Between the Lines

About a month ago I signed up to do some guest reading for a few of the Clarkston elementary schools to help celebrate ‘March is Reading? month. (I was just excited to hang out with little kids more than anything else).
However, my March 18 visit to Mrs. D. Smith’s third grade class at Springfield Plains Elementary not only allowed me to hang out with some of those smart little kids but elevated me to a whole new level in life: a celebrity.
‘This is Miss Dorset and she’s our celebrity reader today,? Smith said as she introduced me to her class.
Whoa! A celebrity? Excellent! I thought the title of ‘reporter? would have worked just fine.
‘Wow, it’s not every day I get to be a celebrity,? I said. ‘I’m a reporter for The Clarkston News and I brought one of my favorite books to read today.?
And with that it was a chaotic sea of 8-year-old bodies rushing to the story area, all trying to accomplish the same thing: be the closest person sitting in front of me.
By this point my ego was having a field day. A usual day for me includes eating my morning cereal of puffed wheat, making lots of phone calls at work, battling for a treadmill at the YMCA and getting a healthy dose of the Food Network.
This was clearly much better than that.
My book was a hit, I’ll admit it. I read ‘Click, Clack, Moo?, a fabulous tale about cows that go on strike and demand electric blankets from a stubborn farmer by way of demand letters produced on an old typewriter. The kids had read it before, but it was still a favorite.
I finished reading to my captivated audience and applause filled the air.
My confidence was sky-high. And then the questions started.
As someone who is on the question-asking end, having someone interview me is always a fun venture. Mrs. Smith’s students didn’t let me down.
? ‘How do you get facts??
? ‘How do you get story ideas??
? ‘How old are you and where did you go to school??
? ‘How did you get this job??
? ‘Have you always wanted to be a writer??
? ‘Do you interview the Pistons??
I was incredibly impressed with the questions, the above mentioned being just a few of the inquiries that arose from the 20-minute question-and-answer session I hosted. Here’s how I responded:
? ‘I do research and ask questions to get facts.?
? ‘Sometimes people give me good ideas or sometimes our staff comes up with stories about things happening around town.?
? ‘I’m 23 and I went to Michigan State.? (I then apologized to the row of boys adorned in Michigan sweatshirts).
? ‘I had some internships and found out about this job by doing some investigating online.?
? ‘I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was the class reporter for Miss Cowan’s third graders when I was eight.?
? ‘Sorry, don’t get to interview the Pistons.?
I constantly hear about young children not being interested in reading and the overall sad state our nation will be in years from now. I don’t believe it, not if Mrs. Smith’s class is an example of the intuitive minds that make up today’s schools. I think if we all have a little more faith, and a copy of ‘Click, Clack, Moo?, today’s students will promise to be fabulous individuals for tomorrow.
Later that week I went to Clarkston Elementary and read a story of mine from a recent edition of The Clarkston News to a group of fourth graders. While I didn’t have any cool cow drawings this time, the students again had good questions for me about being a reporter in Clarkston.
Thanks to all the cool kids for making me a celebrity for a few days.
And if I ever interview the Pistons, Mrs. Smith’s class will be the first to know about it.

