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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, June 24, 2011

Take a timeout, Mother Nature

The weather report says Mother Nature is going to give us a break.

Let’s hope the old girl holds up her end of the bargain. Because, really, she’s the only thing that could sour what promises to be a fantastic night.

There’s no red carpet or six-hour pregame show, but tonight’s game at Jerome T. Osborne Sr. Stadium in Mentor is an all-star event.

No, Justin Bieber won’t be there. (Thank goodness!) We’ve got someone better! Well, 70 of them, actually.

You’ve seen and heard us talking up The News-Herald Senior Bowl for weeks now, and tonight’s the night.

Seventy of the areas top, just-graduated seniors will take the field all for the sake of charity. The rosters are loaded with players from all three of the counties we cover, so you’re bound to be familiar with a bunch of them.

After tonight’s game, some will go on to play college ball, while others will take the academic track in school. In the case of Riverside graduate Joe Palmer, he’ll begin work on his firefighting career.

But, tonight, they’ll step on the field in the name of Clothe-A-Child, which works to provide warm clothes and shoes for needy area children.

The News-Herald’s charity has raised more than $3.5 million its 30 years. All profits from ticket sales, souvenirs and games of chance at tonight’s game will go toward send more area youngsters shopping at Sears and Payless ShoeSource at Great Lakes Mall.

As a volunteer shopper for several years, I see the value in this service. It’s a thrill to help the youngsters pick out clothing they want to wear, while always staying true to Mom’s rules.

They don’t understand the misfortune that’s led them to these shopping trips, but they don’t need to worry about that. They’re kids — their only job is to learn their lessons in school and mind their manners.

It’s been wonderful to see all the volunteers come together to put this game together. Area restaurants including Hooley House in Mentor; Glory Daze Bar and Grill in Wickliffe; Subway in Mentor; Purple Shamrock in Willowick; and Phil’s Catering in Ashtabula have fed the players before practices each night this week.

And, before tonight’s game will be one of my personal highlights — 10-year-old Kirtland resident Logan Potosky will sing the National Anthem.

When I was 10, I was throwing roller skates at my brother. This kid with the beautiful voice is going to stand up in front of a huge crowd to inaugurate what we hope will become a tradition. Check out his winning performance in the May 23 contest to win the right to perform tonight at

At halftime, you’ll see the awarding of The News-Herald’s first scholar-athlete award. We’ve heard the question many times. Many of you have probably said it.

"Why do the athletes get all the glory?"

That ends tonight when an area student is rewarded for smarts in the classroom.

You’ll also catch a glimpse of the stars of the past, when Euclid graduate and former Notre Dame standout Tony Fisher does the coin toss before the game. The News-Herald’s football player of the year award is named after Fisher, who is a tremendous backer of area high school football.

And, if that wasn’t enough, I have the best news of all.

Tickets to the game are affordable. Adults get in for $7, while student tickets are $5. Pre-sale tickets, which were sold through Friday, were $5.

If you’re looking for something to do tonight, this is a great bet. Youngsters playing for the thrill of the game one last time on a high school field.

If only Mother Nature will cooperate.

Twitter: @LauraNH

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A new season of 'Armageddon'

I have to forgive my husband.

He’s a west-sider. He doesn’t understand the east-side ways.

He hasn’t learned that, when it comes to roads, you shouldn’t say that you wish they’d just fix them.

As history has shown, that’s a bad idea.

Sure, we get smoother surfaces, free of pits and holes that jar your jaw as you travel.

But the process — oh, the process.

For the past two years, I’ve used only one word to describe the area roadwork situation.


How else do you describe the state Route 2 widening project that has caused the Lost Nation exit ramps to close so many times?

I pity the people who live along that stretch — including the owner of a recent Dream House.

Some dream! For, oh, about a year, you have to find an alternate route to get home every day.

When we bought our home in Euclid eight years ago, we knew the road surface was bad.

I griped some, but knew the fix would be a painful process.

And, about 18 months ago, it started.

Armageddon, at home. Included was about two months in which we couldn’t park on our property.

Now that it’s finished, though, I get to enjoy no-trip sidewalks and a pothole-free street.

A couple months ago, we learned which Euclid streets were on the list for repairs this year. Two are on my route to work every day.

Of course, my husband was thrilled. And pretty much every time the west-sider and I drive together, he asks when the project will begin.

