Melissa's Reporter Blog

Full disclosure

Friday, January 7th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

We all have our dirty little secrets, right? Those quirks and habits we try to keep to ourselves for fear of how people would look at you if they knew.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What could I possibly have to reveal that I haven’t already? After all, I’ve done a fairly good job of plastering my personal life (& that of basically everyone I know) all over the blogosphere. In some cases, I’ve probably over-shared. Okay, maybe in most cases. But, I assure you, I’ve kept a few things in reserve.

Why this sudden desire? I guess you can blame the whole New Year, new attitude craze. I didn’t make any formal resolutions, but I did make a few promises to myself. One of them was to be true to “me.” And the only way to do that is to embrace rather than eschew all those little quirks and flaws that make me who I am.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here are 25 things most people don’t know about me.

1. Singing along to the radio is almost a compulsion for me and, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter whether I know the words. I don’t really care if I have an audience, so it’s not the singing I’m embarrassed about. No, my dirty little secret is that I’m completely incapable of remembering the title of any song. Ditto for who sings it. And the worst part is that – for whatever reason – I’m insecure about it. I break out in a cold sweat just thinking about someone quizzing me.

2. Speaking of music, I might as well reveal this embarrassing little fact as well. I’m a huge fan of Katy Parry. AND Taylor Swift. Phew. Feels good to get that off my chest!

3. Everyone has movies they love to watch over and over again. “You’ve Got Mail,” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is one of mine. I’ve also previously admitted to having seen “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” so many times that I knew every single word of dialog, and every musical number. But there’s another movie I can’t pass up watching. “White Chicks.” I just can’t help myself. It cracks me up every single time.

4. It’s no secret that I love to read. Fiction is my preferred diversion, and I’m a huge fan of the literary classics. I also happen to have an obsession with chick lit, particularly of the paranormal variety. But I have an even guiltier pleasure: romance novels. I was practically weaned on Harlequin Romances, which I used to filch from my mom’s collection without her knowledge. While I don’t read them any more, there is one romance author to whom I remain undyingly faithful. Jude Deveraux.

5. Literary confession #2: Another of my favorite authors? Clive Cussler.

6. Literary confession #3: I’ve never read Little Women. Shocking, I know!

7. I can’t whistle.

8. I was 18 before I learned how to light a lighter.

9. Sometimes I still have trouble using keys.

10. My entire body is ticklish.

11. I am physically unable to tuck in a shirt.

12. I’m incredibly insecure about my ankles. And my earlobes.

13. I’m probably the only female between the ages of 18 and 65 to go to New Orleans for New Years and not “win” any beads.

14. Thus far in my life I have I have avoided showering in a communal setting. And I’d like to keep it that way.

15. I cannot work out without brushing my teeth first. I have no idea why.

16. I have some weird sensitivity to echinacea. Other people take it to ward off colds, but it kind of makes me hallucinate.

17. I’m allergic to Keflex, the antibiotic they usually give to people who are allergic to everything else.

18. My friends watch me like a hawk around pineapple. I developed an allergy to this wonderful tropical fruit while I was in college, but sometimes I choose to forget that fact. Particularly when faced with a frosty tropical cocktail. Breathing is overrated, right?

19. I’ve been to China, but never to Pitcher.

20. You never, ever want to play Trivial Pursuit with me.

21. I know far too much about bowling. (Although you’d never know it by the way I bowl.)

22. I have a general disdain for people who can’t discern the difference between butter and margarine. Ditto, between mayonnaise and Miracle Whip. And I thoroughly distrust anyone who professes not to like chocolate. That’s just simply unnatural.

23. I’ve only been to two big concerts in my life.

24. I’m ever-so-slightly claustrophobic, but my big fear is to be stranded in the middle of the ocean. Or, God forbid, trapped under the ocean.

