Thursday, December 4, 2008

Home for the Holidays

(Photo curtsey of Koerten Galery)

Home for the holidays … we hear this saying every year, what does it actually mean?

Home is the place where your loved ones reside. I don’t think it is a place at all, but a feeling deep down in your heart. To me, home for the holidays is anywhere my family can join together, be it my home, my oldest two daughters’ home, or my parent’s or mother-in-law’s home.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, but the past three years have been a challenge; they do not held the same joy since my sister is gone. The last year I truly enjoyed Christmas was 2004 – the last Christmas we got to spend with my baby sister, Amy.

Christmas 2004 was a merry time, full of love and excitement. There were family reunions and guarded surprises, all leading up to Christmas Eve, when we all gathered in my parent’s home to celebrate the season.

My Mom still has the Christmas stockings that Brent, Amy and I had as children. They always hang on the brick hearth, along with additions for Amber, Marie, Ashley, Christine and Ethan – the five grandchildren. During the Christmas season of 2004, Mom made each of us a new Christmas stocking. Amy had found a picture of a stocking made from old quilts and she convinced Mom to make one for each of us. Amy had an old quilt and she drew the pattern and helped Mom cut out the pattern pieces.

Mom worked hard for several weeks to make sure all of us had stockings. When she had finished them, she presented us our stockings on Christmas Eve. This was the best gift I received that year. I loved the way the stockings looked and I was thrilled because it was something my Mom had made for us. She even embroidered our names and the year on the back of each stocking. For the past three years, I have used these stockings in place of our old ones. We don’t have a hearth, so we hang our stockings from stocking holders on the buffet in the living room.

One Christmas staple has had many incarnations over the years - the Christmas lights we put on our trees. When I was little, the only Christmas lights we had were the large, screw-in type in various multi-colors. Today Christmas lights are tiny and twinkling and they come in some really strange colors. Although we have many strands of these new fangled lights, we also have several strands of the older types, just because I love the way they look. Those large bulbs always take me back to the Christmases of my childhood.

Another lighting tradition our family has is the two strands of “bubble lights” that we lovingly display each year – my family didn’t have any of these lights for our tree, but my husband’s family did, so we merge the two traditions.

When my siblings and I were little, we used to drive our parents crazy because we were always changing the colors of the Christmas lights. The tree was always in a corner or in front of the picture window, and we each had our own side of the tree. Brent’s and mine were usually the left or right side and Amy’s was in the middle. I was always moving the green lights to my side of the tree (green was my favorite color). My brother would move the red bulbs and my sister’s spot was full of blue bulbs. None of us liked the yellow lights, so we tried to move them to the back of the tree or near the bottom.

There are two food items my Mom cooks every year and they are the two things we can’t do without when it comes to Christmas – her chocolate fantasy fudge and her homemade dressing. Although Christine and my hubby love peanut butter fudge the best, I have always been a chocoholic, so Mom’s fudge hits the spot. I’ve never been able to make fudge as good has hers. And when it comes to dressing for the turkey, nothing compares to Mom’s! She freezes left-over biscuits and cornbread all year and then mixes them with onions, turkey broth and sage to make the most heavenly dressing I’ve ever tasted. We wait all year for this one food, so she always makes a huge amount for everyone to have left-overs.

As far as Christmas trees are concerned, we’ve ran the gamete of styles and sizes. Although cedar trees are still my favorite because of their wonderful smell, our huge collection of Hallmark ornaments prohibits us from using them because the branches just aren’t strong enough. Since my hubby and I have been married, we’ve always had an artificial tree; sometimes we’ve had three or four at a time. Last year we added a new tree to our collection and it is the tree we are using this year.

I have fond memories of the old silver tinsel trees from my childhood – you remember the type, silver branches with a color wheel instead of lights. Well, for years we have hunted yard sales and flea markets, not to mention family attics, but we could never find one of those silver trees; they had all been thrown away or sold in yard sales. Last year, my hubby found a brand new silver tree, and although it is not exactly like the tinsel trees of my past, it is close enough that I love it. And this tree is flame-retardant, so we can put on as many lights as we want.

Christmas trees, Christmas stockings, Christmas food – is this what it means to be home for the holidays? Although these are but some of the symbols of the season, symbols do not a family make. Being with family, sharing love and excitement – that’s what is means to be home for the holidays. Everything else is just icing on the cake!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hurray For Books

I love books! I have loved them since I was a little girl. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of extra money, so I didn’t own very many books, but the books I did own were precious to me. I treated them with respect and I cared for them much better than I did my toys. The first book collection I owned was the Trixie Belden Mysteries and these books still hold a special place in my heart.

My Granny Devine always told me to never, ever dog-ear the pages of a book and this is something I adhere to strongly. When I became a mother, this was also a lesson I taught my three girls. To me, dog-earing a book is a sign of disrespect and should be frowned on in all settings and societies.

