Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Dolls and Christmas

Growing up in the late 1960s and early 70s, dolls were one of my favorite things; they are probably the favorite toy of most girls all over the world. All I ever wanted to be was a wife and mother, so dolls were my childhood playmates, and a way to let my maternal side show.

Aunt Virginia Ann, my Momma’s sister, got me a baby doll in the mid-1960s and I cherished her for years. I honestly don’t remember what happened to my baby doll, but within a few years Barbie and Skipper had taken over my life. My babysitter’s daughter had a Barbie trunk with all types of Barbie and Skipper clothes and accessories. During the summers I could spend all day playing with these dolls and clothes, as well as my own. When school started again in the fall, I played with all my Barbies after school; that is until reading entered my life. I was so proud of my Barbie clothes because my Granny Devine had made many of the outfits. I only have one of the “polyester” dresses my Granny made for my Barbies and I still have my very first Barbie.

My most memorable Christmas centered around one toy, which I still treasure today. The entire Harrodsburg family was at my Granny Devine’s house and after a huge meal, my Aunt began to hand presents to me and my brother and sister. I was around eight or nine years old and I couldn’t wait to tear into my package, but as usual, we had to wait until everyone had a present before we could open anything. Ready, set, go…away we went, ripping the paper and ribbons. I loved all my presents, but this year held a delightful surprise. Granny had given me a china doll…my very first china doll. She was so beautiful with porcelain black hair on top of her creamy porcelain face, with blue eyes, just like mine, and pink rosy cheeks. Her dress was pink with tiny white polka dots and she had a matching bonnet on her head. She even had a crinoline skirt and petticoat underneath her dress. I was ecstatic! It was such a grown up present and I was so happy my Granny thought I was old enough to have my first china doll.

This was 1970 or 1971, but I can still remember the excitement of this particular Christmas Eve. When the present were all finally opened and the wrapping and ribbons cleaned up, the kids watched television while the adults talked. This particular year, I took a long hot bubble bath in Granny’s miniature bathroom and changed into the new pajamas my Aunt had given me; new pajamas were a must for Christmas. I was all ready to go home to bed so I could wait for Old Saint Nick. I couldn’t wait to rush my parents home so I could jump into bed, listening to every creak of the house, just knowing that Santa would arrive at any minute. As for my china doll, Miss Betsy, she is still one of most treasured possessions. She holds a place of honor in my glass cabinet where I can glance at her every day. All three of my daughters have several china dolls apiece, but they never cared for dolls as much as I do. My dolls are a significant part of my heritage and, although I have had many china dolls since Miss Betsy, none will ever remind me of Christmas, or my Granny Devine, like this one special doll.

Momma also loved dolls, although her obsession started when she was much older. Whenever she would go shopping or was on vacation, she would find another doll for her collection. At the time of her death, she had two china cabinets filled with porcelain dolls and stuffed Boyd’s bears. What I like about her dolls is the fact they all have real hair; I always wished Miss Betsy had real hair so I could brush it. Most of my girl’s china dolls also have hair, but as I said, they never seemed interested in the dolls. It took Momma about five years before she realized my girl’s had no desire to have a doll collection. Most of these dolls are put away, and when my grandchildren get older, I will give the back to their mothers. Some of my dolls are 40 years old, but the girl’s dolls are from 10 to 25 years old; what a collectable “hand-me-down” these dolls will be.

Aunt Joyce, my Daddy’s sister, also has a large doll collection. Here dolls are all over the house and in the bedrooms. Several of these dolls I recognize because Momma would have one just like it. As with Momma’s dolls, my aunt’s dolls mostly have hair, and they all are very beautiful.

Another person in my life who loves dolls is Mrs. Gertrude Reed of Harrodsburg. Gertrude’s daughter is in the process of having her mother’s old dolls restored. One that is my favorite, is a doll with a porcelain head and stuffed body and she rides in a little wicker stroller. Gertrude said her sister had a duplicate doll in a stroller, but she couldn’t remember if it is still around. Gertrude, or rather her daughter, also had several other of her old dolls refinished, and she is happy to show them off when she is feeling well enough.

