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Presbyterians have a special place in my heart

It was like reliving a special time in my life on a recent Sunday morning as I stepped through the front doors of Salem Presbyterian Church.

In honor of its 200 years of existence, the church held a special service and invited me to come and take pictures of the day.

Although I am not a member any longer, the memories I have of growing up in that building will ensure that it will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only did my family attend the church when I was born, it is also where I was baptized, where I went to Sunday school every week, where I attended preschool (with Miss Julie McFadden), where I met my first best friend (Molly Huey Kelly) where I took confirmation and where I always knew I could return when home on the weekends during college.

To go back and see all the wonderful people who helped raise me and to remember those who are no longer with us, it was just something special.

I enjoyed reminicising about Ed and Elinor DeJean, Fred and Carolyn Fultz, Jess and Barb Helsel, Helen Roberson, Johanna Gili, Jinny Scifres, the list goes on. I loved seeing Pat Parkey, my sweet friend and old neighbor Alice McGinnis, Bill and Kathy Peterson and of course the many other members that I see around town daily.

It brought joy to my heart to see my girls sitting with my parents and enjoying the service. Getting to hear from four generations of Salem Presbyterian members was pretty awesome, too. Carolyn Haag, David Beck, Tom McQuiddy and Rachel Fisher all did a wonderful job, but Tom’s speech got the tears flowing for me.

He talked about the days of children’s church, how his grandmother (Johanna Gili) always ran into church 15 minutes late, our church picnics at Camp Pyoca and many more. Those are the days I remember and miss. The people, the faces, the smells, the feelings, it all came back in those few minutes.

Life is so short and so precious. I’m blessed that I grew up in such a loving church family with so many amazing …   More

#HoustonStrong

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the devastating flooding going on in Houston as I type this. I don’t really know what to say but I feel like I should say something.

For those unaware my dad used to live in Texas City which is essentially a suburb of Houston. My step mom is from that area and so I have a lot of step family and friends in and around the Houston area. I spent many spring breaks and summers down there visiting family and for a long time Houston was essentially a second home for me. I am a very proud Texan (as are most if we’re being honest) so I feel a pretty emotional attachment to the area.

As news started pouring in yesterday there was a twitter thread that just broke my heart. It started as a tweet from the official City of Houston twitter page saying 911 services were at capacity and to only call if it was an actual emergency, as in more than a few inches of water in your home. There were numerous responses of people who had fled to their attics and were trapped or were on their roofs awaiting rescue. So many addressees of people in desperate need for help. It was chilling.

The pictures, videos, and stories coming from South Texas are heartbreaking, but also inspirational. So many people lending a hand where they can. The first responders selflessly risking their own well being to help those in need. And not just the first responders but also just ordinary people. There was a video that went viral on twitter of a man being interviewed by a news station as he was getting ready to launch his boat off into the water. The asked him what he was doing and he said he was going to “Go save lives.” How freaking awesome is that? This guy was going to go and help people he didn’t because they needed it.

There are tons of photos and videos of people being helped by their fellow man and it just warms my heart. I hate that a horrific event like this happens, but it also restores some faith in …   More

Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

For whatever reason, we didn’t have meatballs much growing up. We had giant meatballs called hamburgers and really giant meatballs called meatloaf, but whether it’s because they were too much of a hassle to roll out by hand or whether it just never occurred to us that we should make them, the little ones weren’t really on the menu much.

Chicken Parmesan was, though. That was the first full meal I remember learning to make. When I was a kid, it was my dad’s go-to when company was coming over and he would make mountains of it. We’d be eating it as leftovers for a few days afterward. Despite the fact that it was my dad’s recipe and method, it was my grandmother (my mother’s mother) who guided me through it the first time.