Now that I’m older, my home library has grown by leaps and bounds. I have bookshelf after bookshelf full of wonderful books. I keep bookmarks in every room of my house, plus I also use those dang inserts from magazines as bookmarks – they’re made of cardboard, so they work nicely.

I don’t write in the majority of my books, unless it is an inscription of who bought me the book or when I received it. I also have many autographed books that are special to my collection. I do have a tendency to write in “self-help” books or in text books that are my own – this helps me if I’m studying something new. Other than that, I never write in a book.

I try very hard to keep the book jackets with the books, but sometimes this is hard, especially if it is a book that I like to reread. In that case, I’ll laminate the jacket cover, much the way the public library does to protect its books. This keeps the cover nice and clean and I don’t have to worry about tearing the cover every time I reread a book.

When it comes to checking books out of the library, I try to follow the same rules as with my own books. I always use a bookmark and I never dog-ear the pages. It makes me so mad to check out a book and find half the pages have been dog-eared at one time or another. I would also never think of writing in a library book, or anyone else’s book.

My earliest memories of the Mercer County Public Library are that the entire building used to be housed in the Historical Society. It still amazes me when I visit the Historical Society, how tiny this building really is! My mom would always take me to the library, sometimes several times a week.

When I started elementary school, I fell I n love with the school library. So many books! By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was a library assistant for Miss Joy, the librarian. I really thought I was something special. I would get to preview new books before they were ever put into circulation.

By the time I reached high school, I was sill visiting the library often, but I was getting lots of flack from my peers for reading so much. Looking back now, I shouldn’t have let this bother me, but you know how peer pressure can be when you’re a teenager – you try to fit in instead of being your own person.

Now as an adult, I visit the public library two or three times a week. The public library got a brand new building – in its current location – while I was still in grade school – and it has gone through several renovations since them.

Some of the biggest changes in the public library have been the addition of computers. There are several computer stations and it keeps the librarians busy scheduling computer time. This is a wonderful service for people who don’t have computers at home. Another big change over the past few years has been in the card catalog. Gone are the days of flipping through the drawers and cards in the old card catalog – now all you need to do is input a few words into the computer and you quickly learn the location of the books you are looking for. You don’t even need to know the exact name of the book; you can search just the author’s name or even a specific keyword.

Currently, the Mercer Public Library is working on plans for another expansion. I’m so excited! It is really wonderful when a library outgrows its space and has to expand. This tells me there are many people in our community are calling the library home.

Books have always been my friends, so I think they deserve the same kindness and consideration that I would give to a living friend. Books are our legacy and they will endure long after I have left this world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Costumes of Halloween Past

As I look back to the Halloween’s of my childhood, I realize that most of my memories are memories of my children’s Halloweens instead of my own. I have always loved Halloween, but in trying to remember these holiday memories, I have found that my love for all things spooky was an evolution.

Of course, Jack-O-Lanterns will always been one of my favorite parts of Halloween. Even though Jack-O-Lanterns originated through a pagen culture, these bright orange faces are deeply rooted in the Halloween season. I also enjoy corn shocks, gourds and Indian corn - nothing says autumn like these precise signs of the season.

As a child growing up in the 1960’s, I have fuzzy memories of carving pumpkins with my Dad. We did the traditional “triangle” features and we always wanted to carve the pumpkin well before Halloween, so that by the time we were ready to go trick-or-treating, the pumpkin was so badly shriveled that the lid had already fallen onto the candle inside. Again, my pumpkin carving has been a long evolution.

When Marie and Amber were about four and five years old, I became fascinated with carving more elaborate pumpkins. I collected carving tools and pumpkin “patterns” and I pushed myself into making one spectacular creation after another. As Marie and Amber grew older, they were interested in pumpkin carving as well, so it became a family activity. By the time Christine was born, our entire family had entered numerous pumpkin carving contests and we had all taken home many first prizes.

By the time Amber and, two years later Marie, graduated from high school, Christine was entering her teenage years and she wasn’t as interested in carving Halloween pumpkins. Because of her lack of enthusiasm, my enthusiasm had declined and it has shown in the number of annual pumpkins I carved. Last year, 2007, was the first year since I can remember that I didn’t carve a Jack-O-Lantern.

The Halloween costumes my children wore also showed the same type of evolution as my pumpkin carving traditions have shown. When Amber was born, something inside of me made an unconscious decision to make all her Halloween costumes. Since she was only six weeks old for her first Halloween, there was no need for a costume, but the next year, I dressed her up as Raggedy Ann. I had found an old dress as a yard sale that I knew would make the perfect costume. Amber was 13 months old and her hair was shoulder length, so I braided it with yarn ribbons and added rosy lipstick to her little cheeks. This was just the beginning of a Halloween costume obsession that lasted for almost twenty years.

