We all have a story — this is mine

Today’s “Afterthoughts” entry was not actually an East Extra column. Instead, it comes from a blog I originally posted in December 2019, featuring a piece I’d written for my friend Linda Hayes’ “We All Have a Story” photo installation at the Webster Public Library.

The exhibit took a closer look at the lives and stories of several Webster Central School District staff members to help illuminate the people inside the classrooms and offices who work with our children every day.

I thought it would be appropriate to re-post that story here, since it does have a kind of nice follow-up, and for those of you just discovering my blogs, it’s a good explanation of why I do what I do.

The power of words

I was a junior in high school when my English teacher said four words that changed my life.

She told me, “You’re a good writer.”

I still remember exactly where I was standing after class that day, and how proud those simple words made me feel. But I didn’t realize then how powerful they were, how much they would shape my future. Because from that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write.

After graduating high school, I pursued that dream, studying communications at Cornell University and landing jobs in radio and public relations. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I wrote newsletters for my karate school, my Moms Club, and the Rochester Irish community.

Then, in 2008, my writing reached a new level when the Democrat and Chronicle invited me to write a Webster community blog, followed several years later by the weekly East Extra community column. I had finally found a place where my written words could reach a larger audience, giving them even greater meaning and purpose.

As a blogger and columnist for the D&C, I visit new businesses, post stories about community events, and spread positive news about our east-side Rochester towns, villages and residents.

My words have helped launch new businesses and shined a spotlight on inspirational people. They’ve helped our community through times of unbelievable tragedy and mourning. They’ve spread good news about good people in a time when positive stories are few and far between. They’ve prompted tears and laughter, helped old friends reconnect and new friends meet.

I am a busy, multi-faceted person. I’m a wife and a mother, and a full-time teaching assistant in two elementary schools. I’m a martial artist, a volunteer, a community activist. I enjoy sharing a pint with friends.

But writing defines my life. It’s my hobby, my outlet. Writing fills the empty corners of my day.

Four simple words. “You’re a good writer.” They transformed a talent into a passion, and now my words enrich others’ lives every day.

And as long as people keep reading, I will keep writing.


What happened next

When I shared that story on Facebook, my brother Jim took notice and encouraged me to try to get in touch with my former teacher.

Her name was Linda Yanchus, my junior-year English teacher at Owego Free Academy. I graduated from OFA more than 40 years ago, so I didn’t hold out much hope that I’d be able to track her down. Still, I decided to give it a shot.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I very quickly connected with Linda’s ex-husband’s younger brother’s wife.  She was happy to pass along my phone number.

About a week later, I got a phone call from my former teacher.

She said that she actually remembered me and my writing and the fun way I would put things. We had a very nice conversation, but I didn’t tell her exactly what she had said to me. I wanted her to read the story for herself. I told her about my blog and invited her to read it there.

A few days later I got this note from her:

That IS quite a story and you ARE a good writer! Thank you so much for reaching out to me and sharing what is now an important moment for both of us. I am gratified to learn that I had a positive influence on you and wish you the very best with your writing, your work with elementary readers and your eventual retirement.

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9 thoughts on “We all have a story — this is mine

  1. What a great story. You are an insperation to all you reach out to.
    I myself can not spell! I am slightly dyslexic. It is the most frustrating thing I’ve had to deal with my intire life. Taking noats in class was a nightmare for me. Thank you so much for all your wonderful words!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Missy,
    Did you attend Central or Washington Gladden? I’ve lived in Webster since 1985, but I lived in Owego from age 4 to about 11 when I had to move away in 1972. I lived on Front Street and attended Central School. My cousins still live in Owego. My grandfather worked at IBM and my grandmother was a business teacher at OFA until her retirement in the early 70s. My mom moved back and stayed in our family house until her death in 1998. I too worked at the D&C and T-U from 1985-96.

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    1. Holy cow! We moved into town in 1968, and I started in 5th grade at the Pink Prison. I graduated OFA in 1976. We were on McMaster Street. I’m jealous that you still have family there and a reason to visit. Who was your grandmother? I remember the typing teacher was very old — probably 50 🙂 You might actually know my husband Jack. He worked in the D&C newsroom from 1987 to 2002.

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      1. My 5th grade teacher was Miss Blazek (sp?). My cousins are Peter and Nancy Ellis, and their children Kathryn, Xan and Randy also are cousins. I lived at 275 Front Street one house west of Paige Street. My grandmother was Ethel Ellis. I started on the T-U copy desk and moved to features. I was assistant features editor under Patrick Farrell, then was features editor for a short time, and then was an assistant features editor under Sebby Jacobson after the merger. I did pagination and page editing for the D&C features department with Kate Weisskopf. My married name was Duffey. I remember your husband, but we didn’t really know each other. I just turned 60. (yikes.)

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