I make my own sauce now and I still make my dad’s chicken parm, from time to time, in batches and freeze it so I don’t have to make a mess of my kitchen as often, but these Chicken Parmesan Meatballs from Dinner: A Love Story probably won’t last long enough to need freezing. With this being a fairly easy recipe, you could even leave out instructions for your middle schoolers to make this and have it ready when you get home from work, or at least ready to pop them in the oven.

I know I normally follow the recipes to a T when I do these, but I am my father’s daughter and if I come up with a twist I think I’ll like better, sometimes I can’t resist. In this case, I didn’t change the ingredients (OK, just slightly), just the way the ingredients are put together.

The recipe calls for fresh mozzarella and I used the block kind and cut about the same amount of cheese, weight-wise, maybe a little more, into cubes and set them aside.

Then I combined the ingredients for the meatballs and gently mixed. Ground chicken works like ground turkey and can get tough if you overmix it or mix it too aggressively. Gentle.

Form balls about the size of ping pong balls and, …   More

Enjoying the eclipse, making memories

My husband and I are raising our children to always go for the experience. Whatever it is, go for it! After all, you only live once, right?

I know there were a lot of people who were concerned about their children viewing the eclipse Monday afternoon. But honestly, I never even questioned it. Maybe that makes me a bad parent? But when the school said the glasses had been donated by a pharmacist, who happens to be our state rep, I didn’t think twice. He’s not going to give our kids faulty glasses.

I also loved that Dr. Carol Hickey from Vision First came out and said it was up to the parent, like any other decision. Can your child handle keeping the glasses on and looking at the sun? If so, let them do it! If not, don’t sign the permission slip. Every experience in life comes with a risk. You know your child best.

My husband and I talked with our girls about it and they said they were talking about the dangers at school, how to look through the glasses, etc. That was it. We trusted our kids and we trusted the school and I am so glad we did! What an experience! And they made the best memories with their friends. They will never forget watching the eclipse.

I actually went to the school to take video and a few pictures for the paper and stopped by my daughter’s class. To hear their little voices and the excitement of seeing the moon cross the sun was so fun! Their excitement is contagious! And the teachers were wonderful!

Even our four year old got to see it with the help of her eclipse glasses and daddy by her side. It was a fun day for our family, both at home and at school.

I enjoyed seeing everyone’s posts about the event on Facebook and look forward to reading Kate’s story in an upcoming paper about various readers’ experiences.   More

RIP Dennis

Leader Publishing Company lay to rest one of our employees today. Dennis Miller was more than a co-worker, he was our friend. He almost always had a smile upon his face. If he wasn’t smiling it was because he was contemplating something. He was a fixer.

If we needed a plumber, we called Dennis first. If we needed computer help, we called Dennis. If we needed an electrician, we called Dennis. Although Nancy, the owner of LPC, frowned upon this practice. She was afraid he would either (a) electrocute himself or (b) burn the building down. But she often gave in and let him handle the minor jobs.

Dennis not only helped us at work but oftentimes would come to our houses to help with minor repairs. He enjoyed solving the problem.

When I first started at LPC, 17 years ago, I saw Dennis as a printing specialist. He ran all the smaller printing presses and he had an eye for perfection. I found out later that he had not been at LPC much longer than I had but he was a seasoned professional.

Later down the road, he became Production Manager, a title he hesitated at first to take but one, I believe, he became proud of. When we started using color photos in The Salem Leader and The Salem Democrat, his eye for detail became evident. He insisted on producing a product that he was proud of. A product we all could be proud of.

At one time Dennis owned and flew his own airplane. I loved hearing stories of how he and his wife, Carol, would fly to Pigeon Forge just to eat dinner. I especially loved the story of him flying our then production manager, Walter, to pick up a piece of equipment. I got the feeling from hearing Dennis laugh during the tale that Walter was opposed to flight turbulence and possibly never flew again after that experience.

Dennis and Carol loved to fish and would often take a week’s vacation to travel to see family, camp and fish. He always came back with stories of their adventures. I also helped contribute to his fish obsession by sharing …   More

Celebrate Elvis

I’m a little too young (I like saying that) to remember the Elvis craze. He died in 1977 when I was only eleven. But it would be impossible to grow up without knowing someone who loved the man and the legend.