I still love my dolls, even though I do not play with them anymore. I will occasionally take one out of the cabinet and just sit and hold her. Every doll I own brings back certain memories, most are good memories, but I do have one or two bad memories mainly because of the person who gave them to me. I can’t wait to see if my grandchildren are going to love dolls. The youngest is only six months old, so she is much too little to show an interest; the other will soon be three years old, but right now she loves all kinds of toys

What dolls or old toys do you have lurking in your attic or basement? You never know what item you will find from your past. These things would make wonderful keepsakes for your loved ones. Anything you hand down to another person will have its own heritage, but it will bring precious memories of loved ones you’ve lost.

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Library Memories

I can remember the first time I went to the Mercer County Public Library, it was still located in historic Morgan Row. The building was old and this was in the late 1960s, so the wooden floors squeaked as you walked across them. Although the building held only a limited number of books, it was like the church sanctuary to me. I felt calm and at peace and free to touch and look at all the old books.

I didn’t get to go to the library much when it moved to the corner of Lexington and Main Street, but I did use the Bookmobile. I can’t remember what day the Bookmobile came to Riverview, but I always had a list of books I was looking for. Many times the Bookmobile Librarian would recommend a new book, but more times than not, she would have to bring the books I wanted back to me in two weeks.

As an elementary student, my favorite library was at Mercer County Elementary School. Ms. Joy Gash instilled the love of books and reading into my heart and I’ll forever be grateful to her. She always knew the perfect books to choose for me and many times would quiz me on what I had read. Even at this early age, I grew an attachment to certain books and when I started my own home library, these were the books I started with. “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Little Women,” “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,” and the “Betsy” books were just a few of my favorites. I never was much for Nancy Drew, but I loved Trixie Belden.

It was my babysitter’s daughter who got me attached to Trixie Belden. I read all her books and then had to have my own collection. These were my pride and joy and I read each one of them so many times, I knew them by heart. Momma would always take me to J. J. Newberry Department Store on Main Street to find the newest book.

When I was 16, I thought I had outgrown Trixie, so I let a neighbor girl borrow my books – I never saw them again. When I started having children of my own, I would buy Trixie Belden books to read to them, but by this time, the books were all paperback. If I’m going to have a book in my home collection, it has to be a hardcover –unless the book comes no other way.

I had the Whitman 1970s edition of the hardcover books – the original 16 books. One year for Christmas, my wonderful hubby surprised me with a boxed set of all 16 of the Trixie books, just like the ones I had. He had monitored eBay for weeks trying to find just the right editions and the most perfect condition. You could tell that the girl who owned this new set of books had loved them and read them often, because I could feel her presence in every well-worn page and gently cracked spine. This has been one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.

When I had my first children, the library was one of the first places I took the girls when they were old enough to behave in public. At three and four-years-old, Marie and Amber would attend summer library story hour with Mrs. Kathleen Day and the girls loved it. We would check out several books for the week. It was harder to make time for the library when I started nursing school, but we made do by checking out even more books when we went.

By the time Christine was born, Marie and Amber were not as interested in reading and had quit letting me read to them at bedtime. So, I read to Christine, even though she wasn’t old enough to understand.

When Christine was old enough to attend the library story time, Mrs. Day was still there and Christine fell instantly in love with her. We couldn’t check out enough books to last a full week and we ended up making two to three trips to the library per week.

Christine loved books so much, she started to have her own favorites, just like I did. If we would check out the same book more than four or five times from the library, then we would have to try and buy this book to have at home. Sometimes these books were easy to find; others were a little harder because they were older. One example is “The Best Little Christmas Tree” – we had to have it ordered from Tony Sexton’s bookstore that used to be where the Mercer Humane Society is now. We still read this book at Christmas and it still makes me cry.

