthew, Kieran or Grady, and the respective reporter will follow up.

The second point that I mentioned in the question and answer session was that it is a reality that our county isn’t clean as a whistle. There may be a drug bust in Lincklaen, or 22 individuals arraigned in a single month, or a murder conviction overturned. Those things are newsworthy. They can’t be ignored; it would be a disservice to not report on them. Unfortunately, there tends to be quite a bit of the “types” of stories readers would rather not see in our town. There is always news regarding small town politics, crime, lack of funds here or there, fires, accidents, etc.

We always have and always will publish about the Chenango Blues Fest, Colorscape, Pumpkin Festival, Parade of Lights, Gus Macker … and the countless other positive happenings in our wonderful community. Those events help to make this community what it is. I want to dig deeper with the positivity, though. The story about the children bringing food to the homeless… fantastic. When Chenango native Dustin Warburton handed out books to children with Dennis Rodman … what a special piece. These are the types of news tips I would be absolutely elated to receive. It warms my heart to read about the good. Truly.

I want to know about Kosovo and the ice cream truck. I want readers to know about Kosovo and the ice cream truck.

Therefore, if you’re on board with getting some more ice cream and sunshine into The Sun, then send an email to one of the above, or as always, to

I’m always trying to find that balance, so if you’d like to help publicize the motivational, please let us know about your event, fundraiser, lemonade stand, sit-in … or whatever it may be.


Follow me on Twitter … @evesunashley

Follow us on Instagram … theevesun

Rest easy, Champ.

Monday, June 6th, 2016
Ashley Babbitt

Back in elementary school, I was tasked with choosing a ‘famous’ person who had made a difference in my life. Many students chose presidents. One picked Jackie Kennedy. Another, Marilyn Monroe.
I picked The Greatest.
Saturday morning I entered my living room, turned on CNN and learned that Muhammad Ali had passed away at age 74. I should have seen it coming; I should have been more mentally prepared. I knew these last years were rough. I should have known.
But I didn’t, and I certainly wasn’t ready. I dropped my purse onto the floor, and sipped my coffee while in a slight state of shock.
Ali was the reason I had a heavy bag throughout my youth and teen years. He’s the reason behind so much of who I am today.
Sure, he’s always been known for being pretty, being feisty, confident and of course, the greatest. He’s deserving of all those and more.
The Louisville native won his first Olympic gold medal in 1960. He was 18, and known as Cassius Clay. Before one of his matches at the games in Rome, he made a prediction: that he would win by a knockout in the second round. …His prediction came true. He continued making similar predictions on his matches, often in poem or rhyme form.
In Ali’s 1975 autobiography, he wrote that after returning to his hometown, he attempted to eat at a ‘whites-only’ restaurant, and he threw his Olympic medal into the Ohio river.
In 1964, after going professional, his record was 19-0. He was the underdog in the championship fight against Sonny Liston. In his typical fashion, he predicted victory in a brash and colorful manner.
In the beginning of the seventh round of the bout, Liston refused to leave his corner and the fight ended with Clay becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.
Later that same year, he announced that he was a muslim, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
His fighting style set a precedent. I could have only wished – in my young years passionate about fighting – to be as quick. I couldn’t even come close to his speed, precision, accuracy. No one could. That’s why he’s the greatest. But that’s not the only reason.
Now it was his actions in April 1967, outside of the ring, that made me realize that this human was not just a fighter, a fantastic boxer. He was an incredibly smart man who was about to become a champion of a people.
Of course, many disagreed with his actions then, and I’m sure many do today.
Ali was drafted in 1966, and was called to serve in the Vietnam War. Prior to his induction which was scheduled for 1967, Ali made many statements as to why he would not be fighting:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”
I recall one of my teachers in school referring to Ali as a ‘draft dodger.’
Shy, quiet little me piped right up, clarifying the difference between a ‘draft dodger’ and conscientious objector.
I recall going home and telling my mother that my teacher was incorrect, and tried to discredit the actions and words of a man who was standing up for his beliefs and a man who was a civil rights champion for so many people.
Ali was subsequently arrested following his refusal for induction. He was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000 and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round.
Ali was not only a champion for folks like me.
After his statements on Vietnam, Dr. Martin Luther King said in 1967, “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.”
When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, he said that Muhammad Ali gave him hope that the walls would some day come tumbling down.
Ali redefined what ‘tough’ meant. The difference he was able to make in a culture that worshipped sports and violence while also idolizing African American athletes and criminalizing their skin color, Ali was able to bring so many together.
He made it known that it was important to speak the truth, no matter the cost.
Ali taught a simple lesson: “real men” fight for peace and “real women” raise their voices.
Bryant Gumbel once said on Ali, “Muhammad Ali refused to be afraid. And being that way, he gave other people courage.”
…Ain’t that the truth.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His public appearances became few and far between – that is until his appearance at the 1996 Olympics.
I remember watching it. I sat in front of the television at eight years old and watched him – with a trembling arm – light the Olympic cauldron. That moment not only opened my eyes, but the world’s eyes, to a disease worthy of more attention. He became the face of the struggle of the disease.
Still, you could see the heart of a champion. The heart of the greatest.
Once he lost his ability to speak because of the disease, gone were the days of his witty one-liners and poems. Gone were the statements of how pretty he was.
Ali’s last known public appearance was at a fundraising event for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute, to which he donated millions. He was donned in sunglasses and didn’t speak, but deservingly received his final standing ovation.
In a Tweet written by his daughter Hana when Ali was hospitalized last week and after the family was told his health was not going to improve, she said hey held his once powerful hands. They hugged and kissed their 74-year-old father. They chanted Islamic prayer. Hana wrote that some of his children opted to whisper in his ear: “You can go now. We will be okay. We love you. Thank you. You can go back to God now.”
After Ali’s organs had failed, his heart continued to beat for 30 additional minutes.
That, my friends, is strength. That, is great. That, gives me hope.
Ali said in the years following the Vietnam issue, “Some people thought I was a hero. Some people said that what I did was wrong. But everything I did was according to my conscience. I wasn’t trying to be a leader. I just wanted to be free.”
Isn’t that what we all want? To be free?
Ali’s words on Vietnam can be changed slightly and still be relevant today.
Ali has helped me to remember to be kind. To care. To be politically aware. To stand up when everyone else sits down. Reminded me that some days, I don’t need to straighten my crown. He helped me to understand that I don’t need to apologize for who I am or what I believe, and that I am capable of anything I want to achieve.
Rest easy, Champ. You will always be The Greatest.