"Haven’t you learned by now that you shouldn’t ask those questions? Especially because you know what it’ll be like!"

He says it’s not a big deal.

I say, "Armageddon!"

And, it started on Monday.

On the way to work, I headed east, to the street where I normally turn right to head south. No-go.

It’s closed to through traffic because the complete rebuild has begun.

It was nice knowing you, Lloyd Road. I’ll see you sometime in winter. Hopefully you’ll be beautiful and resurfaced by then.

But, if you’re anything like my street, it might be another six months after that.

Also on the list of repairs is Lake Shore Boulevard, from the Cleveland border to the Lake County line.

I can avoid that one most of the time.

But, I can’t help but remember the last time it was resurfaced, in the late 1990s, when it sat, waiting for the asphalt to be poured, with its manhole covers standing a good 8 inches above the surface of the road. It was like an obstacle course as you drove along, weaving in and out to avoid driving over them.

"It’s not a big deal."

"You haven’t ever dealt with it before, West-sider."

I guess I should be used to all this by now. It’s Ohio, where orange barrels are the state pet.

But when every turn you make is a roadway lined with those round evil-doers, it’s difficult to adjust.

At least I know what’s coming, though.

My poor husband doesn’t have a clue.

Twitter: @lauranh

Friday, June 10, 2011

How can these cereals be boring?

It’s in the numbers.

You hear that a lot.

If you want to buy something, you check your balance. If employers want to make a hire, they check the bottom line.

The numbers don’t lie.

If the funds are there, you can buy it. If not, well, a lot of us buy it anyway.

Then other numbers come into play.

Overdraft fees. Late fees. Diminishing credit scores.

But not all numbers are financial. But, as much we think about our cash balances, you’d think they were.

You’d be wrong, though!

Lately, I’ve been noticing numbers of a different kind. Every time I look at different websites, the numbers catch my eye.

They’re in list form.

It even happens on my paper’s website,

If you ever go to the Business section on our site, you’ve probably noticed it too.

“Five reasons why you need a vacation”

“10 cars — one for every stage in your life”

“Five of the most overpriced golf courses”

Numbers are wildly popular on the web these days. And it’s because it’s fast information to share with the reader — quick bits of information on things you’re interested in.

You probably won’t admit it, but you’ve clicked on these items before.

“Five healthiest fast-food breakfasts”

I’ll admit it. They get me every time.

They usually give me just enough information to help me solve a problem, and I’m a happy camper.

One that recently caught my eye last week was a little disappointing, though.

While checking out the Yahoo! homepage, I saw a headline I couldn’t resist: “Six breakfast cereals Americans no longer love”

I expected the stuff that makes mom’s cringe — the ones loaded with sugar and children’s toys.

Oh, was I wrong.

Turns out, the list held all of my favorites. Special K, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Cheerios and Corn Flakes. Also there was Corn Pops.

Turns out that over the past few years, Americans’ breakfast habits have changed as convenience foods have become more readily available.

According the article by Jonathan Berr, a number of factors have caused cereal’s problems: the government’s attack on the use of cartoon characters to sell sugary cereals, the soaring number of egg-based breakfast sandwiches on the market and the recent surge in the price of milk.

The article quotes Dean Foods CEO Gregg Engles as saying that the drop in cereal sales has also hurt the milk industry, because 30 percent of milk sales are related to cereal.

In the list of six cereals that have fallen out of favor, various reasons were given for their failure to maintain success.

With Raisin Bran, it’s that so many cheaper off-brands have joined the market, causing consumers to flee. For Cheerios, it’s that as birth rates have fallen and cut into its market among parents looking for a good snack for toddlers, the healthy breakfast cereal market has boomed.

The one that was a little difficult to understand was Rice Krispies. It seems fewer people are buying it as a cereal. Most of its sales are taking place for use as an ingredient in a snack food — the Rice Krispie treat. Not sure how they know that.

Maybe someone can give me a list of ways.

I got a little worried about my favorites after reading the article. Rather than turning to the sickeningly sweet stuff I used to eat as a child, I always opt for the clean taste of the Rice Krispies, or Cheerios, or even Kix if I want cereal.

There’s nothing better than a bowl of one of these babies, with a banana cut in. Mmmmmmm. That’s heaven right there.