About three years ago, I started a book blog – Bobbi’s Book Nook – and would post reviews of the books I read. It is unbelievable the number of book review blogs there are on the Internet. I was shocked; I had no idea there were so many. Even though the blog was for my personal use – mainly to help me keep track of the books I had read – I soon realized I enjoyed writing books reviews. Now I have a book review column “Kentucky Monthly Magazine” and for “GoodReads.”

With the opening of the brand-new Mercer County Public Library, I feel like a little kid again. No longer creeping across creaky wooden floors, but browsing almost 10,000 square feet of books and magazine. Some people may think enlarging the library was a waste of time and money, but for avid readers like myself, it is a treasure to the versatility of our community.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hallowed and Hushed

Unknown. Hallowed and Hushed be the place of the dead. Step Softly. Bow Head.

Living in Harrodsburg my entire life, I have a sentimental attachment to Youngs Park, located on Linden Avenue, between the Mercer County Fairgrounds and James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital. I have so many memories of playing in the park, eating picnic lunches and attending family functions. My Granny Devine lived within walking distance of the park and I’ve walked the short block from her home so many times, I could walk it blindfolded.

Youngs Park has always been one of my favorite places to escape to when looking for a nice, quiet lunch. Many times I have driven behind the park to the lower picnic tables and enjoyed a sandwich while watching the antics of the squirrels. The squirrels have become so used to human contact, they will sit within easy reach of picnic tables or cars, eagerly waiting for a scrap of bread or a French fry to be thrown their way.

Many of my fondest memories of Youngs Park occurred during my Girl Scout years and our annual summer Day Camp. One week of each summer was dedicated to numerous scouting projects with a different theme for each day. I can remember tie-dying T-shirts, painting pictures, cooking over a campfire, learning how to mark trails, just to name a few activities. During the summer of 1971, our favorite song to sing – and we sang it at the tops of our voices – was Three Dog Night’s “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.” We thought we were so cool.
The highlight of the Day Camp would be the sleepover on Friday night. For the sleepover, the Boy Scouts would come and help us set up tents in the back portion of the park. Camping out was exciting and we looked forward to it every year. Campfires, homemade stews, and s’mores were all on the list of activities.

Another eager awaited tradition for the sleepover was the telling of ghost stories. Because most of the Girl Scouts ranged in age from 8 to 14, we were all susceptible to having the beegeezus scared out of us! And Youngs Park was the perfect backdrop for these scary stories because of the legend of the “girl who danced herself to death.”

I’ve heard the story all my life – an unknown young girl arrived at the long-gone Graham Springs Hotel and attended a lavish ball where she danced all night. She eventually danced herself to death, collapsing onto the ballroom floor at the feet of her partner. She was buried in an unknown grave on the Graham Springs property. It is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve had the desire to check more into this legend.

Historic Graham Springs was located in the area of the current Physician’s Park and Haggin Hospital and was on the site of a natural spring. There were numerous springs in the Harrodsburg area and they were reported to have healing and restorative properties.

This Spring, that would eventually be called Graham Springs, was turned into a spa as early as 1807. In 1827, Dr. Christopher C. Graham purchased the Springs and in 1842 constructed the main hotel, Graham Springs Hotel. The hotel was a brick four-story building which Graham said would hold one thousand people.

Graham charged a fee of $20 per month to stay at the Springs and “take the waters.” Not only did guests enjoy and benefit from healing waters, they also joined in a lively social season which lasted from June until September. Balls and other entertainment occupied the guests while they drank the mineral waters. Graham claimed the waters helped to alleviate the aches and pains of people who suffered from such aliments as gout, rheumatism, dropsy, neuralgia, and “Autumnal fevers.”

Often called the “Saratoga of the West,” Graham Springs flourished until 1853, when it was sold to the United States Government for use as a military asylum for aged and invalid soldiers. Fire later destroyed main buildings and the place fell into disuse.