Debate, Royals, church killing

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

So much has transpired since my last blog post.
• First, I’ll make brief mention of the Democratic Debate that aired on CNN Tuesday night. I speculate that where I stand on the spectrum of politics is far different than many readers, and I’m 100 percent fine with that. The five who took the stage for the debate each laid out where they stood with regard to foreign policy, economics, criminal justice reform, gun control, climate change, and national security.
Thanks to mass media, the statements regarding Clinton’s emails seem to have been a highlight of the debate.
I disagree, but to each their own.
With businessman Donald Trump the current front-runner on the Republican side, the Democrats have former Secretary of State and female presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, self-proclaimed “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders from Vermont, former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former US Senator and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb, former US Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, and Vietnam veteran.
The debate was entertaining. I encourage anyone planning on voting do some serious research on the candidates, as not everything is as it seems.
• Baseball is in the post-season. The Kansas City Royals play game five tonight to stay in the running for the ALDS.
Johnny Cueto better have the control he needs to get the job done. He’s had some rest, so I’m sure he’ll be fine. I’m counting on switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Kendrys Morales to get some bodies on bases and after Eric Hosmer’s performance in game four, I’m looking for him to show up ready to play too. The Astros’ Colby Rasmus is a little dangerous, so the pitcher needs to focus on strikes, or walk him if that’s the favorable option.
If the Royals end up losing tonight’s game, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, they’ll be an unhappy editor in the morning, but as a Kansas City fan, loss is nothing new. The Royals have had a season to be proud of.
• This morning, the AP national wire had a story with a slug that read “Church Killing.” I opened it, assuming – for some reason or another – that whatever happened took place far away. Not the case this time.
Six church members were arrested in connection with the beating of two brothers, and will appear in court again Friday. The Word of Life Church is in the Hamlet of Chadwicks in New Hartford, and was said by police to be the scene of the crime where a 19-year-old and 17-year-old were allegedly beaten for hours. The 19-year-old ultimately died as a result of his injuries. Two of the six arrested were the boys’ parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard. I spoke with a former member of the church this afternoon who shared her experiences with the church, and a full story will appear in tomorrow’s edition of the paper.