I just hope this doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose these better-for-you choices for breakfast. They’re not perfect, mind you. A choice higher in protein would be more likely to stick in your system longer. But they’re better than all the other sugary options or high-calorie choices out there.

For now, I’ll keep buying my “boring” cereals and hope that it’ll make a difference and keep them around.

Twitter: @lauranh

Friday, June 3, 2011

Saying farewell to four Euclid schools

When you think about it, Barry L. Sweet was right.

The president of Euclid City Council pointed out Friday on the front lawn of Roosevelt Elementary School in Euclid that it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

That didn’t make it any less bittersweet.

No, the groundbreaking for one of Euclid’s new elementary schools brought back a lot of important memories for me.

Important, because they’re the foundation of my education.

In Mrs. Holtcamp’s kindergarten class, I learned to share, to be patient and to say my alphabet. In Miss Wade’s first-grade class, I learned to string those letters together into words and then put them in sentences. In Mrs. Phillips' second-grade class I learned to write in cursive. In Mrs. Bending’s third-grade class, during a few weeks of engineering lessons, I decided I didn’t want to be an engineer.

In Mrs. Judd’s fourth-grade class, I struggled with multiplication tables. In Mrs. Murray’s fifth-grade class, I decided to go into journalism. In Steelers fan Miss Nichols’ sixth-grade class, I honed my hatred of the Steelers while enduring a section called “Art of Personal Living.” (Yes it means what you think it does.)

I only ventured inside Roosevelt a few times after I moved on to Euclid Central Junior High and Euclid High School, then Kent State University.

When you’re a teenager, you don’t want to visit the little kids. And, in Fall 2012, it’ll be just like they say — you can’t go home again.

So, when I heard Sweet’s words — “This is the only day in your lives when you’ll experience such an event” — I sat back and reflected.

“It’s time to move on to something new,” he continued.

I suppose so.

Euclid voters in November 2009 approved participation in a program through which the State of Ohio pays for 41 percent of the building cost to replace four elementary schools in the district.

The state’s portion of the $60 million project is $25 million. Residents took on the burden of the rest of the funds by agreeing to the new-money initiative — almost unheard of these days.

Sweet didn’t forget the voters in his remarks.

“Yes, I say this is a grass-roots stimulus project by virtue of you all reaching deep inside yourselves to make this happen,” he said.

But Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik spoke for many Euclid residents when he pointed out that new buildings aren’t a cure for what ails the Euclid School District, which consistently posts low test scores on state exams.

“Once these buildings are open, we have to build our children,” he said. “We have to create an attitude in them that learning is important, and we have to create in them an attitude that respect is important. We have to make them understand that these buildings were built for them through the generosity of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, as well as the generosity of the positive vote of the residents of the city, that we care about our children, we are concerned about their future. I want these children to get a great education.”

He said he wasn’t always sure new schools were the key to the future, but he understands what they’ll provide.

“Someone asked me, ‘Well Mayor, do you really need a brand new building to educate a student in the proper way?’ ” he said. “And I said I don’t know that the building is the whole thing, but in today’s new world, technology — ever-changing technology and industries — yeah, a building like this is absolutely important.

“They need to be able to have at their fingertips all the technology — every opportunity to grow and prosper in their education.”

Euclid Schools Superintendent Joffrey Jones was almost poetic as he discussed what’s about to begin after the turns of shovels at four elementary school sites in Euclid.

“We thank the community who dreamt with us, who saw the potential for a community Renaissance anchored in reborn places of learning,” he said. “We thank our leaders who pulled with us to breathe life into a blueprint, to turn brick and mortar and glass and tile into living laboratories of instruction that will inspire young scholars and leaders to grow and value their education for the quality of life it lifts and inspires.”

As the groundbreaking ceremony began, Roosevelt’s choir stood and sang the school song I myself learned 40 years ago from Mrs. Holtcamp:

“Roosevelt School we cheer you every day. Here is where we learned to work and play. On the great highway. As we march along, we will sing this merry, merry song.”

They followed it with another tune, moving their arms and dancing along to the words of “It’s Our Time.”

Perhaps they’re right. Roosevelt had 92 years to educate scores of children.

Now it’s going to be Arbor Elementary School’s turn.

Farewell, old girl. And thanks for the memories.

Twitter: @lauranh