Sometime between 1842 and 1853, legend says a beautiful young lady appeared at the Springs. No one knew who she was, but it is rumored she came from “down South.” When arriving at the Springs, she signed the guest register with a fictitious name. After her dancing death, she became known as the “unknown lady,” although most people from Mercer County still refer to her as “the lady who danced herself to death.”

After her death and burial at the Springs, a mon-ument honoring her was erected. Currently, the tomb is located between the road and the shelter house, with a sign bearing the words:
Hallowed and
Hushed be the
place of the dead.
Step Softly.
Bow Head.
As I child, I thought I saw the ghost of this mysterious lady on numerous occasions, but as I’ve grown older, I realize it was probably mass hysteria brought on by ghost stories around the campfire. Although, there was one night in 2004, as I was leaving work at the Haggin Hospital at three o’clock in the morning, I would swear I saw a woman dancing through the park. She appeared to be dressed in white and was walking near one of the large oak trees in the middle of the park. Thinking back, it was probably exhaustion or my mind playing tricks on me. But then again …

Added note: As recently as 2002, an article appeared in the Mercer’s Magazine claiming to have finally learned the identity of this unknown woman. This article can be read in its entirety at:

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my brother-in-law, Don Rightmyer, from the Kentucky Historical Society for helping me find information on Graham Springs.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Favorite Cats

I have always been a cat person. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, too, but cats are my favorite pets of all. I’ve had many cats over the years, but my first cat will always hold a special place in my heart.

When I was seven years old, my parents allowed us to have an indoor cat. I’m not sure where the little kitten came from, but she instantly became a part of our family. She was a solid white Persian cat with faint black markings on top of her head. This little bundle of white fluff was so cute and my siblings and I argued over what to name her. They wanted cutesy names like Snowball or Fluffy; I wanted something unusual. Because of the black markings on top of her head were in the shape of the letter V, I convinced my siblings the name Vee Vee was appropriate for our beloved cat. And Vee Vee she would be all through my childhood.

For those of you who have cats, you know a cat chooses her person, not the other way around. Vee Vee tolerated everyone in our family, but she loved me. She would sleep at the foot of my bed or lay on my stomach whenever I was reading.
She loved to sit on the divider between the living room and the hallway – a little half wall with spindles. She would sit very still and then swat at people with her paw, as they would walk down the hall.

Or she would hide in a corner and jump out at your ankles whenever you passed by.
Vee Vee was especially bad at Christmas time when she would try and climb the Christmas tree. In the early 1970s, most ornaments were glass and we lost quite a few ornaments because of her adventures with the tree.

By the time I was married, Vee Vee was over 10 years old and becoming slow with her old age. My brother and sister wanted a dog for a pet because Vee Vee was no longer fun to play with. I was unable to take Vee Vee with me and she was too pampered and set in her ways to start being an outdoor cat. So, Vee Vee went to live with a family friend for the remainder of her life, and she lived to the grand old age of 17. Although I’ve had many cats since that time, Vee Vee was the first and I will always remember her fondly. Rest in peace Vee Vee - 1969 – 1986.

Sassy, Queen of Sheba, came into our lives when I was going through a rough patch in my life. Pogo our beloved Siamese cat (she deserves a story all to herself) had been gone for almost six months and although we thought about getting another cat, we had not done anything about it yet. With my 39th birthday fast approaching, Keith decided this was the perfect time to find a new cat.

We first went to the Mercer County Humane Society and there were some really cute cats and kittens, but none of them seemed right. We left the shelter slightly bummed out, but still determined to find the right cat, so we headed to the Boyle County Humane Society to see what selection they had.

As soon as we entered the “cat room,” I saw her – the perfect cat for me. She looked so much like Pogo it was eerie, almost like Pogo come back to life. A gray Siamese with blue eyes and a raccoon striped tail, only she was skin and bones, not fat and fluffy like my Pogo. But as soon as this little cat stuck her paw between the cage bars, I was in love.

We were told she was found wandering the grounds of the Pioneer Playhouse and they weren't sure how old she was. When she had her adoption “operation,” the vet thought she was maybe five years old.