And…

25. I’ve got the neediest little ego and am still secretly thrilled whenever someone, anyone makes mention of something I’ve written.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

The Empire (State) Strikes Back

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
Melissa Stagnaro

Did I imagine that? Or did New York’s new governor actually work references to a popular board game and Star Wars into his first State of the State address?

I’m not going to lie. After watching the live internet feed of the address, I’ve got that same trippy feeling right now as I did after watching The Doors movie for the first time. Not that it was a bad speech by any means. Just a definite departure from the norm.

And I guess that was the whole point. Andrew Cuomo made it pretty clear his goal is to give a major overhaul Albany as it’s never been overhauled before.

As any good 12 step program will tell you, the first step is admitting you have a problem. And that’s just what Cuomo did at the beginning of his address, outlining the dismal state of affairs in this once great state. Which he illustrated in a series of colorful Powerpoint slides.

It’s grim all right. Cuomo said unemployment is at a 26-year high. Taxes are driving businesses and residents out. New York spends more on education than any other state, but ranks 34th in terms of achievement. $1.6 billion is spent on economic development, but we’re 50th in terms of results. What are we first in? The amount we spend on Medicaid. He even went so far as to admit Upstate is in an economic crisis – with growth substantially lower than the national average.

“We need radical reform,” he said, not “rhetorical solutions.” And it won’t be easily. In fact, Cuomo said returning the Empire State to its former glory will require a “fundamental re-alignment.” He’s talking sweeping reforms to everything from education and economic development to Medicaid, plus reducing spending and reduce the overall size of the state government itself by some 20 percent.

He also wants to do something about taxes, and spread the word that New York is “open for business.”

“New York has no future as the ‘tax capital of America,” he explained.

Cuomo also talked about the budget process, comparing it to ships passing in the night. And not in the poetic way Longfellow, who he cribbed the line from, probably intended. No, this point in the Powerpoint had a decidedly “Battleship” feel. Especially when a plane he identified as special interest groups started firing on the ships in question. Prompting him to utter a line I hadn’t heard since the last family game night, and never, ever thought I’d hear from the lips of our state’s top leader.

That’s right: “You sunk my battleship.” Or maybe it was “budget ship,” I can’t really be sure. Because I was in too much of a state of shock.

I came to just in time to hear him say that today was one which would go down in history as the day the Empire State started striking back.

In case anyone missed the Star Wars reference, the corresponding Powerpoint slide depicted a mock New York license plate reading, of course, Empire State Strikes Back.

Yeah. I’m just going to process that for awhile.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

The (almost) top stories of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Mid-way through my third year at The Evening Sun, I can say with some certainty that I’m familiar with the year-end routine. That’s why, when Jeff called a meeting to discuss our Year in Review stories, I was ready. Which basically means I’d killed a couple of hours the previous day sifting through all the stories I wrote in 2010.

It was no small task, considering they numbered over 400. And that’s not counting the 80 or so blogs I posted and roughly 50 columns I penned in the last 12 months. Think the ES is getting their money’s worth out of me?

I was pretty impressed with myself for narrowing it down to 10. But, of course, I’m not the only one writing for Chenango County’s hometown daily. Each of my fellow reporters went into that planning meeting with their own lists as well. As you can imagine, it took awhile for us to hash it all out.

It wasn’t a completely insurmountable task. And I’m happy to say no one was seriously injured during the fray. (Don’t listen to anything Brian tries to tell you. It was nothing more than a paper cut. I have no idea why he’s still whining about it.)

I’m happy with our final picks, but all of us thought there were stories which warranted at the very least an honorable mention. So we’ve all decided to blog about our “also-rans.”

Topping my list of was the State Parks saga. Hunts Pond and Oquaga Creek were two of the 41 state parks and 14 historical sites which received a last minute reprieve by the Governor David Paterson right before Memorial Day. Bowman Lake State Park was one of 34 facilities on a secondary list of potential closures, whose survival hinged on the transferal of $5 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to help cover the cost of operating New York State’s Office of Parks Recreation and Historical Preservation.