First Kyle and now me. You’re reading my last column for The Clarkston News.
Starting at the end of the month I’ll be moving down to C&G Newspapers in Warren. I’ll be covering schools for the Warren Weekly and the local happenings for the Grosse Pointe Times.
This time last year I was sitting at my desk in the newsroom at the Detroit Free Press. Even though my degree is in writing, I was designing news pages and thought I was pretty happy doing it. I figured my next move after my internship would be to another design gig at some daily.
I had no idea that by the end of the year I would be working at such a quality community newspaper as The Clarkston News.
Having lived in southern Oakland County my entire life, the only thing I knew about Clarkston was that it was the home of Pine Knob. Excuse me, DTE Enery Music Theatre. I really didn’t know anything else existed past Exit 89 on I-75.
I quickly found out how wrong I was.
I can’t express enough how much I’ve enjoyed covering the people and events of this community. There really does seem to be a little something for everyone here. If you haven’t taken advantage of your local library, signed up for a class with Parks and Rec or patronize a downtown business, I highly suggest you do. Supporting the organizations that make up the heart of your community is one way to continue its existence into the future.
I know I couldn’t have done my job without the help of some great leaders in this community. Kelly Arcello in Parks and Rec usually received a call from me at least once a day this summer as I tried to track down day camps for picture pages. Terri Bendes at the chamber always had phone numbers and press releases ready for me when I needed event information. And Margaret Bartos always welcomed me with a big smile and a spot at her desk when I stopped by the senior center.
Besides simply enjoying what I did everyday at work, this job made me realize I love covering schools and education, and I hope to keeping doing so in the future.
You often read stories about budget cuts and problems with board members in the newspaper. However, that doesn’t reflect the daily happenings of the second graders at Clarkston Elementary School or the beneficial adult ed programs offered at night. I know I tried to find great examples of learning throughout the schools to remind us all how important great teachers are.
Clarkston is very lucky to have two Blue Ribbon Schools, award-winning teachers and supportive parents who go above and beyond to help their children. So even if you read an editorial on a recent school board meeting or policy, don’t forget that the school system goes beyond just the administration building.
I shouldn’t just talk about myself, although I love to do so. The staff here at 5 S. Main St. is the hardest working group of people I’ve seen and they don’t get enough applause or kudos.
Don Schelske and Kyle Gargaro helped me out greatly with questions I had on stories or journalistic endeavors, and I thank them so much for that. Those two guys are two fine journalists. Noah Purcell has jumped into the world of Clarkston sports and is doing a fantastic job. Jenny Matteson, our new editor, has just started and I think she’ll continue the great legacy of our paper.
The ladies downstairs (Joy Vander Weel, Debbie Denton, Cindy Burroughs, Rose Mary Frazer and Sally Stein) are not only some of the cutest, funniest gals in Oakland County, but also produce a quality paper week after week. Keep up the good work, ladies.
Continue to support your local newspaper. Community journalism is the backbone of the bigger daily papers. You’d be surprised at how much of a greater impact your local community has on your daily life than you might realize.
So that’s it. Thank you, Clarkston. Even though I won’t be your bespectacled local reporter, I’m still a fan of this little town.

Clarkston High School will no longer have pop available in cafeteria vending machines or in the lunch line starting this summer for the 2004-2005 school year. When I first heard about this, the caffeine addict inside of me cringed and felt bad for the kids. After all, I’ve been slurping down the sugary beverage ever since I was allowed to select my own food. However, once I heard about the driving force behind the reasoning to replace pop with more juice and sports drinks, I was very impressed with the dedication a group of concerned individuals had toward tomorrow’s adults.
My pop addiction reached an all-time high when I was in high school. As editor of the school yearbook, I usually ate my lunch at the computer while on deadline and trying to finish homework assignments. On average I’m sure I consumed about six or seven cans a day to keep my sugar levels as high as possible throughout the day.
I had a revelation when I actually stopped and calculated the nutritional value of pop and realized it had none, merely hundreds of empty calories. I figured what I consumed in pop was about the same amount some people in smaller countries were allowed for food all day long.
Although I didn’t stop drinking pop altogether, I switched to diet brands and cut back on the amount I drank in a day. While it wasn’t a huge change, it was a step in the right direction for me.
That’s what the work of Janet Allen and Clarkston’s PTA Council have done: taken a small step in the right direction toward a growing problem.
I’m sure the change will be small in terms of how students react next year. After all, pop isn’t banned in the school building during lunch, it’s just requires a little more planning to have a cold bottle waiting for you. And like my switch to diet pop, juice itself still has a lot of sugar in every serving. However, realizing that obesity is slowing becoming one of the major health problems in the United States is an important acknowledgment. More proactive actions, such as working to start a new, healthier agreement with mega company Coca-Cola, should be taken in the future.
I think everyone can raise a glass of Powerade to that.

