Jessica's Reporter Blog

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.

Winter wonderland

Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Last Sunday, while a mixture of icy sleet and freezing rain poured down over much of Chenango County, my family and I were in our vehicle, cautiously maneuvering over the slippery roads on a 40 mile trip.

No, it was no emergency. There were no injuries or sick relatives to see to. We hadn’t forgotten anyone at a far off location or ran out of some crucial household item. We were on our way to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Looking for a Christmas tree on a day when the weather is horrible has been a long standing family tradition for me. It’s not that we wait for the weather man to tell us a huge storm is coming to the area or hold out for a date when the wind chill is negative 30, it just always seems to work out that way.

This year was mild compared to many. For as long as I can remember, my family would trek out in search of our tree on a day when storms were raging and snow was flying. Several years we actually slid past the driveway of the Christmas tree farm where we were trying to go.

Despite the weather, we would take our time picking out a tree that was just right. We would travel up and down the hill searching out the perfect tree until our toes were frozen, and when we finally found it we would throw it on the roof of our car, pile back in and hurry back to our warm house.

The tradition has remained much the same today. The location has changed and the participants aren’t all the same, but the fun of the family outing will never change.

The most horrible time of the year

Friday, November 28th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Whoever decided that we should pick one morning a year to hold crazy sales and go absolutely insane over the possibility of getting items on sale should be beaten with a club.

I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I went temporarily insane, or maybe I wanted to punish myself for that delicious slice of pumpkin  cheese cake I allowed myself the day before, but for whatever reason, I decided to get up at 4 a.m. and drive to town for the Black Friday sales.

I arrived about five minutes after the store was supposed to open, but already, there was not a parking spot in sight. After several minutes of searching and a few near accidents caused by people too excited about shopping to care about courtesy or the rules of driving, I found a spot on the far, far, far side of the lot.

Then the real fun began. I darted into the store and saw more people than there could possibly be in all of Chenango County, all in the same place at the same time, and all of them were pushing carts around the store without a care for who was in there way or how many people they ran over in that mad dash for toys, electronics and sale items.

I was there for a simple purpose, supplies for The Evening Sun’s float for the annual parade. I had to make my way through the hoards of people to get to the holiday decorations. I’ve pushed my way through angry crowds at rock concerts with more ease, probably because they didn’t have shopping cars. It took forever, but finally I arrived, only to find that the decorations weren’t really part of the giant sale. It took another hour to make my way to the front of the store and check out.  Next year, I think I’ll just stay in bed.

The new meaning of Turkey-Day

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

I don’t eat turkey, or any other meat for that matter. I get picked on a lot for being a vegetarian, and I had no idea why, until I got an e-mail invitation last week from another group of vegetarian individuals.

The e-mail didn’t say that the people sending it were non-meat eaters, but after reading it, I figured it was a save bet. The group invited me, and several other members of the media, to a Thanksgiving celebration for turkeys.

Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of eating turkey on Thanksgiving, this organization thought it would be a good idea to have a party for them. The Turkey-Day celebration takes place at a turkey sanctuary and includes activities like spending shelter time with the turkeys, eating a vegan feast and giving the turkeys their own Thanksgiving feast.

I suddenly realized why I get picked on for being a non-meat eater. I’m sure the intentions behind this event are good, but I think they’re taking it a little too far. If you don’t want turkey to be the main course on Thanksgiving, so be it, but planning an entire event for the turkeys is a little extreme. Assuming that turkeys need human interaction and a feast to celebrate a man-made holiday, seems really extreme, and when you include the fact that the event is very popular and has been sold out for weeks, well, I don’t know what to say. But I’m pretty sure if the turkeys were capable of comprehending what was going on, they would be confused too.

On vacation

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Coming back to work after being on vacation is like jumping into a pool of icy cold water. Once you’re in the water for a while, you get used to it. You might even enjoy it, but when you first jump in, it’s a shock to the system.

I took a mini-vacation last week, and it was awesome. I didn’t go anywhere. I used the time to finish a million projects that I had left half done. I had a lot of projects started, but with the craziness of life, work, parenting and running a million errands a day, few of the projects I begin are ever completed. I spent the week trying to finish the dozens of things I had started. It was a nice, relaxing week, and it went by quickly.

The shock to the system came first thing Monday morning with the vast number of unread e-mails, unheard phone messages and my mental list of events I had missed. After a week of doing nothing, the stress of catching up with everything you missed while on vacation is almost enough to require another vacation.

Election day excitement

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

After nearly two years of preparation, debate and controversy, the day of decision is finally here, and I am thrilled. After one of the longest campaigns in history, I honestly wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

At last, we can stop talking about the elections and just make a decision. I’m excited about the historic nature of this election, and it looks like I’m not the only one. Right now in downtown Norwich, supporters of each party are out on the streets holding up signs for their candidates. Actually they are almost directly across the street from one another, and each has a sign that asks drivers to honk in support of their party’s candidate.

Even though there is no obvious way to determine which candidate the cars are honking for, seeing this level of enthusiasm and involvement from voters of all ages in refreshing.

While my big hope this election is for the candidates I favor to win, I’m also holding out a lot of hope that we see record voter turnout and involvement this year. Because more important that the causes I believe in or those that you believe in, is that we all have a voice in our government, and that’s what these elections are really about.