Thankfully, they all dodged the bullet, but there were weeks of uncertainty. And, of course, there’s no guarantee they won’t be back on the chopping block when budget time rolls around once more.

One story which blow me away this year was the Aeden Waterford scandal. The payroll services company, which had offices in Greene and Binghamton, went out of busineses in August. Soon after, former clients learned they owed in some cases thousands (and thousands) of dollars to the IRS in federal employment taxes. Taxes they believed they had already paid through Aeden Waterford. Now those companies – which number over a 100 throughout Broome, Chenango and neighboring counties – are having to pay for a second time. With interest and penalties, to boot. A federal investigation is underway, but Aeden Waterford’s owner, William Stiles, is still walking free.

Economic uncertainty has continued to reign in 2010. While things are definitely on the upswing, it is a slow steady climb up a steep slope. Jobless claims may be dropping, but there are still millions of Americans out of work.  For once, Chenango County seems to be bucking the trend ever so slightly. Several of our major employers announced the creation of large numbers of new jobs this year, including Agro Farma (featured in the top 10), Raymond and Unison. Other companies have also expanded, and we’ve seen plenty of success stories among our local small businesses. New ventures have been popping up all over the county as well, as entrepreneurs invest in making their dreams of business-ownership a reality. Other long-established companies have switched hands. It’s exciting, really, to see all this potential growth. And I hope 2011 will be even more prosperous for the many diverse businesses which call Chenango County home.

As I scrolled through my past articles, I was actually a little surprised by how much time I devote to writing about education. I cover 5 of Chenango County’s 9 school districts, so I guess that shouldn’t have been a shock. But this year – with the state’s fiscal crisis, each district’s budget woes and all sorts of other drama, and of course the good news stuff – I’d say at least half of what I wrote in 2010 pertained to schools in some way.

Budget cuts made our top 10 stories, but I felt there were other school-related topics which also warranted a mention. Like the narrow defeat of Oxford’s proposed $10.65 million Phase II capital project. After months of planning, the proposal was shot down in a voter referendum by a handful of votes.

Most of my other education related stories fall into three categories: the good, the bad and the ugly. The good includes all the stories we wrote highlighting student achievement and accomplishments in the classroom, on the courts and on stage (of which there were many, I’m happy to say.)

The bad? Basically everything coming out of Albany and Washington D.C. Reform isn’t a bad thing, but when it occurs at the same time as drastic aid cuts and doesn’t include mandate relief, it creates tough challenges for our local districts. Like raising the bar on the state achievement tests AFTER students had already sat for the exams. And the fact that Race for the Top will come at a much greater cost to schools than anyone expected.

As for the ugly, you can probably guess where I’m going to go with that: school boards. There is far too much drama in this arena. Some of it can be attributed to the tough decisions school leaders were forced to make, but not all. I like to think everyone who chooses to serve in this capacity is doing so for the right reasons. But sometimes I wonder if “must play well with others” should be in the job description. Things have been on a more even keel recently, for which I’m grateful. But with this budget season promising to be even more brutal than the last, it probably won’t be long before the kid gloves come off and people start duking it out across the table once more.

My favorite part of my job is the people I get to meet. There are so many people doing great things in our communities. Each one has a story to tell, and in most cases it’s an honor to be the one to tell it for them.

Who knows what 2011 will bring…

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Thumbs thumbsthumbsthumbs THUMBS

Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Want to get the unadulterated opinions of the Evening Sun’s intrepid reporting staff on the week’s stories? Look no further than Friday’s page 4, under the heading, “Thumbs.” Thus called because each reporter gives their thumbs up and/or thumbs down to topics of the week.

Thumbs are something you either love, or you hate. Our readers love them – even when they disagree with the expressed opinion. In those instances, they often LOVE to take us to task on what they feel are our mis-guided notions on the topic of the day.