While spending time with my family this past weekend at my soon-to-be cousin-in-law’s bridal shower, I didn’t think life could get any better. However, that perception changed when my cousins and uncle opened my eyes to a whole new delicacy that changed my life: sushi.
I had no idea rolled seaweed and cucumbers could taste so good.
I spent April 17 in my fanciest pink dress watching Stephanie, my cousin’s fiance, open hand mixers and dish towels at her bridal shower in Indianapolis. I was having a great time chatting with family and friends while I picked out the salted cashews in the nut bowl placed dangerously in front of me.
The afternoon got even better when our hostesses presented us with petit fours and Kahlua-infused bundt cake to end the afternoon. I was in such a great party mood that I had already forgotten that I had mistakenly bitten into a smoked ham sandwich spread. (As a vegetarian, this normally would have been a traumatizing event.)
At this point, life was still good. I had no idea it was about to get even sweeter just a few short hours later.
‘Hey, what to do you want to get for dinner?? Jennifer, my youngest cousin, asked me as we collected wrapping paper and cookie crumbs at the end of the shower. ‘I’m up for some falaffel.?
‘Oh, falaffel sounds great. But you know what I’ve never tried? Sushi,? I said. It was at this point my cousin dropped her wad of metallic paper and looked me straight in the eye.
‘We’re getting sushi. End of discussion,? was all she said.
When we arrived back at my aunt’s house, Jennifer’s brother, and my oldest cousin, Jeff and my uncle John had been made aware of the situation at hand.
‘I really don’t care if you wanted falaffel, we’re getting sushi,? Jeff, the groom-to-be, said. ‘I seriously can’t believe you, of all people, have never had sushi.?
I suddenly felt as if my life to this point had been somewhat of a letdown. What had I been missing all my life? The thought of fried seafood and fish eggs had never really appealed to this vegetarian, but with all of the new sushi restaurants I’ve been noticing opening up around me, maybe I was wrong?
Indeed I was.
I spent the rest of the afternoon asking all the necessary questions one might ask when trying a new cuisine: ‘Is it gross?? ‘What if I accidently get a fish egg stuck in my tooth?? ‘Do those little rolls constitute dinner??
Jeff and Jen were gracious enough to answer my barrage of questions as we hung out that afternoon. They recalled their first experiences with the Japanese cuisine as my nervousness turned into full-fledged excitement.
I don’t think I had been this excited since I tried yogurt.
By the time my cousins, my uncle and I rolled into the parking lot of Sakura, I was already singing made-up songs about raw food and chopsticks.
I was ready for sushi.
The event began by washing our hands at the table. The cleanliness factor scored high points with me. Jeff immediately suggested edamame, salted soy beans still in the pod, as an appetizer. So far, so good. While I wasn’t so sure about the miso soup for the first course, the idea of fried tofu seemed like a dream come true. Then it was time to order the sushi.
‘Man, they need labeled pictures of this stuff with a legend or something,? I mumbled, trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner as I stared at a picture menu.
‘Here, just let me do it,? Jeff said. ‘We’ll get some avocado rolls, cucumber rolls and fried tempurah.?
‘That all sounds great. What in the world is that last one. I’m scared,? I said.
‘Asparagus dipped in batter and then fried before being rolled up,? Jeff said.
‘Oh, yeah, let’s get lots of that,? I said, my mouth watering.
My family was very generous and opted for an all-veggie-friendly selection for the evening. I even got a free lesson in chopstick etiquette from my Hoosier relatives while in between the soybeans and fried tofu. It was a busy night.
Right after having my picture taken (see above), a large platter filled with little squashed rolls arrived at our table.
My sushi had arrived.
I gingerly dipped a small cucumber roll into some soy sauce and slowly placed it in my mouth. The anticipation was killing me.
‘Wow! This is delicious! Where has rolled seaweed been all my life?? I exclaimed. The evening proceeded from there.
My family watched in amusement as I devoured roll after roll, stopping only to make more comments about how much I loved the food. My uncle only tried a few times to get me to place an entire wad of wasabi into my mouth at once.
‘Did I mention I was having a good time?? I asked Jeff.
‘Uh, yeah, you could say that,? he laughed.
I finished my evening by purchasing a small Japanese cat figurine. I named him ‘Wasabi Cat? in honor of the event.
If your regular mac and cheese just isn’t what it used to be on the family dinner table, I highly recommend some avocado rolls and fried tofu. Because just when you think life can’t get any better, there’s always sushi.

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