Marie was seven months old for her first Halloween, so I turned her into a pumpkin with a padded orange poncho and an orange bonnet complete with pumpkin stem and two leaves. Even though this costume took me no time to complete, Marie looked adorable. But her costume was not my pride and joy. No, my masterpiece for 1984 was Amber’s Rainbow Brite costume.

Amber loved watching Rainbow Brite and she had many of the dolls, which she played with every day. She had just celebrated her second birthday the month before, and her cake had been decorated with Rainbow Brite. When I found a pattern for the replica costume, I knew I would be turning Amber into Rainbow Brite. I worked two months on this costume, sewing and stuffing each colorful layer by hand. Amber was in heaven; she wore the costume in the house for a week before Halloween, and only a chocolate milk spill got it off of her after Halloween. This costume was hand washed and worn so many times that I’m surprised it didn’t fall apart. I still have this costume packed lovingly away in the closet. Amber has been turned into a pink unicorn - complete with a silver horn - two different versions of Dracula, a mad nurse, and a witch, just to name a few.

When Marie was going through the terrible twos, I turned her into a miniature devil. Of course, she was also a fairy princess one year, a vampire the next and who could forget the green dinosaur? Marie was such a tiny child, that she wore her dinosaur costume three years in a row. The green dinosaur was a another difficult costume because it involved numerous padded layer be sewn to the body. The first year Marie wore the costume as it was originally designed, complete with mittens for her hands and booties for her feet. She loved this costume so much, that the next year she wanted to wear it again. So, I painted brightly colored polka-dots on each of the dinosaur's spines. The mittens still fit, but the booties were too much trouble to walk in. By the third year, I was surprised the costume still fit. It was a little too short in the legs, but we remedied that by having Marie wear a pair of green sweat pants under the costume. In the dark, no one ever noticed the difference. We also added silver and gold paint and sparkles to the polka-dots we added last year.

For Christine’s first Halloween, she was only three months old, but I wanted to take her with us trick-or-treating on Main Street. Because I had such luck turning Marie into a pumpkin eight years before, it was easy to whip up an outfit. But Christine’s outfit was only the icing on the cake. This particular year, Keith dressed up like a pumpkin farmer and carried Christine as his pumpkin. They won third place in the costume contest. Christine has also been turned into the Lion King, a zombie, a devil, a pirate and a mad scientist.

In 1994 I turned all three of my girls into M & M’s – red, green, and yellow. They looked like we had just poured out a bag of the candies. This was the one and only year that my girls had matching costumes. After that, Amber and Marie started drifting away from trick-or-treating.

I have kept a list of all the girls’ Halloween costumes in each of their baby books. As I was recently reviewing each year’s entries, I was astonished at the number of costumes I have made over the years. I've become lax with my scrapbooking over the past few years, so Halloween picture seem to be scattered here and there. I'm currently working on holiday scrapbooks, so I eventually hope to have all the Halloween picture in one spot. It will be nice to have all the memories of Halloween past at my fingertips in one easy spot.

© Bobbi Rightmyer 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Best is Yet to Come

Labor Day has passed and summer is officially considered over. My daughter has been back in school for a month now and the holiday season is fast approaching. Where did the time go?

I have always enjoyed autumn – it has been my favorite time of year, even when I was a little girl. Summers spent chasing fireflies and playing with neighbors until the last light of day would give way to cooler crisp nights and earlier curfews at home. For me, autumn was the greatest time to curl up with a good book because I would always have to be home before dark. Reading time would gradually increase and time would march closer to the approaching winter.

As I got older, autumn was the time I looked forward to the new fall premieres on television. What was going to be my newest obsession? Would my old television favorites be returning? Back in the 70s there was no Internet to be able to check out favorite shows. Today, with the click of the mouse, I can find out all the ins and outs of the shows I love. This is just one of the many advantages to the World Wide Web.

Autumn also meant a change in eating habits. The fresh veggies and fruit from the harvest of summer would turn into the newly preserved food my mother would have canned throughout the summer. Fast easy meals of salad, fruits, and sandwiches were quickly replaced by all day cooking of soups, stews, and chili. There’s nothing better than sitting down to a nice hot bowl of chili on a cool autumn evening.

The one thing I have always disliked about adjusting to a new season is the changing of the wardrobe. Shorts, tank tops and sandals (in today’s world it’s crocs) must be packed away for another year and bluejeans, t-shirts and boots are pulled out of storage. No more running out the door without looking at the temperature, autumn means usually having to wear a sweater or light jacket, only to lose it by lunchtime when the temperature climbs. By early evening, the temperature dips again as you try to remember where you left your jacket or sweater.

During the dog days of summer you can happily play outdoors with all your neighborhood friends, but by the time school started, you would be spending more time with your school friends – although in my case, for the most part, these friends were one in the same. Birthday parties and sleepovers replaced playing Red Rover-Red Rover and freeze tag. The telephone, which had remained silent during the summer, would continually ring as calls were made to review homework assignments or talk about things that happened during school hours.

