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See ya next year Alumni Banquet

It’s that time of year again…alumni banquet season. I love this season for the sheer fact of getting together with people whom I may have nothing in common except for the bond of graduating from Salem High School.

I had a great high school experience and I’m sorry for those who did not. I made life lasting friendships and even snagged my husband (even though I didn’t realize it at the time) when he was a mere 15 years old.

This year’s banquet was fun as usual at the “rowdy” table. Years separate those who gather at the back corner table but we still enjoy each other’s company. My group includes fellow 1984 graduates Kelly Newby Coats and Jennifer Weaver Martin and of course, my husband Duane, class of 1985.

Kelly’s sister, Kristy Newby Busher and her group of 1990 graduates usually join us as does her son (noticeably absent this year due to a work commitment in North Dakota) and his friends, her “adopted” children. This year the young ones celebrated their 5-year anniversary of graduating from good ole’ SHS. They were the youngest attendees with the exception of the 2017 classmates and garnered a round of applause from our table. We are trying to instill good alumni banquet etiquette on them.

Also near to the back table are the Hardin siblings, Donna, Linda and Mike. Donna tries to keep order but more often than not finds that a hard task. They were there also this year in support of their nephew, Jared Hardin, who accepted admittance into the alumni association on behalf of the class of 2017. Jared’s dad, Melvin, also class of 1984 and mom, Leann (a West Washington graduate), also came to support their son.

Jamie Richardson, now a celebrity after his stint as emcee during the 2016 alumni banquet, is always in close proximity as was his sister Angie whose daughter is also a member of the 2017 graduating class.

This year I also got to visit with my first boss after college, Mary Kay Fultz. Sometimes the alumni banquet is …   More

Full-fledged nerd

I’ve always considered myself to be nerdy. I’ve written several times about my love of video games, comic books, and Star Wars. Thusly I’ve checked off several boxes to the “nerd list” or things that make one nerdy I guess.

A guilty pleasure of mine when I was a kid was Dragon Ball Z . It’s an anime cartoon that involves lots of fighting and what not. I used to watch it after school everyday and my friends and I would pretend to be the characters from the show on the playground. It’s Japanese of course. When the re-runs are on I will occasionally watch them.

So now I’ve checked off the video games, comic books, Star Wars, and anime from the nerd checklist. That leaves jus one more thing.

Well I finally checked off the last box earlier this year.

The last box on my nerd list was to play the most famous of all nerd games “Dungeons and Dragons.” Well I finally joined a group earlier this year in January and we have just begun a second campaign and I am officially hooked.

My first character was an elf cleric (and now I know I’ve already lost some of you) and I have really enjoyed this play through. To put it simply I can heal, cast magic, and I’m good with sword and shield. So basically my character is everything I like to do when I play similar video games.

It’s really just fun hanging out with people. It’s basically a multiplayer game, but there are no consoles, or TVs. It’s just you, your friends, snacks, and your character sheets. The rest is up to your imagination.

In our second campaign I am a human sorcerer. So I essentially just cast magic spells, but it goes more in the destruction/damage dealing side of things. That makes it pretty fun, so it’s different than my other character, although I haven’t gotten to play with him too much.

I had opportunities to play in school, but never did because of the demands of high school sports and a job. Now I wish I had because I love it. Un thus I am a …   More

Recycle - make a difference

I’m turning caps and lids into a park bench or possibly a picnic table. This is an ongoing recycling project that the Salem High School Science club has taken on and I’m really excited by it.

According to Mr. McCurdy, science teacher and science club sponsor, “Thus far we have diverted about 4 full size pickup truck loads filled to roof level with plastic that has not gone to our landfill.”

I have a special fondness for the science club that I was once president of. I’m excited to be able to give back to the club and help light a fire for students to be community minded.

I try to be a good steward of the land and recycle. I’m not a fanatic about it but I do collect paper and cardboard and deliver it to the local collection site on Joseph Street. I hate it when the tubs get full, especially the paper one because it’s heavy. So admittedly I don’t empty them as often as I should and some paper might get in the trash during these times but I try.

The cardboard collecting, however, has become almost a compulsive behavior. When someone throws a cardboard box into the trash, I instinctively pull it out (if it’s not too gross because I still have some constraints), make it flat and add it to the stack.

I also try to save aluminum cans for a co-worker who also collects the cans from work. I don’t have enough to benefit taking them to a recycling center so I am glad to collect them for him.

The caps have been a recent addition. We drink a lot of milk, use gallons of distilled water for medical purposes in addition to caps from medicine bottles and Bailey’s drink of choice is a bottle of caffeine free diet coke so we have lots of caps from them. Now they are being used to make something new.

I think that is why I’m excited to save caps because there is a tangible product that results from my (our) recycling efforts.