We reporters, however, hate them. Why, I’m not really sure. On the surface, you’d think we’d relish the chance to share our opinions on the topics we strive hard to be unbiased on in our news stories for the sake of journalistic integrity. The only other opportunities we have for this are in our columns and blogs. Well, that and our Facebook gripes, but that’s hardly “official.”

Maybe it’s that by Thursday, when we are called upon to write these pithy little pieces we’ve already put the topics out of our minds. Or perhaps that this forum, more than any other, seems to draw the wrath of those who don’t agree with our opinion. (Although I have to admit it’s funny when people call 30 seconds to complain they can’t figure out the identity of who wrote what “Thumbs” segment. I mean, seriously, is it that difficult to figure out who MS is?)

For whatever the reason, my co-workers and I struggle to write our Thumbs each week. Much to our esteemed editor’s chagrin, I might add. He can’t seem to comprehend why we – who profess to love writing and in fact do it daily – have such a hard time coming up with two paragraphs on subjects which we are already well versed.

Yet, without fail, the looming deadline finds at least some of us hemming, hawing, hunting and, yes, even sometimes negotiating for something to write about. Which is why we collectively heaved a sigh of relief today when Jeff informed us we wouldn’t be required to fulfill this portion of our job description – for the second week in a row.

The only problem? I’d actually already gotten a head start on the task. And I had a really good Thumbs Up, too. So I thought I’d share.

On Wednesday, I had the chance to watched members of the Central New York chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart honor Vet’s Home resident William Barden with lifetime membership in their organization. It was more than touching, particularly since Barden was so thrilled to finally become a part of this organization. “You dream about these things for years, and don’t expect them to ever happen,” he said, commenting that it felt like Christmas. How could that not put a smile on your face?

So my Thumbs up goes to Vet’s Home Activities Director Allan Hopson for helping to “connect the dots” and Nelson Fox, Joe Fraccola and Vincent Egresits of the MOPH CNY Chapter 490 for making this man’s dream a reality. He and all those who have sacrificed so much for our country deserve more than just recognition. They deserve more than just a simple “Thumbs Up.”

They deserve our undying gratitude.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Christmas miracles

Friday, December 24th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

You know those harried shoppers, reeking of desperation and despair, who brave the stores on Christmas Eve? Yep, that was me last year. And the year before. And the year before that….

But not this year. Nope, you won’t find me scurrying around in a frantic last ditch, last minute attempt to find something, anything for the last few people on my list. Why? Because this Christmas is one for the record books.

For the first time in the history of the world, I managed to finish my shopping before Christmas Eve. And get this, I’m even done wrapping! They always say this is the season for miracles. Well, this is mine.

I’m not trying to gloat, believe me. I’m just as shocked and awed as the rest of you. Just yesterday, I lamented in my column about having too many things on my holiday to-do list, and far too little time to do them in. But then the stars aligned and here I am, practically weeping with holiday delight. Maybe the big guy (either the one upstairs or at the North Pole) read yesterday’s edition of The Evening Sun, and took pity on me. I don’t know. And I’m not about to question my good fortune. I’m just going to bask in it for awhile.

Heck, I’m so suffused with Christmas glee that I don’t even mind being in the one half of one percent of the free world’s work force that has to work today. It’s only a half-day after all, and before you know it I’ll be back home enjoying this festive day with my family. (The other half of my Christmas miracle was that my brother Dennis, his wife Lisa and my niece Madison pulled in the driveway at about 9 last night. Right after I’d finished my wrapping.)

I’m anxious to get home to them all, but right now I’m merrily tapping away on my computer with my holly-festooned Santa’s hat on my head, sipping my morning coffee out of a holiday- themed mug and humming some classic Christmas tunes. Hoping, of course, that any minute now Jeff will come out of his office and tell us it’s time to go home. And, telling us to go ahead and take Monday off as well.

