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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, April 29, 2011


With the wedding started and lots of singing of hymns, it gives you time to look around at the congregation and study the bride and groom.

It's such a pleasure to see them thrilled to be there, after such a long path.

William, now 28, shows only the tiniest shades of the tot who captured our hearts with his mischievous grin.

Kate shows that she's everything William likely craved, a strong, intelligent woman who can hold her own and represent him with dignity and joy.

After taking their vows and Kate donning her ring, they're joined, with their lives in front of them.

5:50 a.m., and I've already cried twice

We haven't even seen the bride yet, but I've already cried twice over the royal wedding.

Early television coverage centered on Princess Diana and her sons' early lives, which of course is gut-wrenching when you realize she won't be there today.

This is going to be a four-hanky wedding, I'm afraid.

God bless them both as they start their lives together and I pray they have the strength to withstand the pressures they're about to endure.

Laura Kessel

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Give the perfect gift for the royal wedding

When girls are little, they dream of weddings.

It all seems so glamorous.

Big foofy dresses, pretty flowers, big frosted cakes and, oh, the romance.

When you get older, you realize it's not really all that fabulous because, well, after a while, you end up going to a lot of weddings.

There's family. There are friends. Then there are the friends and family of the people who bring you along.

For the past few years, I've been pretty lucky.

Aside from a few small family weddings the past five years, I've gotten away relatively unscathed.

Most of my friends and family wed before me, so by the time I came along, I was done going to showers and wedding ceremonies.

Now it's the next generation's turn.

This year I'll be attending four showers and four weddings.

Luckily a lot of them don't know each other, so I'll get a lot of mileage out of a couple of my dresses.

The money saved on clothing will go to bridal gifts, though.

If any of the brides are reading this, look away now so I don't spoil the surprise.

I'm a big believer in the practical gift. I am not one to buy the slippers that dust your hardwood floors when there's a set of pots and pans or microwave-safe containers on the list.

And when it comes to the wedding, I'm not going to schlep a wrapped package with a big bow around all day.

No, brides and grooms, you're getting a check.

It's easier and probably just fits into my purse. And, let's be honest — you'd rather have the cash anyway.

That's just one of the ways you're different from Kate Middleton and Prince William.

The curtsies, bows and billions of "guests" at your ceremony would be three others.

Kate and Wills announced after they became engaged that they didn't want gifts at their wedding. No, they told those who felt the need that they'd prefer donations go to needy charities instead.

What a classy idea.

We all know Kate and Wills don't need a toaster or a set of sheets.

So rather than have hundreds of unused and probably unwanted gifts sitting around for years, they asked guests to pick a charity of their choice and make a donation in their name.

The idea has caught on.

In fact, at the party I'm attending Friday morning to watch the royal wedding, donations are suggested to Feed Lake County, the program that helps area food banks provide food for the needy of Lake County.

So, I'll be making my donation when I arrive at 5:30 a.m. in Painesville to watch the ceremony.

If history is any indication, millions of Americans will be transfixed by William taking his bride Friday. And if you're that moved by this young man you've watched grow up all these years, maybe you, too, would want to remember him on his wedding day with the perfect gift.

Should you want to join me and make a donation to Feed Lake County, here's how: Send a check to United Way of Lake County, 9285 Progress Parkway, Mentor OH 44060. Put "Feed Lake County" on the memo line.

In a couple weeks, my nephew gets married. Two weeks later, there's a shower for a family friend's son.

But it all starts with the wedding of the son of a woman so beloved that, 14 years later, the world still can't believe she's gone.

It's glamorous, and romantic. There'll be a foofy dress and pretty flowers and all the hats you've ever wanted to see.

But there'll also be help for those less fortunate.

After months of planning and millions of dollars in expense, that's how it should be.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tait's goodbye a big loss for Cleveland sports

It’s usually not good to tell someone they put you to sleep.

In my case, though, it was a dream come true.

In October 2009, I stood in Joe Tait’s living room, looked him in the eyes and told him I used to fall asleep to his voice almost every night during the summer.

“I get that a lot,” he said with a laugh.

I always found Tait’s booming voice to be soothing.

Maybe it’s because he always guided fans through such horrible times.

Tait Time for me began in the late 1970s, when he teamed with Herb Score on radio broadcasts of the Indians, beginning every broadcast with what sometimes was a big lie:

“It’s a beautiful night for baseball.”

Plenty of those nights were downright ugly, with big losses in front of tiny crowds.

As I lay there with my transistor radio tucked under my pillow, sneaking in a few innings before drifting off to sleep, the most mundane of double plays seemed worth it when Tait made the calls.