For me that person would be my Aunt Carolyn. It was from her that I learned about his movie career because on his birthday or anniversary of his death or maybe both she could be found in front of the television watching an Elvis movie marathon.

I consider his movies cheesy but you have to look at the times…also at the movie theatre was Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon movies, oftentimes being box-office smashes. Both genres featured good times and lots of singing. I have to admit that even though I don’t consider the Elvis movies cinema masterpieces, I enjoy watching them.

Many people remember the day Elvis died and how it affected them and their loved ones. Lots of tears were shed at his passing, which is kind of ironic since a lot of tears were shed also in his early years as girls fell in love with him.

Whereas the Beatles represented a wholesomeness, Elvis brought with him a little taste of bad boy with his flailing and gyrating. His elaborate lifestyle also gained him attention and that can be witnessed to this day by simply visiting Graceland. His appeal is one that spans the generations and shows no signs of waning.

This year, August 16, marks the 40th anniversary of his death and Leader Publishing Company has decided to commemorate this event with a special keepsake booklet. It features stories about Graceland and introduces the new guesthouse that you can stay in at Graceland; stories about his Army days; lavish wardrobe and family life. Photos of Elvis including family photos are also included.

The books will be on sale in our office for $5. There will be a limited supply so if you are an Elvis fan, better get your copy today.

If you have memories of Elvis, please feel free to share them on our Facebook page, …   More

You cut your hair?

You know those mom moments when you are hustling and busy and paying attention, but not really paying attention? Then, something happens and you play back everything in your mind and realize that it was there, you just missed it?

That was my weekend.

Trying to get three kids ready to leave the house is an experience. Making sure everyone has brushed their hair, is completely clothed (in something appropriate for the public) and has shoes on takes a good amount of time in my house.

Saturday we were getting ready to head out for the day. My husband was taking our 8 year old on a mountain bike ride and the other two and I were going to do some shopping. I was braiding my daughter’s hair to keep it out of her face, when my 3 year old comes up with a handful of something that resembled feathers and smiled at me. I said, “What is that?” She said, “Feathers from the green pillows on the couch.” Hmmm, ok. Not happy she is pulling feathers out of the pillow, but no time to deal with it now.

“Throw it away. Don’t do that,” I said. “We have to go.”

She turns and heads toward the trash can. I notice she has her small scissors in her hands, but I didn’t think much about it. She is always cutting up paper and working on craft things in her play area.

We get everyone loaded up and head out the door for a day of family fun. Halfway to our destination, which is about an hour away, my oldeset says, “Oh my gosh! Did you cut your hair? It looks like you have bangs.”

I turn around to see who she is looking at and I see it myself.

Bangs. On my youngest child. The same child who just had scissors in her hands.

“What?” I said. “Those weren’t feathers were they?”

Her eyes get big and she grins and shakes her head vigorously.

Then, I bust out laughing. Because guess what? Those bangs actually look awesome!

I quickly got it under control as my husband looks at me from the driver’s seat, wondering what in the world is …   More

Football preview

It’s finally here. With the start of the week on Monday, official practice for the fall sports season opened along with it. Yes that means football! In the spirit of the start of practice I will be giving my thoughts on the upcoming season.

There will of course be some major questions surrounding all three teams this year. I’ll start with the defending county champs in West Washington.

The Senators will have some big holes to fill all across the board. They lose Quarterback Michael Sizemore, most of their receiving corps, many lineman, and their entire starting secondary. But perhaps no bigger shoes to fill than all world player Landon McPheeters. He will leave a gaping hole not just on offense running the ball, but on defense. He made up a lot of tackles on the defense. They return running back Jacob Farris who was McPheeters back up for two seasons. He will step in and ease the pain of losing their bell cow. Nick Marrs will also step in as the new signal caller. He is a good athlete and a bit bigger than Sizemore was. Marrs will be able to do some damage with his legs.