Now that truly would be a Christmas miracle. Or at least it would be if I wasn’t already using one of my precious floating holidays to take it off.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Visions of sugar plums

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

One of my coworkers commented earlier that I looked a little flushed. Little did they know I was in the middle of a massive sugar rush. For the last couple of days my diet has consists almost entirely of cookies and candy. This week alone, I’ve probably surpassed the per capita sugar consumption of some small nations.

For someone like me – who has basically never met a baked good or a chocolate-covered confection I haven’t liked – this time of year is dangerous. Our office kitchen is stockpiled with platters of homemade Christmas cookies and boxes of chocolates. Or at least it was. My coworkers and I have put a serious dent in it. Okay, so maybe most of it was me.

I was pretty good at the beginning of the week. A cookie or two with my morning coffee. A miniature chocolate after deadline. But by yesterday, I’d abandoned all pretense. Those tasty treats served as breakfast, lunch and more than few snacks throughout the day.

We won’t talk about dinner. We’ve got our own stockpile at home, and I’ve put a sizable dent in that as well.

I’m paying for that overindulgence already. The weight gain hasn’t hit, but if I keep going at this pace it won’t be long. But the exorbitant amount of sugar I’ve consumed is wreaking havoc. I’ve basically been bouncing off the walls since I polished off my “lunch” – which consisted of two chocolate covered caramels, a cherry cordial and some other gooey, nutty chocolate covered gob of goodness.

Needless to say concentrating on my work has become something of a challenge. And my coworkers stopped even trying to comprehend what I’m saying about 20 minutes ago. I talk a mile a minute as it is, now I probably sound like I’ve been stuck on fast forward.

When I used to get “sugared up” as a kid, my mom would tell me to run around the house a few times. I don’t think that will be necessary today though. Because, as they say, what comes up, must come down. Any moment now, I’ll be hitting that wall, where my sugar buzz will turn into a crash. At which point I’ll be wanting to crawl under my desk for nice, long winter’s nap.

Now, where did I put that kerchief…

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Footloose and tobacco free

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I give my co-worker, Brian Golden, all the credit in the world for his decision to stop smoking. Sure, on a certain level I’m being completely selfish. None of us particularly relished catching a whiff of the old man when he got to work in the morning, or when he returned from a quick smoke break outside. (Breaks which us non-smokers in the office don’t take, I might add. But that’s another topic entirely.)

Of all days to begin his nicotine withdrawal, Brian chose the one on which the entire ES editorial staff embarked on its first interstate excursion. Despite his instance that he was fine, we could see he was fiending for a cigarette like no tomorrow. But only once or twice did it get to the point where I actually considered buying him a pack just to get him to chill.

I also questioned his decision to announce the fact that he was trying to quit to all of our readers via his column last Wednesday. I mean, that’s a lot of people watching his every move, waiting for a false step. But I guess it’s a sign of how badly he wants to do this. Because if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll have to admit it to the world.

There is something to be said for the entertainment value of the whole smoking cessation process, for onlookers like myself. The jitters, the emotional outbursts, the descriptions of the patch-induced nightmares the pour soul is suffering through… My favorite, though, is the recounting of how those who call themselves are contriving to undermine his Herculean efforts at quitting this heinous habit.

While I admit I laughed at Tyler’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we all take up smoking – at least I assume it was said in jest – I have nothing but contempt for those who have tried to tempt, taunt and cajole poor Brian into falling off the tobacco-free wagon.

It’s beyond cruel, really. I mean, what do they achieve if that puff of smoke they’ve blown in his face really does send him reaching for the pack of cigs we all suspect he has stashed somewhere?

While I have never been a smoker, I can appreciate how difficult quitting can be. I’ve watched many a close friend and family member attempt it. And yes, many of them have succeeded. But even I could tell it isn’t easy.