We brought Sassy home and within a few weeks, she was pudgy and perky and full of life. We got her a silver rhinestone collar because she was the Queen of Sheba after all, and she soon was the rule of the roost.

Although she loved my hubby the best, Sassy always knew she could come to me for a snackie-poo. She loved bits of cheese and the occasional potato chip, in addition to Arby's roast beef and popcorn. At times, she was really obnoxious if I tried to eat in front of the television, swatting my hand and trying to grab a bite.

We lost Sassy sooner than we would have like – she was only with us for seven years. We've had several cats since the loss of Pogo and then Sassy, but nothing will ever compare to my Siamese beauties. Rest in peace Sassy - 2001 – 2008.

We had a house fire last August and we lost our three house cats, so we have not been ready to bring another cat into the house. We seem to have many feral cats in our neighborhood and I have no idea where they come from. Christine does feed them, so they seem to stick around and I know we had a litter born this summer, because we could hear the tiny meows. I think it may be time to call the Mercer County Humane Society and have them trap these cats for the “Critters without Litters” program. I don’t mind having feral cats in the neighborhood because they keep the mice and vole population under control, but I don’t want the cats to multiple.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dog Days and College Days

Dog Days and College Days
By Bobbi Rightmyer

The dog days of summer have finally hit home and the heat and humidity that Kentucky is famous for is blazing forth in all her glory. Temperatures above 90 degrees, weeks and weeks without rain, and the sticky air that threatens for strangle the life from every living thing. I do not like heat. Just the least bit of heat is enough to raise my internal temperature to the boiling point. I like to be cool, or at least have some type of breeze to keep me comfortable. These days, I fell like someone is trying to smother me with a hot towel; my breath comes in labored gasps.

Dog Days of Summer (copyright Google Images)

The hot, dry weather has turned most grass lawns brown and crinkly, but it will quickly revive itself when the first rains come. I really hate to see people watering their lawns in the summer, wasting the one natural resource we are destined to lose in the next century. I do keep my tomato plants and a few flowers watered, but I use “gray” water to do this instead of fresh water from the tap or faucet.

English Plantain (copyright bdr)

Right now I have loads of English plantain flowers that I have been picking to dry for filling the bird feeders this winter. I have also been using the plantain leaves and flowers in my plantain salve – this is great for misquotes bits and for burnt fingers from cooking. It also helps to sooth and heals sunburns. I have continued cutting and drying several different grasses to add to the bird feeders in a determination to see which type of grass my birds like better, plus. The sunflowers have been slow to start due to the heat, and I may have to use grasses in my bird feeders this winter.

Queen Anne's Lace (copyright bdr)

The Queen Anne’s lace and chicory blossoms are so beautiful growing along the side of the roads and in the medians, so I’m trying to enjoy them before the county comes to mow. To me, there is noting more beautiful than the white lacy flowers of Queen Anne’s Laces hover above the delicate blooms of the purple chicory. They are like God’s gift to our little section of the world.

Chicory (copyright bdr)

Summer is a time for easy to cook meals or for firing up the backyard grill in order to keep the kitchen cool. You can through almost anything on a grill to make it taste better. Some of my favorites are corn on the cob, grilled while still in the husk; zucchini and other squashes; onions and peppers; as well as any type of meat you might enjoy. Chicken and fish are our two favorite meats to cook on a grill.

Currently, the Farmer’s Market is full of many types of healthy lettuces along with all the vegetables you need to make a wonderful salad. Romaine, Bibb, Watercress, kale, spinach, and even dandelion leaves—these all make wonderful salad starters. Just add onions, carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumber—whatever you have growing, or quick on hand—and sprinkle with your favorite dressing and you have the perfect “house” salad. Add that half piece of leftover chicken, or extra strip of bacon, or can of tuna or salmon and you turn the house salad into the main entrĂ©e; and it is so healthy for you.