September has always been the month when I notice my mood changing – for the better. I have never been a summer person, usually shying away from the hot, humid days of summer in favor of the cool, crisp days of fall, winter and spring. Gone are the days of hiding in the shade to escape the sun’s rays, the sometimes chilly days of September remind me that fall has arrived.

Also with the arrival of September, I know that Halloween will soon be here. As a child I looked forward to the long process of choosing a Halloween costume and pumpkins to carve. There was also the growing anticipation that Thanksgiving and Christmas would soon be right around the corner, and what kid doesn’t look forward to Christmas?

This September I’m looking forward several new and returning television shows. From my childhood it used to be Starsky and Hutch, Miami Vice and Fantasy Island; now I look forward to the return of Bones, Californication, Heroes, Dexter and Grey’s Anatomy, plus the new premiere of True Blood, based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.
here are also many new books I’m eagerly awaiting to be published: Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton, Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell, and The Tales of Beadle the Bard by J. K. Rowling. The fall movies I’m anticipating are Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – and who isn’t waiting for this one? - and Twilight based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer.

Even though summer is gone – to me, the best part of the year is just getting started. Time for family togetherness, time for meals spent together, and time to reflect over the past year and plan for the future. Many people do this in January, but for me, September will always be the time of new beginnings.

© Bobbi Rightmyer 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Let's Keep Rolling

Friday and Saturday nights were always roller skating night in Harrodsburg during the 1970s. The Mercer Roller Rink was located in the rectangular building right inside the fair grounds, which is currently used for the Mercer County Fair Floral Hall. The door way would always be clogged with kids coming and going, waiting to pay the entrance fee, or getting a hand stamp to be able to reenter the building.

Once inside the door, the entryway opened into a large room that was the roller rink proper and the sitting area. On the left side of the sitting area, plain folding chairs were lined in rows two deep, turned to face the rink. Coat racks were along the south facing wall, and the bathrooms were behind the chairs. On the right side of the sitting area, benches lined the partition between the skating area. The ticket booth opened into a concession stand on this side of the building. Pepsi, potato chips, and candy bars were a few of the refreshments available to satisfy cravings during a long night of skating. The Pepsis came in glass bottles and there was a bottle stand located down the center of the concession stand. The floor of the skating rink was concrete, so you can imagine the number of broken bottles that accumulated over the weekend.

As I mentioned, the floor was concrete and this included the skating area itself. Not only was it concrete, but there was a huge crack in the floor that ran north to south on the lower portion of the rink. This crack had been filled in, but it left a little hump that you could feel through your legs as you skated over it. Everyone grew up learning to adjust their skating style to accommodate the hump in the floor.

Records played all night: the Jackson Five, the Osmond Brothers, Chicago, the Eagles, and John Denver, just to list a few. There was always a song to skate to, from the fast ones to the slow ones. Normally, the slow ones were limited to the couple’s skate, when the lights were lowered and the disco ball was shining. I loved skating during a couples skate and I would try to skate with Duane or Steve Flora, Mike Grubbs, or one of the other boys who I had grown up with. There would also be all girl and all boy skates, backward skates, and three-ways. Occasionally, we would start a train, and I would love to be at the end of the train because you got slung around the rink really fast at each turn. These types of trains didn’t happen often, because we would usually get called down for reckless skating. I also liked to skate circles in the center of the rink.

I can remember my daddy taking me skating at the Mercer Rink when I was very young. He started out working at Corning Glass Works when he and mom went to housekeeping, so every summer we would go to the Corning’s Outing. Several years it was held at the Mercer Fairgrounds, right after the fair when there were still rides available for entertainment. The skating rink would also be open, and daddy would take me and Brent inside to skate. I think I loved skating so much because I could tell how much my dad loved skating.

As my skating ability improved, we started going to the roller rink more often. After I got my first pair of skates, I was able to practice at home. I think I was eleven the year I got my skates for Christmas; I couldn’t wait to go skating with them. That first night skating, I used some of my Christmas money to buy green pom-poms for my skates. I thought I was hot stuff. Within a few weeks, I would have five different color pom-poms on each skate. I kept my skates clean and polished, and I would oil them regularly, especially after skating in our basement. I learned to skate in circles by using a support pole in our basement, holding on with one hand and skating myself in circles. I had many crashes because of dizziness, but I eventually mastered the skills enough not to make a fool out of myself in front of my friend.

When I started dating, my trips to the skating rink started to decrease. My boyfriend didn’t know how to skate, and he didn’t want to lean. He had no desire to spend the weekend skating and listening to music, and he would get jealous if I went without him. So to please him, I backed off from skating until I was no longer going. I don’t remember when I eventually stopped going, but I had not been for a while when the Mercer Roller Rink closed its’ doors for good.

