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14 Steps


I remember asking, when I was six or seven years old, why the basement stairs had fourteen steps going up but thirteen steps going down. “You’re skipping the top step on the way down,” was my dad’s answer, in his patient tone. My first-grade self had protested that I wasn’t skipping a step, and I was the best counter in my class, I could count all the way to a hundred.

But to a little boy of six or seven, Dad knew everything, like how the sky was blue because it reflected the ocean, or how wooly worms knew what the coming winter was going to be like, or how giraffes were so tall because God made them that way now I need to get this work done and if you’re not going to help then go and play with your brother.


God, how long has it been since the last time I came home? The old farmhouse hasn’t changed much since then. I was surprised that everyone could still fit inside, despite all coming back with a spouse and children. It feels awkward, having the whole family in one house. Like I’m always in somebody’s personal space, no matter where I go.


Maybe that’s why I’m down here. Creeping down the basement stairs in the dead of night. All the relatives are asleep. Michelle and the kids are up in my old room. Mom and Dad must have spent a small fortune on air mattresses.


Why am I down here, counting stairs, phone flashlight in hand? I guess a part of me wants to see how many steps there really are to this basement. It’s a stupid notion, but then, here I am. I’d never even thought about the basement stairs since the first grade. Funny what you remember at a family reunion.

Smells like rust and old mothballs down here. That hasn’t changed, either.


The sudden buzzing of the phone forces a yelp from my throat, and reflex launches the device forward. The phone clatters to a stop on the third or fourth stair from the bottom, …   More

Accepting Changes

Living in the country in an old two-story house was a dream that came true in 1973 for my husband Larry and me. The historic house located in Salem, Indiana, was an ideal setting for the antiques we were collecting and features a winding staircase, a bay window and a fireplace.

In 1972 we decided to take on the challenge of renovating the old house that had stood empty for nearly a decade. There were few contractors who would tackle any of the jobs we offered, so we did nearly all the work ourselves. It took a year working in our spare time to make enough repairs for the house to be livable. Even with all its flaws, we loved our old house and were pleased to be living in a small community to raise our children.

Our dream home was surrounded by fields and pastures that created a serene country setting. I could sit on my front porch and watch the neighbor’s wheat field as it waved in the wind, see the corn growing tall in the field around us, and hear the cattle bellowing in the distance. But that serenity was broken about twenty years later when Child Craft Industries built a facility for kiln drying lumber for their furniture manufacturing company in Salem.

Larry and I attended meetings prior to the construction of the facility to object to farmland directly across from our residential property being used for industrial purposes. Only one other neighbor attended to object, however, so the project continued based on the economic benefits the company would provide. Larry eventually went to work for Child Craft in 1994 in their maintenance department and at times was called to work at the location across the road from our home. That facility was later sold to Salem Hardwoods, and they have been good “neighbors” although it does create a steady amount of semi-trailer traffic.

Now 44 years later my country lifestyle has been permanently changed with a new Wal-Mart Supercenter and accompanying businesses and restaurants located just a …   More

There is no one solution for solving the drug issue

Layers, upon layers, upon layers.

That’s all I could think about Thursday as I sat through the day long opioid summit in Bloomington last week.

It’s an issue. It’s a big issue. It’s beyond you and me.

As one of the speakers said, “We need all hands on deck. We are in trouble.”

The number of people with drug abuse issues continues to grow…daily.

But even more alarming than that is the growing number of children who have parents who are drug users. It’s a trickle down effect and it’s one that is getting out of control.

You may be reading this, sitting in your nice house in a nice neighborhood thinking, ‘Drug use don’t effect me.’

But guess what? It does.

Those kids who live in a house with parents who have drug problems, they go to school with your children and/or grandchildren. The things they see, they share them with your child. When they act out in class because their emotions get the best of them? Guess what? Your child’s teacher has to stop what they are doing (teaching your child) to handle the situation.

Everyone is effected in some way by drug abuse.

There were a variety of people from all different backgrounds at the event. Social workers, media, community volunteers, business owners, elected officials, etc. Everyone is brainstorming. Everyone is trying to figure out how to tackle this monstrosity of an issue.

We all know there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed. The question is how? What is the best way? Where do we begin? How can each group contribute in their own way to helping ease the drug problems?

And the thing is, what works for one, doesn’t work for everyone. These people are struggling and we need to help them. We need to let them know we care…about them, their families. They need to know we want them to succeed and we aren’t giving up on them. We need to save our community.

I came away with several ideas from all the areas I’m involved with in the community. I see …   More

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins

Someone inform Mother Nature that it is officially autumn. She’s clearly confused.

And hush, you summer people. You have had months to enjoy being sticky with sweat and baking under the sun and we have tolerated you. Your time is over. The rise of the fall folk has arrived. We are ready for crisp air, hot cider and crunchy leaves.

^Me, emerging at the end of summer to bask in the beauty of autum^


The day before Friday Night on the Square, I made my first pumpkin-something. I’m not one of the pumpkin spice latte acolytes, but I love pumpkin pie and other pumpkin-y desserts, especially in the fall. It just so happened that Awareness Washington County needed desserts for their cake walk and as a graduate, it only seemed fitting to whip something up.


I might be a pumpkin fiend during the fall, but I’m a cheesecake lover all year long. These Pumpkin Cream Cheese Swirl Muffins  from The Novice Chef is the perfect marriage of the two. They come out moist (*twitches at having to use that word, but there really isn’t a better one*) and delicious they stay that way for a few days if they’re kept properly — airtight in the refrigerator. I could only fit 13 into the pan I was using for the Awareness booth, which left five muffins for me. Noooo complaints.


Start with mixing flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and salt until well combined and then, in another bowl, do the same with some pumpkin puree, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in eggs, oil and vanilla before slowly whisking in the flour mixture. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 of the way full.


Now, these would be delicious on their own. If you’re not a cheesecake fan or you don’t have the ingredients on hand and don’t feel like going to the store or you have a dairy allergy or intolerance, you can fill the muffin tins fuller and just end up with fewer muffins. As I didn’t do this, I don’t know how this would change the baking time, but I’d say around 15 …   More

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


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

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