One of my favorite pastimes is watching a pair of Red-tailed Hawks soaring over the fields near our home. They apparently live in an old tree near the back of our property because we can occasionally here baby birds crying from the next. Red-tailed Hawks are beautiful birds to watch as they float high above the trees, gliding gracefully through the air.

Red-tailed hawk catching a snake for supper (copyright Google Images)

Mammals make up the majority of the Hawks diet, including voles, rats, mice, rabbits, squirrels and snakes. Many times you can see a mouse or a snake grasped firmly in their razor sharp talons, helping to keep down the varmint population. They will also eat other birds: starlings, blackbirds, bobwhites and pheasants. Personally, they can have all the starlings they want.

Christine and Hubby making "funny faces" at high school graducation (copyright bdr)

I guess the reason I’m rambling on about the dog days of summer is because I’m trying to keep my mind off the fact my baby will be leaving me at the end of the month. Christine will be moving to Berea the last full week of August and I’m trying – without success – not to think about it. I realize she will only be less than 90 minutes away, but with very few exceptions, we have never been apart for so long. Granted, she will be coming home some weekends, but I am going to miss our daily talks and all the sarcastic remarks she makes to me – only in jest. My grandbabies and great niece will help to fill the void, but it won’t take the place of seeing Christine’s smiling face every day.

My little Tadpole doing "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" (copyright bdr) - 4 weeks old

So, get outside and enjoy the dog days of summer. Relish the bright sunshine and beautiful flowers all around you, chase a few lightning bugs and spray each one with a water hose. The days are already beginning to slow down and night is creeping earlier and earlier into our days. Old man winter will soon be knocking at our doors.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Can We Say?

This is a poem in memory of my mother
Brenda Carolyn Devine Sallee
November 6, 1944 – May 23, 2010

What Can We Say

We learned about love from you, Momma,
by watching your caring ways.
You let us know your endless love
in so many different ways.

We learned all we know about living
because you always gave life your all.
Your unfailing love was without limit,
as was your ability to soothe our hurts.

We learned about joy from you
in many fun-filled yesterdays.
You made us feel important
with endless encouragement and praise.

From you we learned forgiveness,
of faults both big and small.
With open arms and open heart,
you were gentle and yet so strong.

From you we learned to comfort and care,
but your lessons stopped not with family.
You loved your patients and loved your friends
and never said "No" to any calls for help.

Momma, we look at you and see a walking miracle;
you were our teacher and our comforter,
our cheerleader and our rock.
Your unselfishness kept us anchored,
every hour of every day.
You were dependable and full of comfort,
our cushion when we'd fall.

You helped in times of trouble,
though we sometimes caused you pain;
it mattered not what we did,
you supported us all the same.

How did you find the energy, Momma,
to do all the things you did;
to be teacher, nurse and counselor,
and full of inexhaustible love?

Nobody's quite like you, Momma;
you were special in every way.
You cheered us up, you filled our cups
with tenderness, come what may.

Nobody loved us more than you,
no matter what we did;
good or bad, happy or sad,
you were full of unconditional love.

Nobody's equal to you, Momma,
you truly blessed our lives.
We love you so and want you to know,
you were the absolute best.

We know we were all in your thoughts,
your love followed us everyday.
Thank you for all you've done
and given so generously.

We love you, our wonderful Momma,
you will be our blessing from above.
You set us free and steered us straight.
We'll miss you come what may.
The examples you have shown us
and the lessons we have learned
will remain in all our hearts
until we see you again one day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Memories of May

Where has the year gone? Just yesterday we were celebrating the holidays and now I’m planning for my daughter’s graduation from high school. My Granny Devine always did say time speeded up as you got older, and now I’m seeing this is so true.

While I’m not a hot weather, summer person, I am glad to finally leave the cold days of winter behind. Too many days of sub-zero weather has made my joints ache and creak, so I’m ready for a change. Warmer weather means more time in the garden, more time to walk and more time to soak up the daylight. The month of May is the perfect time to shed our winter skins and slip into the latest summer fashions. After months of cabin fever and overwhelming darkness, you feel an almost rebirth at the excess of sunshine and warmth.