All three of my children like to skate, but most modern roller rinks have wooden floors. I have tried to become adjusted to wooden floors, but I missed that old cracked concrete floor at the Mercer Roller Rink. The wooden floor makes me fill like I’m running over hundreds of cracks in the floor, instead of one big crack. Hindsight being 20-20, I wish I had taken advantage of the last few weeks the roller rink was open to store up memories of the place. Instead, I keep the memories I have locked up in my heart and I occasionally let them out to tell my children about the fun I used to have.

© Bobbi Rightmyer July 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy Sweet 16, Christine Nicole

I remember just like it was yesterday, I was bringing her home from the hospital, all five pounds and 10 ounces of her. My third born … I was much more relaxed and at ease, compared to my actions after the birth of my first daughter. I was responsible for another human being, one that would depend on me for her every need, and would always be precious to my heart. I knew more about child rearing at this point, but what if I ended up scarring her for life? Could I protect her from all the bad in this world? I was still learning how to be a good parent, but I was no where near perfect.

The first few days, Christine battled jaundiced, so she spent most of her time lying in the cradle, which was in placed in the front door to catch the sunlight streaming in. She would sleep naked on top of a diaper so that the majority of her skin surface was exposed to the sun. Sunlight breaks down the bilirubin in the bloodstream and effectively does the same job as the “bili lights” found in hospital nurseries. That first week, we had to take Christine to the hospital every day to have her bilirubin checked, and then we went to Dr. Pam Johnson’s office for a weight check. As long as Christine’s bilirubin remained below a certain level, we could continue to keep her at home and I could continue to breastfeed. Many times, a jaundiced baby who is breastfed must be supplemented with formula to help remove the bilirubin – sunlight breaks down the bilirubin and the body's fluids help flush it out of the body through the bowels.

Needless to say, the first few weeks went by in a blur of eating, lab tests, and checking for stool consistency. She was so fragile and tiny, but she wanted to eat every few sours. Of course, one of the downsides of breastfeeding is I couldn’t be out of her sight for very long. Eat, diaper change, eat, rock, eat, sing, eat … days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and before I could stop to catch my breath, she was one-year-old. Planning that first birthday party was pure joy – Barney and Baby Bop. It seems so long ago.

The next thing I knew, she was in kindergarten. Where did the time go? I was so unprepared for helping her to learn to read and write. Amber and Marie learned to read and write quickly, but it soon became apparent that Christine was having difficulty learning to read. She was unable to sound out words phonetically; therefore she memorized all the words. When she would be reading and come to a word she didn’t know, you could watch her stop, look at the ceiling and mentally go through the files in her head. She would eventually come up with the word. But try and have her sound out the word, and she would be in tears within minutes.

Lucky for Christine, she had two wonderful teachers who helped us through kindergarten and first grade, Marsha Durr and Kay Mayes, respectively. Mrs. Durr was actually the one who thought that Christine’s lack of large motor skills was connected with her reading difficulties. Christine was very adapt at playing video games and using the computer, both of which involve fine motor skills, but she had difficulty jumping rope or pushing herself in a swing, both involving large motor skills.

So in addition to reading and writing homework, we began working with Christine to learn to jump rope, ride a bike, climb a tree, and push herself in a swing. As her large motor skills increased to the level of her fine motor skills, her reading and writing began to improve. By second grade, Christine had caught up with the other kids in her class and she was reading on a fifth grade level. She has never stopped and she is now in the top 10th percentile of her graduating class.

Just when I was certain Christine would remain 8 years old forever, she was preparing to attend the middle school. Now her friends were taking up a large chunk of her time. “Mom’s Taxi Service” was officially back into business again, and I began hauling her and her friends all over God’s green earth. Whereas, Amber and Marie wanted me to be silent and unseen, Christine welcomed my conversation in the car, and she and her friends enjoyed listening to the 80s music I was know for. It is kind of twilight zonish to have 12 year old singing to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell.

The day I had to help her decide on her class schedule for her first year in high school, I, of course, cried. She thought this was funny – “M … om get a grip!” But I couldn’t help it, my baby was growing up. She was a teenager with a mind, and strong will, of her own. No longer content to accept my suggestions on faith, everything had to be researched and one her way. Her freshman year was my first step at letting go. The school newspaper and year book took up a large chunk of her time. Working on the internet and listening to her music began to take presidency in her life.

In two weeks, my first born child will turn sixteen. I’m crying already, and each passing day just gets worse. Stuffed animals have been stashed away, Disney movies replaced with independent film, and musical taste now run to German and Swedish music. Riding bicycles has given way to her driver’s permit and the summer vacation is spent researching college options and working to build her savings account. These are things adults do and I am extremely proud of her, but I would love to keep her wings tethered a little longer.