Staff changes, recent shooting, upcoming stories

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

It’s been a while since I’ve written updates from the newsroom, so here we go.
Long-time Sports Editor Pat Newell has arrived in New Mexico, which is now his home. Jim Testani now sits in at the sports desk and has been doing a great job thus far. I have no idea what actual shoe size Pat wore, but his figurative shoes are pretty big to fill. Jim has been diligently working and I’m sure will make Pat proud.
Cameron Turner is another welcomed addition to our staff. A recent graduate from SUNY Oswego with a degree in journalism, he is eager and an extremely hard worker. He’s shown already that he’s knows his stuff, and doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to getting a story. He’ll be mainly covering the court/crime beat, but anyone with an event they find newsworthy can contact Cameron at He is also on Twitter with the handle @evesuncameron.
Summer is finally here, and the heat this week has been brutal. I allow myself one complaint per season regarding the weather, so I suppose I’ll use my summer complaint right now. …It’s too hot.
As far as news goes, it’s been a busy week and a half to say the least.
Last Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. (without an alarm, mind you) and realized there had been a shooting in the City of Norwich. I worked diligently to obtain official comments and reports from authorities from the time I woke up until 10 p.m. that night. I was able to make it to the alleged shooter’s first arraignment that day and get some photos. The man was charged with attempted murder. He bonded out. He was later charged with two additional crimes, and no additional bail was set at that arraignment on Thursday.
I’ve been in contact with authorities in regard to the victim’s condition.
I attended Norwich City Court with Cameron to help show him the hopes last week, and covered a felony hearing following a drug arrest. The judge determined that the case will move to Chenango County Court.
Also, last week, I was filmed for a television show regarding the Ramsaran murder trial that took place in 2014. While I was nervous beyond belief beforehand, it was smooth once the camera was rolling. I was able to provide dates, events, and verbatim testimony from memory. I wore makeup. …That was awkward.
Once I know the air date, I’ll post an update.
There’s so much more going on, but I’ll save the other information for stories to print. Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming stories regarding the Danielson murder trial, Rebecca’s Virtual Run, Eric Lindell in the park as part of the Summer Concert Series, updates with regard to the shooting, and much more.

Updates from the newsroom

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Ashley Babbitt

It has been far too long since the last ‘newsroom update,’ so here we go.

• Since my last blog, The Evening Sun staff has moved locations, and we’re now finally settled in. Well, my walls could use some art — and I have a few local artists in mind — but all in good time. For now I like my coffee cups and notebooks. The decorating can wait.
• As you may have noticed in last Friday’s print edition, ‘Thumbs’ returned to the Viewpoints page of the paper. Each week, the writers and I will weigh in on an issue and give a brief opinion. Sometimes a thumb will be in regard to a village, town or city meeting, a new piece of legislation, a new business opening, a kind act witnessed (or personally carried out), or something in relation to our local criminal justice system. ‘Thumbs’ give each writer an opportunity to voice how they felt about something they may have covered, whereas in their news story, they remain objective.
• Something else that will be rolling out soon is a newly designed online ’30 Seconds’ submission page. All will be given the opportunity to create a handle before they submit their thoughts or reactions. The reason behind this new feature is because ’30 Seconds’ will be returning to print in the near future. The handle will allow me to pick the best (and worst) posts to put into print twice per week, and will ensure that one person isn’t pretending to post as another. There still will be the opportunity to post as man or woman from wherever you may be.
• Also related to ’30 Seconds,’ in no way do I find joy in censoring the words of others, but I would be willing to bet that people who submit the extremely profane, derogatory, racist, and downright mean posts know before they hit ‘submit’ that I won’t approve it. We could save us both some time if we cut out the hardcore swear words I see on a daily basis.
• It was great to see the photographs our photographer Frank Speziale shot from the Holy Family Lenten Fish Fry on Friday. The happiness in each of the photos Frank brought me put a smile on my face, and showed me that the people who help out at the weekly event really do care. It was very nice to see.
• Congratulations to the two young men who won the State Championship with their wrestling skills. Even though I am not as familiar with their career as our Sports Editor Pat Newell is, I have paid attention to their sports activities for the past couple years, and it’s been exciting. Well done, Mr. Rifanburg and Mr. Garcia.
• There have been numerous complaints about the winter weather we’ve been having. I allow myself one complaint per season. I use my winter and summer complaints right away. The first time I have to clean the snow off my car, I use my winter complaint. Once the temperature goes above 70 degrees, there goes my summer complaint. But I digress, even though it’s March, it’s still winter and chances are it will snow. Use caution when driving, don’t drive unless it’s necessary, keep warm, make sure your pets are inside, and remember it’ll be over soon. I have a hard time complaining when I have a roof over my head and there are plenty of people in this world without that.
• Things are rolling along in the newsroom, with some investigative, in-depth stories on tap. These include research that has taken weeks so far, and the filing for certain documents necessary for the stories to come to life. They’re not time sensitive, but I think readers will find them interesting and perhaps eye-opening.
• In closing, we are working on a year-long series that will highlight those who hail from Chenango County who have made a name for themselves. This includes humanitarians, arts and entertainment, science and medicine, business, politics … you name it. We plan to feature a different individual each week once we have our ideas solidified. We’re opting to include those who are living that are currently making an impact — be in here in Chenango or anywhere else in the world — or who have left a lasting impact but are no longer with us. If you have a nomination for someone who fits this criteria, please send an email to or send a private message to The Evening Sun’s Facebook page.