The Pumpkin Festival curse

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

What’s wrong with Pumpkin Fest? It never fails. Every year, the volunteers work and work and work hoping for a great event and a great weekend. Every year local kids get excited and start carving their pumpkins at school and at home to bring down to the festival, and every year we end up getting some freakishly horrible weather that puts a damper (no pun intended) on the entire event.

Despite the weather, I attended the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, and I had a pretty good time, but I know it would have been a lot better if I wasn’t running from tent to tent trying to keep myself and my companions out of the rain. You try to hold an umbrella and push a stroller at the same time. It isn’t easy, but I’m sure it was much worse for the people who have spent months coordinating the event.

I feel bad for the volunteers and organizers who spend so much time planning and preparing for Pumpkin Fest only to have bad weather keep people from supporting the event.

I haven’t attended all of the Pumpkin Festivals, but since I’ve been on staff at The Evening Sun, the weather at the Pumpkin Festival has been pretty bad, and I’ve heard that the bad weather at the Pumpkin Festival has been a factor nearly every year. It makes you wonder. Is it just bad luck that in 10 years, we haven’t had more than one or two years with nice sunny weather for the event? Is it just too late in the fall for good weather?

I’m really not sure myself, but if the next 10 years of the Pumpkin Festival average the same amount of rain or snow or both during the annual festival, I might start to think our event is cursed.

Childish behavior?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
Jessica Lewis

Yesterday, I attended a meeting on municipal shared services and consolidation, and at the end of the day the thing that stuck out in my mind was the ridiculous us vs. them attitude that many municipal leaders across the state seem to have.
The workshop was help to discuss the Local Government Efficiency Grant Program, a program that encourages municipalities to work together and even consider consolidation to decrease taxes and taxing entities in New York state. The state recommended that the City of Norwich, the Town of Norwich and the Town of North Norwich look into shared services and maybe even an eventual merger, but so far, the level of cooperation needed to achieve that has not been reached.

I discovered yesterday, that Chenango County isn’t unique in taking a less than open minded view of the suggestion. In fact, several of the speakers at the workshop referred to municipal leaders as being “turf oriented” and viewing the program as a potential grab for power.

One speaker’s solution to that problem was to keep the politicians away from the table. He suggested having staff members study the benefits and risks of a possible move, trying to anticipate the officials concerns and delivering something to them that showed the possible risks and savings in black and white.

I admit, after seeing the opposition to even the idea of studying consolidation efforts in Chenango County, I thought maybe the speaker was on to something, but at the same time I couldn’t help but be saddened by that fact. Elected officials are expected to make decisions based on the best interests of their constituents, and turf oriented, power struggles are in no one’s best interest. Refusing to investigate possible benefits and savings to the tax payers is in no one’s best interest. If an elected official has valid reasons and evidence to back it up why shared services, merging departments or consolidation is a bad idea, great, but if they’re refusing to even look at the possibility because of some childish struggle for power, they are no longer looking out for the best interests of their constituents.

Kids will be kids

Friday, October 17th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

What is it about youth that makes some children behave with absolutely no regard for others? We’ve seen a lot of this recently; the three youths who vandalized the Jewish center, the kids who broke into several area businesses and now kids pushing over gravestones and breaking into a public library to steal a few bucks.

Those things are actual crimes and will probably warrant actual punishments, but what about the things that kids are allowed to get away with every day? I’m talking about the bullying and hurtful behavior that goes on in schools everywhere.

Every time I start talking about this subject, I get comments or e-mails from people telling me their experiences with bullying. There are so many children and teens who seem to get their thrills by terrorizing and tormenting their  classmates.

It’s not a new issue. Bullying has always been a part of growing up, and it probably always will be, but if we continue to show kids that this type of behavior is tolerated, it’s never going to get any better.  Schools, administrators, coaches and parents need to be stricter about bullying. Instead of just shrugging and saying that’s how kids are, more efforts need to be made to get these behaviors under control.

Tolerating this type of behavior allows it to grow and spread, and no child should have to feel like they don’t belong.

Everyone’s got a story

Thursday, October 16th, 2008
Jessica Lewis

No really, judging by the stack of Ghastly Ghost Story submissions on my desk, everyone really does have a story.

Last year was the first year I was involved in the Ghastly Ghost Story competition, and I was thrilled at the response. At the end of last year’s competition, I had received 46 stories.

I love Halloween, and I love reading a good scary story, so when this year’s competition came around, I was thrilled at the idea of reading another fantastic round of stories.

Although the response to last year’s competition was great, I was nervous as the deadline for submissions drew closer. As of last Friday, I had a total of only five stories. My fear, however was for naught. With a few hours left before the entry deadline, I have already received more than double the number of entries from last year.

For the last day and a half, I’ve spent hours hunched over my computer, reading, typing and forgetting all about my other appointments. Stories about ghosts, werewolves, mutant pumpkins, vampires and serial killers are littering my desk, and more, I’m sure, will come in before the office closes tonight, and I’ve enjoyed every single one.

I’m always amazed at the talent I see in so many Chenango County residents, and this competition has been no different. Some of the stories were scary enough to give me goose bumps, and with so many great stories to chose from, I’m sure the judging this year, will be no easy task.

But I can’t steal all of the fun. For your reading enjoyment, the winning stories will be published in The Pumpkin Vine, a special section included in next Thursday’s edition of The Evening Sun, and all of the stories will be posted on the web site before Halloween. Happy reading.