We just recently completed her class schedule for her junior year of high school and she is looking forward to being in the new high school after fall break. I’m trying to be strong; I don’t want her to see me cry. I’m taking things one day at a time. This is the nature of things – you give them life, you raise them the best you know how, and then they are gone. All I can pray is that she will be healthy and happy and come home to visit every once in a while. In the mean time, I plan to spend as much time with this youngest child as possible before she heads into the great adventure that will be her life.

Happy Birthday Sweet 16, Christine Nicole Rightmyer – July 22, 2008.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, July 2008

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Which, Bobbi is Afraid of Clowns

For the past few months, I have been blogging regularly on my newly formed website: Rightmyer Rants. On a recent post about the Kentucky Derby, I accidentally mentioned my fear of clowns. This was the one thing I meant to keep secret, but I blurted it out for the world to read. What was I thinking?

My family and a few close friends are the only ones who knew of my coulrophobia - fear of clowns. I have had a problem with these creepy, white-faced, red lipped mutants most of my life. As an adult, you would think this phobia would lessen, after all, I am a grown up - aren't I? But noooooooo, my fear of clowns increases with each exposure until I'm sure one day I'm going to be so frozen with fear that a clown will be the end of me.

I have been known to run down Main Street if a clown approaches me, leaving my children to fend for themselves. I have been known to climb over my children when a clown would approach me in Rupp Arena during the Ringling Brothers’ Circus (this has happened twice!). I have been known to run screaming out of a local Wal-Mart from just the sight of a Ronald McDonald statue. Okay, I never claimed to be a rational person.

People who know of my fear have asked me, "Were you scared by a clown when you were a child?" But my answer is always, "No." I don't have any vivid memories of a specific time in my childhood when a clown scared me. I have vivid memories of clown "attacks", but one doesn't stand out any more than any other.

Recently I may have found out where this strange phobia originated into my nightmares. I am addicted to the old television soap opera from 60s, Dark Shadows. I can remember running home from the bus every afternoon to catch each episode. I thought Barnabas Collins was the most wonderful thing since sliced bread. I wanted to be a vampire just like him! This television show was the beginning of my obsessions with all things vampiric, but that's for another story or blog.

Anyway, for the past two years, I have been renting Dark Shadows from Netflix, all 104 discs (there is 26 Collections with each collection containing 4 disc; I think I did the math right?!). The past few months, I have been renting, Dark Shadows: the Beginning, which is the first 210 episodes before Barnabas Collins joined the cast. I'm sorry, I digressed. Back to the coulrophobia.

During an early episode of Dark Shadows, David Collins is in a Fun House and there are clown faces in the funky, fun house mirrors. Watching that episode, I felt like I was having an out of body experience. My heart rate was racing, I broke out in a cold sweat, and my hands were shaking so bad, it took me three attempts to hit the STOP button on the remote.

When my hubby ran into the living room to see what was upsetting me, I had to leave the room while he watched the icky clowns on the television screen. Later that night, I told him I thought that might have been the moment in my childhood everyone is always trying to get me to remember. Not a physical encounter with an alien clown, but a dream sequence on a television show. Like I said, I never claimed to be rational.

Of course, clowns in movies occur on a frequently increasing basis. I guess the first on my list would have to be Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the clown in Stephen King’s 1990 movie, IT. Tim Curry has been a favorite actor of mine since The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but playing Pennywise leads him down a much creepier pathway. Other scary “clowns” include Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman, the evil clown doll in Poltergeist, and even Kevin Smith, my husband’s favorite writer/director, has Vulgar the Clown as mascot for his View Askew Productions.

There are also scary clowns on television and it is these intrusions into my life that I sometimes don’t have any control over. You never know when a clown will show up on a commercial while watching a television program. A new commercial from E-Trade depicts a baby using the internet and he has a clown standing behind him (he apparently earned enough money on E-Trade, he was able to buy a clown). The funniest line of the commercial is when the baby says, “I underestimated the creepiness factor.” In Living Color’s Homey D. Clown was just plain mean and evil; “Homey don’t play that.” Krusty the clown from the Simpson’s is a crude caricature of a demonic clown and I love the quote from Bart Simpson, “… can’t sleep, clown will eat me.” You also have repeats of Bozo the clown, not to mention, Ronald McDonald; what kind of an icon has a white painted face with big red mouth and nose?

The television is also a place to find other people who are scared of clowns. One of my current favorite programs if Bones on the FOX network. David Boreanez – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame – plays FBI Special Agent Booth, and he is afraid of clowns. One episode from season two had Booth pulling out his gun and shooting the clown-shaped speaker on top of an ice cream truck. He spent several episodes in therapy over this incident, but I was secretly cheering his decision to kill a clown.