A time to give back to those who give back

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I found it appropriate to write my blog about an event tonight that is to help benefit a Norwich native who has been providing aid to Jamaican children for years.
Thanksgiving eve is known to be one of — if not the biggest — bar night of the year. Many folks have traveled home for the holiday and go out to see friends they haven’t seen in perhaps years.
This year, Norwich band Seek the Lion is playing at Rita’s Tavern in Norwich and is passing a hat around the establishment for those individuals who are feeling the mood to give to a cause; the endeavors of Jeffrey Neadom.
Neadom travels to Jamaica to aid children in need.
Neadom said, “The seed for helping out Jamaica was planted in 1993 when I camped there for 3 weeks. “In 2012 on my birthday eve I started the Jamaican Schools Project on Facebook in memory of my mom.”
Neadom added that he teamed up with the president of the PTA at Craighton Primary School and raised funds to renovate the boys and girls bathrooms.
Last year, Neadom returned to Jamaica and renovated the nurse’s office and sick bay, supplied them with beds, mattresses, bedding and medicine, and painted the canteen and principals office. He additionally tiled and pained in the nurse’s office and the sick bay.
Neadom plans to head out to Jamaica again, and there are funds necessary in order to complete the projects to help out the children in need.
“This year I’m hoping to resurface the playground and do a small library/reading room,” said Neadom.
Seek the Lion’s guitarist Nate Collins said, “With all the terrible things happening in the country and world right now, we’re just glad that we can help Jeff make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Drummer Nick Andrews said anything that individuals are willing or able to spare to help Neadom out is greatly appreciated.
“We have known (Neadom) for years and for years he has helped to rebuild schools in Jamaica,” said Andrews. “Tonight we are passing a hat to raise money for his next trip. Hopefully with what we raise he can at least get the kids some more things they need.”
Neadom said, “Now I’m just trying to give them (the children) a safe place for recess. There are 125 students so it’s cramped, but the resurfacing will give them a lot more room.”
A woman who donated money to Neadom’s fund, Sandy Myers, said, “After my recent trip to Jamaica, I can completely appreciate the work (Neadom is) doing. Keep it up Jeff, you’re doing a good thing.”
As a group, Seek the Lion shared its goal. Any money raised to send out with Neadom will help guarantee a safe and healthy schoolhouse for less fortunate children. The group said they want the youth to succeed and one of the best ways to do that is give them the opportunity to do so.
“Thanks everyone it means a lot to us and the kids,” said Andrews.
Seek the Lion describes its sound as “reggae dance music.” The show at Rita’s Tavern begins at 9 p.m.
Local musician Ben Miner is set to open for the band beginning at 8:30 p.m.
“I’ve got a few donations so far, and several people have committed to giving, so I’m feeling good,” said Neadom. “Family helps.”
Those unable to make the show due to the snow, or due to being out of the area, but who still would like to donate to the cause can visit Neadom’s GoFundMe page at

Time for some ‘happy’