But then, smokers are used to enduring hardships, aren’t they? They brave the elements as they cluster outside to get their nicotine fix. They face ridicule and disdain from non-smokers where-ever they go. Laws have been enacted to restrict their rights. Federally (and ironically enough, tobacco industry) funded anti-smoking campaigns turn their children against them. Heck, they’re even penalized by their insurance companies. Yet they continue to smoke. Even though they’re practically going broke doing it. Seriously, what are they $8 or $9 a pack in New York?

After all that, quitting should be a snap after enduring all that, right? And it probably would be, except for the whole pesky addiction thing.

I know it will be a long hard journey for Brian to kick his smoking habit. But I have every confidence that he will succeed. Especially since we’ve all got his back.

After all, he has to walk past my desk on the way to his own. And nothing escapes my nose.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Pet peeves of the road: winter edition

Monday, December 13th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

Winter weather is upon us once more. There’s no use denying it. I don’t even need to see the flurries falling before my eyes, I can tell just by the change in driving behavior of the motorists around me.

I’m all for exercising caution this time of year, don’t get me wrong. Driving in the winter months can be dicey. There is the potential for all kinds of hazardous conditions. This time of year, the bogeyman’s got nothing on black ice. My favorite is that frozen slushy mess which loves to take your tires.

But there are some who take “caution” to the extreme. We’ve all been there, stuck behind someone going 15 to 20 miles below the speed limit when the roads are dry and clear. I try to temper my first response, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they need new tires, I think, as I try to repress the urge to scream bloody murder. But really, it’s because the worst drivers on the road don’t change their stripes.

This morning, as I left my house in the hinterland of – as one of my fbook friends like to call it – Southwest Tyner, I wasn’t sure what the roads would be like. The rain which plagued us all day yesterday had finally stopped, and fine flakes of snow were falling. I hadn’t heard the tell-tale rattle and scrape of the plow truck. So crossing my fingers, I pulled out onto my lonely little county road, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. I was pleasantly surprised, as it turned out. And it was easy going up and down my hilly trek to Route 12. The state highway itself was completely clear.

Although not everyone got that memo, apparently.

As I learned as I headed North out of Oxford after making my usual morning stop at Blueox to get the morning papers.

At first, I thought the driver of the mid-sized sedan in front of me was preparing to make a turn. I mean, how else could you explain the fact that it was going 35 in a 55. But I was wrong, oh so wrong.

Cursing the commuting gods, I watched cars line up behind me as one passing zone after another passed us by without a clear opportunity to pull around the “grandma” in front of me. Soon, it looked like a string of fairy lights were strung out through the pre-dawn countryside. It made me want to weep, but not with Christmas joy.

Then, as our procession approached the Halfway House bridge, something truly extraordinary happened: Another car pulled out in front of our “leader.” Going even slower. Something I honestly didn’t think was even possible. Proof, I guess, that no matter how untenable a situation is, it can always get worse.

What was remarkable, though, was our lead car’s reaction to the one who cut him (I never did get a good look, so I’m arbitrarily picking a gender) off. In a split second the driver was transformed from “grandma” to “tailgater,” riding the bumper of the interloper. He stuck with it, too, even after the offender sped up to a much more respectable 50.

Even better, though, was when we crossed into the City of Norwich limits. While I obediently slowed in accordance with the posted speed limit, this guy  did no such thing. In fact, it was like he finally remembered which pedal was the accelerator. He waited until he was in the 30 mile an hour zone before finally giving it some gas. Leaving me, back in the dust, shaking my head.

I’d rather deal with winter driving conditions than bad drivers any day of the week. Because if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say there’s a strong chance the latter poses as much of a threat on the roads as the former. Not to mention the years shaved off our lives by all that aggravation.

Drive safe. (i.e. not like this guy.)

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

One more reason to give thanks

Friday, November 26th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t too pleased about having to leave the warmth and comfort of hearth and home yesterday to cover the fire in Greene. I’d spent most of the day in the kitchen. The turkey was almost ready to come out of the oven, and I was looking forward to sitting down at the table for a nice relaxing meal with friends and family.