There are movies that I won’t ever watch, based purely on the titles. For example: A Thousand Clowns (1965), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1987), Shakes the Clown (1992), Dead Clown (2003), Fear of Clowns (2004), and Fear of Clowns 2 (2007). There are many others, but need I say more?

On a scarier note, John Wayne Gacy used to dress up like a clown for neighborhood birthday parties, typically for children age 8 to 12. He is the serial killer who murdered more than 30 young men and hid them in the floorboards of his house. Makes you wonder exactly what goes on during “Clown College?” Just one more reason to stay away from clowns.

I’m going to leave you with two clown quotes. The first one is courtesy of Saturday Night Live:
“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.”
--Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

The second quote is from Rob Zombie’s House of a 1000 Corpses:
“When escaping someone named Dr. Satan, never accept a ride from an evil clown who says, ‘I’ll take you to a doctor.’”
--Captain Spaulding

So, if you invite me to a party, don't invite any clowns or other creatures dressed in funny costumes or wearing full face paint. Of course, I probably wouldn't attend the party any way, what with my agoraphobia and all. What ... I didn't tell you about my fear of public places ...

© Bobbi Rightmyer, June 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Everyday First Responder

You know the old saying, “everything happens for a reason?” Well, I’m a true believer in this proverb because I have lived long enough to see the consequence of actions. My youngest daughter, Christine, has recently come to believe in this too, after our dog, Bubby sustained a serious laceration to his front leg.

For the past year, Christine has been seriously thinking about her future and the career opportunities open to young people. She is excellent in academics and she has a curiosity about different job perspectives. In contemplating her course curriculum for her junior year of high school, she has decided to pursue the medical program at the Harrodsburg Area Vocational School. Her reasoning behind this is because she wants to help people.

She has toyed with the idea of being an emergency medical technician, a paramedic or a firefighter, and she has also researched the Peace Corp and the National Guard. She really wants to be involved with the Peace Corp and she feels that medical training, in addition to a college degree, will help advance her down this pathway. She is excited about getting her certified nursing assistant license so she can work with patients to see if she would enjoy being a nurse, but she doesn’t feel like nursing is the exact medical field she wants to follow. She does like the idea of being a first responder and administering help in emergency situations.

To help further her interest in healthcare, I pulled out several of my old nursing books and she has already been reading up on the systems of the body and the diseases connected to them. She already knows much of the terminology, picking up many things from me when I talk about medical procedures, but she has never really had any first hand experience with illnesses or trauma. The day Bubby cut his leg, this all changed.

It happened on a Wednesday afternoon and it was a beautiful outside. I had come home for lunch at noon and after feeding and walking Bubby, I chained him outside to enjoy the afternoon. I knew Christine would be getting home early and she could take him for another walk.

I was sitting at my desk writing when I heard Bubby give a couple of yelps. When I looked at the clock, I saw it was two o’clock, so I assumed Bubby was barking a greeting to Christine. You know what they say about people who assume things. Christine came in the house and dropped her backpack by the front door, then called for Bubby. She is used to him running up to her the minute she walks in the door, so she asked me where he was. I told her he was out in the front yard.

“He didn’t bark at me – usually if he is outside, he barks when I walk up.” We both headed for the front door. My first thought was he had broken free and run down the road; this is something he has done before. When Christine got to him, she noticed his left front leg was dripping blood.

Near my front porch, I have a small garden that is planted in and around and old glass water jug. This jug had its top broken off last year and I hated to trash it, so I turned it into a mini greenhouse to use as a focal point near the porch. Bubby had gotten into the flower garden and stepped on this glass jug, breaking off a large chunk of glass that sliced open his foreleg.

When Christine yelled Bubby was bleeding, I grabbed a roll of paper towels and headed out to see what the problem was. When I saw blood squirting from his leg, I knew we were in trouble. The paper towels quickly proved to be inadequate and I sent Christine after old towels. Applying pressure, we both tried to calm the dog and prayed for the bleeding to slow down. After ten minutes, with towels duct taped around his leg, we loaded Bubby into the car and headed to the veterinarian.

On the way into town, Christine kept Bubby calm and helped hold pressure on the wound. The first thing the vet tech did was weigh Bubby, but we tried twice before getting an accurate weight. He was becoming agitated and this only caused the blood to flow more freely. As a nurse, blood doesn’t bother me, but there was a tremendous amount splattered all over the white floor. Christine turned pale and I had her sit down, afraid she might pass out. My husband gets light headed with just a few drops of blood, and I became concerned Christine might be the same way, but she was fine after sitting down.

Bubby ended up having to stay over night at the vets. He was sedated, the wound was cleaned and then repaired; the artery had been cut, as well as the muscle, tendon and ligaments. Fortunately, he will make a full recovery.

So this was Christine’s first foray into emergency medicine. I think she did good keeping Bubby calm and helping to apply pressure; she doesn’t think she did well, mainly because the blood really scared her. I tried to explain that emergency situations are different when they concern your family, and Bubby is a member of our family.