When he made the switch to call only Cavs games during the 1980s, Indians games seemed like they were missing something.

And they were. The nights weren’t beautiful anymore.

When you’re a kid, life seems like it will last forever.

So, it seemed as though Joe Tait would always be on the radio calling games.

People sometimes forget about Tait’s years with the Indians, because his Cavs work was so incredible.

When you think back on those 39 years, there is much joy and far too much disappointment.

He got excited when there was reason. He just called the game when there wasn’t.

“It’s basketball time at the Q.”

But not anymore.

On Wednesday night, the Cleveland legend called his final Cavs game and entered retirement.

Tait tried to say he was just an announcer, that he just called what he saw happening on the court.

“I want to create a word picture that allows someone at home to see the game,” Tait said during the interview that I videotaped just before the 2009-10 season that ended with a devastating playoff loss to the Boston Celtics. “I don’t coach. I don’t second-guess. I don’t have anything to do with the winning. I don’t have anything to do with the losing. If people listen and enjoy it, and I let them know what’s going on with the action, I’ve done my job.”

He spent a lot of time that day talking about LeBron James, who would leave town following that season. But he made it clear that his favorite Cavaliers players were the ones who came during the Richfield Coliseum years.

Austin Carr, Campy Russell, Mark Price and Brad Daugherty were the good ones in Tait’s eyes, because they went out and played. When they won, they were thrilled by the victory not by what it brought them.

Tait made it no secret that he didn’t like the way the game changed over the years, becoming in many ways a theater act with a basketball game thrown in.

To illustrate his point, he told us that he wanted to see if he could toast a hot dog from his perch above the floor at The Q when bursts of flames suddenly went off during player introductions before the game. He said that at least then the fire would be useful.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate how Tait saw his job came in response to a question about how he managed to stay so positive despite calling such bad sports over his many years in Cleveland.

He told the story of meeting a blind man who said that, by listening to Tait, he could picture the action on the court.

Tait considered that the ultimate compliment.

Mine would be that sports in Cleveland just won’t be the same without Joe Tait. It won’t sound as good, it won’t feel as good.

I wish him nothing but the best as he gets ready to sit down in that very living room and enjoy his time at home with his wife, Jean.

He deserves the rest after so many years soothing the heartbreak of so many Clevelanders.

Take care, Joe. You’re one of the best.

“Have a good night, everybody!”

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Are you smarter than my cell phone? I’m not

Don’t bother calling me.

I don’t know how to answer my phones.

Yes, I said “phones.” I now carry two — one for personal use and one for work.

In the good old days, you picked up the receiver when you heard it ring. But, my phones chime all day.

And they’re different chimes. I am guessing they each mean different things, but I’m not sure which mean what.
When I hear them, I scurry to find the phones, and check for signals of what’s happening.

A couple I’ve figured out. Others go unexplained and I figure maybe I’m not meant to know what it’s all about.
Welcome to the smartphone revolution.

I used to think that “smartphone” meant advanced. Now I just think it means “phone that’s smarter than Laura.”

Technically, a smartphone is a cellphone that is able to do some advanced computer work. Some have a pressable keyboard that’s akin to a typewriter; others have what is known as a “virtual keyboard,” which is built into the screen of the phone and is typed using the tip of your finger. Those with long nails have a little more trouble.

Before what I’ll call the “revolution of Laura,” I had a cellphone that flipped open to reveal a keyboard that I used for texting.

Then one day out of the blue, my boss handed me a box that contained a Droid Incredible.

Incredibly, I was told it was mine to use for work. I can send texts, shoot video, shoot photos, post on our Twitter account (@newsheraldinoh) and on Facebook.

It’s a great news-gathering tool.

A few days after I got it, I realized I needed to talk to someone who works nights and figured, what the heck, I’ll use the work phone.

I pulled it out of my purse, clicked it on and discovered I didn’t know how to make a call.

First, I looked for a green button, because green meant send on other cell phones.

I didn’t find that, but I noticed a button that said “Phone” next to an image of an old-fashioned receiver.

A single push opened up a keyboard that sits atop a big green button that says “Call.”

Ahh, success!

That joy was short-lived.

Between the constant worry over the battery needing to be charged just about every night and wondering what does this app do, or, wait, that app over there ... I’m was just plain confused.

Then, my husband announced that it was time for us to use our “new every two” perk at Verizon because his cellphone could no longer send text messages, receive email or check the Internet.