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
Nearly the past month of my life has been consumed by the murder trial of Ganesh R. Ramsaran who was found guilty Tuesday (Perhaps, if time permits, I’ll write an opinion piece regarding it). This morning, on my way to work, I passed Chenango County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles heading north on Route 12. I found out ten minutes later, a deceased woman was located in Sherburne. Folks I went to high school with appear in the police blotter or in other areas of the paper on drug charges rather often.
So, like I said, I feel as though a little bit of happy is in order.
My crazy stubborn cat — who had snuck outside and was missing for approximately 27 days — has finally returned home. Six-year-old Jack is back to his usual self, even more-so than he was before bolting out the door.
Jack’s second favorite past-time? Napping on the sports section of the paper. After my husband reads it, it’s known that it now belongs to Jack. He’ll examine it, walk all over it, then take a snooze. He’ll wake up, scratch it to shreds (sorry, Pat), and then lay back down.
Daily routine. It makes me happy.
One of my closest friends has moved back to New York after spending some years out in Seattle. Her son is six now, which is hard to believe. Having them home brings a little spunk into my life, and spunk is always welcomed.
I have a best friend who is five, and she just started kindergarten. She gave me a bracelet yesterday that she had made, and after handing it to me she said, “I know those are your favorite colors, so it’s for you.” I wore it all night, and it’s next to me now as I type this.
My husband is supportive, hilarious, and just my absolute favorite. When I wake up each morning, the coffee is already made. If you know me as a person at all, coffee is essential in order for me to be a human that has any business being in public.
I have a home in the middle of nowhere filled with five males: four pets and the fella. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The support system I have in general is fantastic. Family, friends, strangers … you name it.
When my cat was missing, I had total strangers that follow me on Twitter asking if he had returned home yet. Emails came to my work account with queries as to whether or not certain located cats were my Jack-A-Roo. Those sentiments were absolutely appreciated.
A complete stranger came up to me this morning to tell me how happy he was because the sun was shining. I agreed, and we spoke for a few minutes about how we’re happier with our coffee black … without a shred of that fake pumpkin stuff.
I have four types of ice cream in my freezer. That makes me ridiculously happy.
Often times I’m told I don’t smile enough — sometimes my face just doesn’t smile. I can’t think of the last time I wasn’t happy.
Regardless, I figured with everything that’s transpired — even today alone — I would share some of my happy.

Ashley, age 12

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I have been writing murder trial stories in each paper since Sept. 2, I believe. I’ve also been doing my regular duties of building the pages for the following day’s paper, trying to update “30 seconds” as much as possible, and respond to emails as efficiently as time permits. Also, my cat has been MIA for more than two weeks now.
Regardless of all that, I decided today would be an appropriate day to blog.
What follows is what I remember from this day, at age 12.
I’m in the second to last seat in the second row closer to the door near the exit of Mrs. Meek’s math class. It’s business as usual. She’s writing notes on the projector, and I’m writing them down. With math, I was rather good at memorizing for the test and then letting it leave my mind. One look over my notes the morning before a test and I was golden. Did I learn anything in that class that day? Probably not.
Next up was Mr. Emerson’s English class. We were watching a movie that was based on a book we had just finished reading. Can’t recall what it was. Of Mice and Men pops into my head, but I can’t be sure. Just before that class was over — which was my class right before lunch — the teacher’s phone rang. After hanging up and just as the bell was ringing, he had told us all that the Twin Towers had fallen down. I remember someone asking, “The Tri Towers?!” and he clarified the location was New York City. We left class and went to lunch.
A boy in the lunch line was yelling that we were going to be bombed next. Some folks in line cried.
I remember wanting to know what was going on. I overheard employees of the school talking about making sure no TVs were on. I was 12, the last thing I wanted was to be shielded from “reality.”
Then after lunch I finally made it to Mr. Telesky’s social studies class. You know what he did? He turned on the TV, and said, “Watch. And ask away.”
He explained some things and people asked questions. He told us that what happened that morning —while I was taking notes in a math class that I’ll never remember — would never be forgotten. That it’d be in history books when we became adults.
I remember going home from school and watching it on TV with my sister. Then my mother came home from work and we watched together. I remember asking if the smoke would make it all the way to Norwich.
I don’t recall if it was that same day or perhaps in the days following, but I remember expressing that I didn’t think any people who haven’t done anything wrong should die. I still believe that.
So many people have lost their lives as a result of the events of that day. It makes my heart heavy.
Today I realize that a five-year-old boy on Sept. 11, 2001 is now old enough to fight and die in wars that began as a result of what took place that morning.
I wonder if that boy remembers where he was. I have memories of going to Disney World at the age of five, so I really wonder what a small child thinks of the events from 9/11/01, if s/he remembers.
Anyway, back to Ashley, age 25.
To anyone who lost a family member or friend on Sept. 11, 2001, I am sorry. To anyone who has lost a loved one in combat in a war the United States is involved in, I am sorry. To anyone innocent who has been killed, I am sorry. To the family members of veterans who have taken their own lives after returning from combat, my thoughts are with you.
My heart is just all-around heavy today.