I took my second grocery bag of caps to the high school recently and after checking out the recycled bench in …   More

Memories

A house is just a structure but a home, to me, defines love. I’m not so naïve to know that some people didn’t grow up in a loving home and I’m truly sorry for them. All of my childhood memories were made in one home on Rural Route 4 (now Rudder Road) in Salem and mostly they are of good times.

Being an only child, I spent a lot of time playing by myself but I also had neighbors and cousins that lucky for me were neighbors, too. They filled in the gaps. My dad was also one of my favorite companions.

I remember playing in the basement when I was little while my dad watched TV from the orange vinyl sofa that sat against the paneled wall. (Remember this was the late 60’s – so the sofa was very hip.)

I had a metal kitchen set that a lot of collectors would kill for today and from this kitchen I served my dad many imaginary meals in which he would ooh and awl over. I was, to the best of my knowledge, the best imaginary meal maker he had ever met. He always made me feel like I was the best in everything I did.

I remember putting up the silver metal Christmas tree that featured a color wheel spotlight that added ambiance to the downstairs. Every Christmas Eve he would take me to town to look at Christmas lights while Santa (aka Mother) delivered the presents.

As I got older, my room became my chosen hangout. I had all the necessities; color television with my choice of four or five (on a clear day) TV channels, stereo with a wide variety of 45’s, 8-tracks and albums and a telephone inconveniently connected to the wall with a cord. (At the time, I didn’t know this was an inconvenience – I just stretched the cord, lounged on my bed and talked for hours.)

Most summer days, I had the luxury of having the house to myself while my parents worked. I could get up when I wanted, watch game shows and soap operas (‘cause that’s all that was available on daytime TV) and eat what was available.

If I got tired of being alone and I often did (I …   More

Make a wish flowers are the best

On a recent sunny afternoon, I was outside swinging my youngest in the backyard.

She loves to be outside. She would live out there if we’d let her!

As I was swinging her, she yelled, “Mom! Can you go get that make a wish flower for me please?”

“What?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”

“That make a wish flower, right there!”

I turned around and saw a dandelion sticking up a few feet away.

I smiled really big and said, “Yes, I’d love to get that make a wish flower for you!”

It melted my heart. Why can’t I see the ugly weeds in our yard the way she does? I see them and think, “I need to pick that before the seeds spread and we have them everywhere!”

Of course she promptly closed her eyes and blew hard as soon as it was placed in her hands.

I watched her sweet face as she opened her eyes and watched the seeds drift in the wind.

It was a simple moment, but it’s one I will never forget.   More

Reason for Salem's early dismissal

While there is always a possibility of a tornado when severe weather conditions exist, this is not the reason we, Salem Community Schools, chose to dismiss early today.  The primary reason for early dismissal was the threat of severe thunderstorms close to our normal dismissal and bus route time. 

We do not want buses on the roads with the threat of 60 mph wind gusts, as not every area of Washington County is flat.  We have several routes where our buses navigate roads that are very narrow with not much of a shoulder near ravines.  A combination of rain, hail and wind could spell disaster for a bus on one of these ridges.

We also would like for our teachers, staff, and student drivers to be able to get home and put their cars in the garage or other protective shelter to prevent hail damage to their cars.  That may seem trivial to some, but to our employees and students, I think it is appreciated.

We have one of the largest counties in the state and each school district is a little different in road conditions and terrain. It can be storming or snowing in one part and sunny and dry in another. We all try to make the best decisions we can and I am confident that everyone is focused on what is best for ALL children.

  More

Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

Leave it to Indiana to not be able to make up its mind if we're in spring or winter. My sinuses are furious at the indecision and I'm pretty much popping at least one dose of ibuprofen every day for sinus headaches.

Oddly enough, though, it's somewhat comforting to find a food that matches our wacky weather.

Chicken noodle soup is one of those comfort foods so universally enjoyed that no matter where you are almost, it's considered part of the prescription for getting through a variety of cold-symptom-inducing illnesses. The steam helps with congestion, the broth warms you and the softness of the vegetables, noodles and chicken means you get some actual nutrition in you without it feeling like you're swallowing shards of glass when your throat is on fire. Unless you have strep. Then plain vanilla ice cream feels like swallowing broken glass. Also, it's more or less drinkable, so you can, if you want, just pour it into a mug and snuggle all but your head and one hand under a blanket while you lay on the couch spending all your effort on finding a head position that will let you breath through at least one nostril.

At the same time, the lemon in this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, from Damn Delicious (it's the name of the blog, Mom; I can't just change the name of someone else's website!), brightens it up and makes it almost spring-like. It's perfect for those warmish, sunny days that lead into chillier evenings in early spring. Also, it's pretty much one-pot cooking, so there's less dishes to do and that's good news no matter what kind of shape your health is in.