It will be interesting to see how they fare in the PLAC. Mitchell should be good again. Paoli will be improved I think. If they are going to come away with a third straight PLAC title, it will be tough I think.

Salem too will have some questions and holes to fill. Like West Washington they lose their signal caller in perhaps the biggest hole to fill. Seth Hobson is heading to continue his football career at Indiana Wesleyan and leaving gigantic shoes to fill. Brandon Corbin will do his best to step in and try and be Salem’s new Superman. The Lions also lost several lineman on both sides of the ball, as well as some in the secondary. They do return fullback Kory Akers, as well as Primetime Top 25 player Evan Brishaber at receiver. He is also joined by Clayton Ratts returning at wide out. They will all help make the transition for Corbin easier.

I expect the MSC to be a …   More

What an adventurous summer!

Summer vacation fun is quickly coming to a close and I honestly can say it was the fastest summer break I can remember!

I always start summer break at our house with a bucket list. It seems so often we have these grand ideas and then the summer comes and goes and it just gets away from us.

This year, however, we had plans already set in place, so a bucket list was not necessary!

Our family was lucky enough to go on a couple of adventures this year and boy, did we make some amazing memories! It’s funny how when you’re planning out your summer, you are excited for the adventure, but after spending two of the four weeks of July traveling, we are happy to be home, getting ready for the start of a new school year.

We loaded up and took our three daughters out west at the end of June, visiting Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park. We hit four new states for all of us on the way out: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana. They were all beautiful and adventurous!

My husband and I love the outdoors and knew we would make a trip like this some day. When a good friend told us he was getting married in Colorado in July, we knew we had to make the most of the adventure.

We are a tent camping family, so we decided to pack our camping supplies, bikes, etc., and enjoy the national parks on our trip and we have no regrets about that decision!

Being limited on time, I feel like the trip was more of a “get a taste of all these places and choose where to come back later!” We only stayed a day at most places, which wasn’t nearly enough to see everything!

We loved the rock formations of the Badlands and being able to say they “camped in the Badlands” is something the girls think is pretty cool. We loved the wild animals at Yellowstone and even got a cool video as we passed a bison climbing up the mountainside. The girls also can now say they climbed a mountain after climbing to the top of Mount Washburn with their …   More

Who thinks you are special?

As I write this today, the countdown to my favorite day is one week. When I think back to my very first day of school, I remember the excitement of standing at the end of the driveway with my Flintstone lunchbox. I couldn’t wait to get on the big yellow bus and get to my school. Since then, every single “first day” of school has had the same excitement.

For me, school was (is) a magical place. My elementary teachers had strong and wonderfully expressive voices. Each day, after lunch and recess, we were treated to a chapter of a book. Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Charlotte’s Web, Old Yeller and where the Red Fern Grows were all books I heard one chapter at a time. My teacher would settle us at our desks, turn off the lights, and we were encouraged to put our heads down while she read one chapter. We always pleaded for one more page. I never wanted that time to end. And to this day, when I get close to the ending of a really good book, I read just a little more slowly because I don’t want my time to end.

While story-time ended in 6th grade, it was replaced with changing classes, new activities, exploratory courses and newfound freedom. It was a time for growing up and becoming more independent. My very favorite 8th grade teacher taught economics. He was a war veteran and it was rumored that he had gone through some terrible battles. His voice wasn’t very strong, but he stood erect and demanded attention. As he explained the fundamentals of economics, he intertwined stories of being in Europe, both during the war and personal travel. He used his war experiences to help us understand supply and demand. Having grown up in the depression, he had real-life examples of how the economy can impact lives. That year, I learned how one person can change a life forever. He made me long to see places I’d never visited. He helped me understand that life isn’t always fair. He encouraged me to follow my dreams. He became my first …   More

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