But as soon as I heard about the blaze, I knew sitting it out wasn’t an option. Grudgingly, I traded my cooking scrubs for attire more appropriate to reporting, and with one last longing look at the already set dining room table, headed out the door.

I had little information to go on, just a text message from a friend that downtown Greene was closed to traffic because of a big fire. As busy I’d been in the kitchen, I hadn’t gotten the message until close to 4. I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I got there, but I feared the worst. I had visions of the entire quaint village proper in flames.

And but for the dedication of our local volunteer fire departments, that would have been a very real possibility.

The second I hit Greene, and discovered how responders had contained and extinguished the blaze in under two hours, I was immediately humbled. Here I had been bemoaning the fact that I’d had to leave the comfort of home, when all of these volunteers – from a total of seven fire companies – had so willingly done the same.

We are truly blessed to have so many willing to climb out of bed in the middle of the night, to push back their chair from the dinner table, to abandon whatever task they are in the middle of to come to the aid of those in their hour of need. To place others in the community before themselves, time and again.

My heartfelt thanks to the volunteers from Greene, Brisben, Oxford, Smithville Flats, Coventry, Chenango Forks and Harpursville who answered the call yesterday, and to all of our emergency responders, paid and volunteer, who never fail to answer the call of those in need.

We don’t, and perhaps can’t, thank you enough for your willing sacrifice. But any and all who have been on the receiving end of your efforts, and witnessed your selfless dedication, appreciate all you do.God bless.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Going back on my word

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I know I said yesterday I planned to carry on the theme of thankfulness in my blogs this week. Well – as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character John Matrix famously said – I lied. Today I’m trying a new twist. Here are a few of the things I’m not particularly thankful for this Holiday season.

1. School board meetings. Last night’s Norwich school board meeting reminded me how much I dislike attending these marathon sessions. There are a great deal of positive things happening in the district, but you’d never know it based on the dysfunction exhibited by the board of education. I left, with my blood pressure at an all time high and ridiculous heart burn, thanking my lucky stars I don’t live in the district. The only thing I like less than having to sit through endless board of education meeting? Having to get up early the next day to write about them. And, yes, I’m more than a little cranky about it. You can blame them for getting me all riled up today.

2. Bullies. All of us have encountered people who seek to raise themselves up by putting other people. They are blight on our entire society, but particularly in schools where they do horrible damage to the self respect and self esteem of impressionable kids. Last night at the school board meeting a particularly courageous teen had the guts to stand up and voice his concerns about bullying at Norwich High School. I give him every credit in the world for doing so, and I sincerely hope school leaders will address this incredibly serious issue. (By the way, if anyone knows this young man or his family, please encourage him to contact me. I am definitely interested in hearing more of his story.)

3. The people of Oxford school district who didn’t bother to vote in last week’s capital project referendum. Considering only 340-odd people turned out on Thursday, that’s the majority of the district’s residents. I’m sure a sampling had legitimate excuses, but it’s disappointing none the less. I guess it’s a lot easier to moan and complain about something than to take action, and easier still to let other people make the tough decisions for you. (Yes, I’ve been holding that in since last week.)

4. 30 seconds. Enough said.

5. Braggarts. I’m happy that you’ve got the rest of this week off, I really am. Now shut up about it. Because the rest of us still have to work.

6. My coworkers sudden interest in my eating habits. Seriously people, what’s wrong with lemon pepper tuna? And no, Jeff, it does NOT smell like urine.

7. KP Duty. I’m not sure how I got designated as the office maid. But it’s getting old. If you managed to carry your dirty, stained mug all the way to the sink from your cluttered cubicle, I’m sure you could have managed to transport it the extra 12 1/2 inches to the dishwasher.

8. Whiners. Yes, that would be me today. I hope you can forgive me for all of my bitter diatribe. But, wow, it feels better to get all of that off my chest.

Now, I promise, I’ll go back to being thankful.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.