Christine is more eager now than ever about entering the medical field. She’s not sure if this will be her major area of study, but she’s thinking ahead to the future. She has heard the stories of how I had to struggle to raise her two older sisters when I was a single mother, so she feels the medical training will be something she can fall back.

“Mom, I can always get a job as a nurse if I have to, but I don’t want this to be the only thing that defines me.” She looks at healthcare as an insurance policy for the future. Sometimes it scares me to think I have a child who is wise beyond her years.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, May 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Testing the Waters

Sloshing through another winter’s day, the bright sunshine gives a false hope of approaching spring. One day school is closed because of snow on the road, and the next day the temperature is close to 50 degrees. Ah, springtime in Kentucky.

With the impending change in seasons, I can’t hold back the advances my youngest daughter is making toward adulthood. Christine will be my last chick to leave the nest and I am trying really hard to focus on the positive aspects of her new life instead of the desire to hold her close to home. As parents we hope to send our children out in the world with all the tools they will need to survive. We have nurtured them from birth to the terrible twos, from toddlerhood to tweens, and from teenager to adult and we should be happy with the people we have produced. But inside most parents just want their kids to be healthy and happy and to lead a good life, and to keep them close at heart.

Recently I caught myself watching Christine from afar, trying to picture her out alone in the world. Today, I watched as she determinedly peeled potatoes for supper. For years, I have tried to teach her how to peel potatoes, and I must admit I’m not a very good teacher. I am sure there are cooks out there who will gasp and groan when I say that I hold my potatoes in my hand and peel with a paring knife toward my thumb. This is the way I learned and this is the way I have always done it, so naturally I wasn’t going to be able to teach Christine the right way to peel a potato.

On this particular night, Christine was peeling potatoes with her new potato peeler. After so many failed attempts to peel potatoes with a paring knife, on her weekly shopping trip with her Daddy, she found a vegetable peeler. Now she is contentedly peeling potatoes with speed and I don’t have to worry about her cutting her fingers off. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the young ones don’t have a problem. Christine wanted to improve her skill at peeling potatoes and she kept at it until she got it right. Now, if I could just learn to use the vegetable peeler.

While parents are always trying to teach their children, it is amazing what we can learn from our children. I’ve learned many things from my children over the years. I’m so proud of Christine because for the past two years, she has been walking on a daily basis, drinking water and hardly ever drinking sodas. I want to try to emulate her throughout my life but my laziness and lack of will power seem to always win out. Christine has adapted her lifestyle around what she sees me do. I know I shouldn’t drink Cokes and Christine knows I shouldn’t drink Cokes, the problem is, I seem to be addicted and try as I might, I can’t give the habit up. Christine has seen my struggle and she has chosen to limit her intake of soda and increase her intake of water. In this case, my daughter sets a better example than me.

Christine does her own laundry every week and I am proud of that fact. I know when she goes to college, I won’t have to worry about her wearing dirty clothes. She knows what it takes to keep her clothes clean and she realizes that if she doesn’t keep them clean, she won’t have anything to wear. This practice has evolved as she has grown, starting with helping me do laundry and graduating up to her independent use of the washer and dryer. She knows what detergent to use as well as fabric softeners, temperature settings, and load size. This is one thing she won’t have to learn at college, because she’s already an old pro.

Christine has been cooking for a while now, and she enjoys it. I don’t necessarily enjoy cooking, so it’s great to have your teenager cook supper. Chicken fettuccine alfredo, chicken fried rice, and tacos are three of her favorites. She has made a fine art out of searing cubes of chicken for many of her signature dishes. She loves to cook the chicken, but hates to cut it up – kind of like me with pumpkins, I love to carve them, but I hate to gut them. She cuts chicken breasts into bite-size chunks and them throws them in a pan with a pat of butter or olive oil. She cooks the chicken until the outside cooks to the color of caramel and then she can use it in a variety of dishes.

Changing subjects, Christine has been studying for her driver’s license and has signed up for driver’s education in the fall. My baby driving – eeck! – be still my heart. I realize that the sooner she gets behind the wheel and learns, the better off she will be, but I’m not quite ready to let go. I already blame my grey hair on my oldest daughters learning to drive, so you would think I would be ready to teach Christine, but I’m not. With all the dangers on the road, I just don’t want her out there alone, but I know she will eventually have to join the “driving nation”. Driving is a major wing-testing task that teenagers can’t wait to undertake and parents want to delay.

A parent’s job is never done, and I guess that’s a good thing. As much as I hate the thought of Christine leaving home, I know that she has to do this in order to grow up. If I could protect her from all lifes little ups and down, I would, but that is not really possible. All I can do is hope I did a decent job of raising her and that she will be able to take care of herself. She has her visions of the future, and as long as her vision includes me every once in a while, then I will be happy.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2008