Our phones are linked by a “friends and family” program, so if he was getting a new phone, I’d have to get one, too, or forfeit that right, because Verizon recently announced the end of its program that lets customers get a new cell phone every two years.

If you haven’t been to a Verizon store in a while, it’s smartphone heaven.

If you’re looking for a “regular” cellphone, you might find one in that corner, wayyyyyyyy over there. Yeah, you see it, without lights and a lot of dust.

Needless to say, when we walked out of the store about two hours later, we had two more smartphones in our house.

He knows how to use his. I’m pushing a lot of buttons and nothing is happening.

Making a call on the newest one is a lot easier, because there’s a big green button with the word “Phone” underneath.

I don’t know how to delete a message, though. Well, that’s not exactly right. Technically, I don’t know what I’m doing that is making my messages disappear.

But, thanks to Tim at Verizon Wireless in Mentor, I’m going to learn.

Poor Tim.

He is one of the sales consultants who teaches classes every Thursday morning for those who are new to smartphones.

So far he’s changed my clock from analog to digital, helped me assign speed dial numbers and reminded me a few times that you can pretty much do anything with the menu key.

Where is the menu key?

Where is Tim?

The “teachers” are patient, answering any questions. If they get stumped, they’ll tinker until they figure it out.

Once they do, they’ll go through the steps so that you, too, learn what you’re doing.

Tim said I can come back as many times as necessary to ask questions.

He also said I can just stop in and ask for help if I feel the need.

At this rate, I’m sure I’ll soon be as comfortable as I was with my old phone.

I just wish having a smartphone didn’t make me feel this stupid.

Poor Tim.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Royally excited for this month’s big wedding

I’m afraid I’m one of “them.”

I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised. I’m sure many of you were, too.

From the time I was a child, I could tell you which princess belonged where in the line to the throne in England; which Kennedy followed which, and who their kids were; and exactly what Grace Kelly gave up to marry a prince in Monaco.

My mother seemed to be an encyclopedia of royalty, and loved to discuss their lives and their scandals.

Who knows if she thought they were important, or if they were just a distant version of Hollywood. Either way, she paid attention, and therefore, so did her only daughter.

I’ll admit it helped that some of them were close to my age. A little girl can dream of marrying a royal, can’t she?

These two families were similar in their fame, but so different in the way they lived their lives. The Kennedys endured so much tragedy, while the royals in Britain and Monaco fumbled and bumbled their way through life.
Needless to say, I found them all charming.

Until Diana.

It took me a very long time to get on the bandwagon — until the divorce, frankly.

I think it was that for so long, she was everywhere.

I know she was a humanitarian. But, she didn’t have a job, so it made sense that she got involved and put that star power to work.

It wasn’t until it became so abundantly clear that she was so deeply wronged by her husband that I became sympathetic to her situation in life.

And, she had those two kids.

The adorable William and precocious Henry were in the spotlight as much as Diana, but made it all seem so much fun in the process.

Wills, as he came to be known, had those mischievous eyes that looked as if he was up to something. Harry didn’t bother working the eyes.

He just pulled the pranks big brother never bothered with.

They grew up seemingly on camera, waving in their ridiculous royal clothes as they headed to church with their families, or to their private schools or to meet with heads of state.

They seemed most at home next to Diana, walking hand in hand and even more often laughing as they enjoyed the day. Their most important walk was no doubt their most difficult, as they escorted the princess to her burial after her shocking death at age 36.

Once she was gone, the boys grew up quickly.

Wills, who was 15 when she died, quickly finished school and joined the military. Harry, who was 13 then, did much the same.

Sure, they’ve had their share of troubles along the way, both in decision-making and their love lives, but who didn’t as they grew up? They just were unfortunate enough to have the entire world paying attention.
They ain’t seen nothing yet.

In a mere 26 days, Wills will be wed to his sweetheart with the whole planet watching. In July 1981, when his mother married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, there were a mere 750 million people tuned in for the show.

The wedding, which will begin here in the States at 6 a.m. on April 29, should shatter that number, because so many more will be viewing online as bride Kate Middleton’s dress and the flowers are unveiled, and seeing whether Camilla, the woman who broke up Charles and Diana, dares to show up.

I’ll be among them.

As a 14-year-old, I slept through Diana’s nuptials in a hotel in Toronto during a family vacation.

I still feel a twinge of regret when the highlights from the ceremony are shown, knowing that I didn’t get to see such a piece of history.

No such worries this time. Alarms will be set. DVRs will be ready. Cable bills will be paid.

When that little fella I have watched grow up says “I do,” I’ll be there to cheer him on.

I have to. I’m one of “them.”