Start with browning off some salted and peppered cubed boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a Dutch oven or stockpot with a splash of olive oil. When they're golden brown, which shouldn't take more than a few minutes, pop them out (use a paper plate or thickly layered paper towels for true one-pot cooking). Don't worry about the chicken being completely cooked through as we'll be adding them back in …   More

Just along for the ride

I don’t know them personally but I feel like I do. I only recognize a few names on the roster but I want to get to know them. They are the Lady Musketeers basketball team and they are about to make history for their school and for our community.

They have made non-basketball people into fans; they have brought out the best in Washington County. Thrown away are the school lines that are normally drawn during the ensuing sports seasons.

When one community supports three separate school systems, rivalries exist sometimes being passed down from one generation to another. But sometimes time softens those hard-core rivalries and we can pull together as one.

That is what this team of girls from Pekin has done. Winning sectional was great but not unheard of in Washington County. Each school has its share of sectional victories but to go on and win regional, that’s something to brag about. A fewer number of regional wins have been celebrated amongst the county schools.

But they were not done, a semi-state victory was in their sights and they mastered that with hard play and lots of heart.

Now they are on to play the biggest game of their life and in Banker’s Fieldhouse nonetheless. No pressure to play on the home court of the Indiana Pacers where superstars have played the game of basketball.

But these girls are already superstars. They have pulled not only the community of Pekin together but also all of Washington County. For one weekend, anyway, we are all fans of the Lady Musketeers from Pekin.

Tournament season provides proof that the unknown can be mighty. The announcers of the semi-state game even eluded to the phenomenon of the Eastern Musketeers from small town USA denying Covenant Christian a repeat trip to the state tournament.

And what about the crowd support that drove 170 miles to Richmond for one game, outflanking the opposing team’s crowd by hundreds.

Win or lose, they are making history for their school and the rest of us …   More

Make yourself a priority in 2017

For the past three weeks I have been participating in an exercise/eating healthy accountability group.

I’m not really good about holding myself accountable, but when I join a group of friends who are constantly posting about getting their exercise in or sharing delicious recipes, it motivates me to do the same.

It goes along with that whole idea of moms encouraging each other. It’s not a competition. We are all just trying to be the best person we can be.

For moms, I think it’s hard to find time to do things for yourself. I have this horrible thing hanging over my head called “Mom Guilt!”

How could I possibly do anything for myself? There are so many things that need to be done! Little people need me!

However, when I’m part of these groups, I realize that other women are feeling the same way I do. And guess what? It’s ok for us to take time out for ourselves.

After all, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, how can we take care of everyone else?

Everyone may have their own guilty pleasure, whether it’s going out with friends, going out for coffee, heading to the movies, reading a book, etc. Find something to do for yourself every day, even if it’s only 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes can make a huge difference in how you handle the rest of your day.

I know if I’m constantly going for everyone else and do nothing for myself, it drains me. I get resentful of every single person around me. And it’s not their fault. It’s my fault for not taking the time for me.

Getting up at 6 a.m. every day is my time. I get my exercise in, I feel good about myself and I am ready to do whatever is needed of me the rest of the day.

As we enter into the second month of 2017, I encourage all our readers to find something that makes them happy, that keeps them going, and do it. Make a pact to take care of you this year.

monika@salemleader.com   More

Find a little kindness

There are days, I think, when we all experience what feels like the weight of the world sitting heavy on our shoulders. It’s easy during these winter days of only seeing glimpses of the sun and dreary weather to get a little down. But it’s during these gloomy days that I am thankful for the little kindnesses of the world.

Recently I was in a hurry, as I often am, and traffic was lined up as far as the eye could see, but one car, one driver decided to let me pull out in front of him. And he smiled at me as he allowed me to be one spot closer to my destination.

Frantic one morning to get to work but needing a joust of caffeine I pulled to the McDonald’s drive thru to order my French vanilla latte and when I got to the window, my morning treat had been paid for by the car ahead of me. Not only did I get a jolt of energy from my caffeine-laden latte, I got a sample of people’s kindness to go with it.

One evening I was leaving work, dreading the chore of going home to cook supper. When asked, “What’s for supper?” my usual answer is “I don’t know” or “What do you want?” Both answers are usually met with a grumble from the men in my life who rely on me to keep them fed.

One night this week I was totally unsure of what to fix and I was not in the mood to cook either. And much to my surprise, I was greeted with polish sausage and fried potatoes on my plate. Duane had tired of my indecisive answers and took matters into his own hands. Needless to say, it was delicious.

Not to make it sound like he never cooks, he does, but on this particular night I appreciated it more because I had already faced my share of woes that day.

I have found that sometimes it also makes me feel better to do an act of kindness for someone else. I get silly ideas, especially when I am awake in the middle of the night, of things I can do for others. Sometimes I don't follow through on them but sometimes I do.

And when I do, I’m usually glad I …   More

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