Random thoughts from the editor, and coffee issues

Saturday, July 5th, 2014
Ashley Babbitt

I’ve slacked in the blogging department lately. Therefore, here’s a quick little ‘editor’s update.’
The editorial staff recently said goodbye to the man who had been handling our sports section since March. I wish Shaun the best of luck in his future endeavors. Also, I owe him plenty of thanks for bringing coffee into my office some mornings. I’m not a morning person, and can be a total jerk until I finish that third cup. Thank you, Shaun, for making sure my mornings were less rough.
On a related note, Pat Newell, 18+ year sports editor, has returned to The Evening Sun. His first week back was as smooth as could be, and the editorial staff was able to keep the 30-year-old tangerine tree that he kept in our building while he was gone alive. We (well … I) named the tree Victor. He was in good hands, and Pat seemed happy to see that he was rotated and watered as instructed. To be honest, I didn’t water or rotate the tree once. The others made sure Victor was well taken care of.
I had a vacation I had planned (essentially) since last June. I was going to spend a week in New Hampshire at The Eleventh Annual Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster (I wrote about it last year … you can find it somewhere on this site, if you’re interested). I went last year, but life happened and I couldn’t make it this year. Luckily I had friends who were able to use my campsite, and I wasn’t out too much money in the end. Anyway, I had spent some time showing Staff Writer Shawn Magrath the ropes of my job, and he handled things (with me semi-close by) for a couple weeks so that in case I happen to be sick one of these days or something, I’ll be able to take a day off.
Life becomes a little less stressful knowing there is a plan B.
That being said, I was away from my desk for a while to let Shawn do his thing, and went back to playing reporter for a little bit. Boy, I don’t miss that. The calls that don’t get returned, the emails that go unanswered, and the people who miss interviews. I’ll stick with my gig: build pages, answer emails, phone calls, and write the random story here and there when I have time to kill in the morning and something happened.
It feels good being back in my seat. Even though I was still working, it wasn’t the same. But I do thank Shawn and the rest of the staff for their hard work.
On a completely unrelated note, our building is going through some renovations, apparently. I come in each morning and something else has been moved or painted or the mirror from the ladies’ room has been relocated to the hallway. The coffee makers are unplugged.
The mirror thing … no biggie. I don’t look in mirrors really anyway. However, the coffee thing (as stated in the beginning) is a pretty big deal if we want a pleasant editor.
The Keurig we have in the kitchen is great. I can make a cup super quick, but we’re out of K-cups. Sam doesn’t drink coffee, but 80 cups split between three people only lasted a couple weeks.
We have another coffee maker that could potentially hold multiple pots of coffee (burners that keep it hot on the top and all that jazz), but it takes forever to heat up and be ready to brew if it gets unplugged.
Which now leads me to my ‘moment of the week.’
The ‘big’ coffee maker got unplugged. We have no K-cups. We do have – thankfully – one of those things where you can scoop the coffee into it and pop it in the Keurig and make a single cup.
Attempting to do this before any coffee in my system is a disaster waiting to happen. Coffee grounds landed all over the counter, I couldn’t manage to close the container thing once I scooped in the coffee, and I dropped grounds all over the kitchen floor.
Staff Writer Matt White made his way into the kitchen to witness my failure at the coffee making process. By this time, I had grounds all over my hands, on my shirt, and he had to assist in the closing of what I will name ‘the worst coffee thingy ever.’
Finally a cup of disgusting, watered down coffee with floating grounds was made and I drank the entire thing. Luckily, it wasn’t long after when the dinosaur coffee maker was ready to roll.
Moral of this long, long, story?
I probably should look in the mirror more.
… As it turns out, I built that day’s paper with coffee grounds all over my face. Perfect.