May has always been a transition month for my family. We are transitioning from the long winter and spring into the warmth of summer and from school to summer break. We are transitioning from slow time, early darkness and structured schedules to fast time, later sunsets and relaxed casualness. We say goodbye to prime-time television, large pots of chili and blue jeans with sneakers and say hello to drive-in movies, salad from the Farmer's Market and shorts with flip flops. This year, May is bringing some major milestones to my family and signs of change are everywhere.

As I mentioned earlier, Christine will be graduating from Mercer County Senior High this month and it’s a happy and sad event, all rolled up into one. Where has the time gone? My household is growing smaller and smaller every minute and it's a shock to the system. While I am extremely proud of Christine's accomplishments, it is going to be so sad when she is gone.
I cannot believe I will no longer have any children in the local school system. Christine has been offered a full four-year scholarship to Berea College and she is excited to get started on her college career. As we wade through paper work and make lists of everything she will need to take with her, my heart is feeling a little sad. She will be moving to Berea in August and I realize this is only a short distance away, but it is going to be strange to not have her close to me. What am I supposed to do without a child in the house?

I am so incredibly proud of all three of my daughters – I could not have asked for three better girls if I had tried to order them from a catalog. They are all intelligent and responsible adults and they fill my life with joy. Next month, we will be adding a new granddaughter to our family, so we will have another girl to dote on and spoil rotten. Devon Mikayla is already a special girl and she will have us all wrapped right around her little finger.

May 19th is a special day for Keith and I – it will be our 20th wedding anniversary. We have been together for 24 years and are happy to be celebrating such a great milestone. Like most couples, we have had our ups and downs, our sicknesses and health, our richer and poorer, but we have created a unique family with strong ties and our bond is even stronger today than it was 20 years ago. We have raised three beautiful, intelligent daughters and they are our pride and joy and we are both looking forward to spoiling the grandchildren. We may not have done everything right, but we keep plugging away and try to keep everyone happy and on an even keel.

Of course, May also brings us Mother’s Day, and although I only think of myself as an average mom, I am blessed with two extraordinary mothers. My mother, Brenda Sallee, has always been there to encourage me and keep me on the straight and narrow. She is a special lady and I can never thank her enough for everything she has done for me. My mother-in-law, Christine Holtzclaw Rightmyer, is also a special lady and I am blessed to have her in my life. I thank God everyday that she brought Keith into my life. is also a great lady and I am so thankful she brought my hubby into my life.

A big event my writing group – The Community of Mercer County Writers – is hosting this year will be on May 8th and we hope it will become an annual event. We are partnering with the Mercer County Humane Society to present “Prose and Poetry for Pets.” This will be on the block of Main Street near the Humane Society and The Harrodsburg Herald and will start at 11am. There will be lots of activities: pet paintings, poetry and prose readings, food vendors, pet adoptions and other animal relate activities. The Community of Mercer County Writers has published a chapbook - “Prose and Poetry for Pets” - which they will be selling for $5, with all proceeds going to the Mercer County Humane Society.

As you can see, May is shaping up to be an exciting, memorable month. It will be a time of great joy and happiness, and I look forward to making lots of new memories. Reconnecting with family and friends should be a priority this year, so why not plan some special events with your loved ones. Time is only getting shorter, so make the most of it while you still can. Remember, memories live on forever.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Harrodsburg Born and Raised

Downtown Harrodsburg, Kentucky

Harrodsburg – what does it mean to you? Is this historic town just a stepping-stone in your life, or is it a life-long destination?

I was born and have live all of my almost 48 years within the boundaries of Mercer County – all but four of these within a five-mile radius of downtown Harrodsburg. I have seen the ups and downs and many of the times in between, and my love for this town only grows with each passing year.

When I was a child growing up in Riverview, most of my world revolved around our small neighborhood. My friends were there and we spent many hours playing together and planning our futures. The Harrodsburg City Pool was a popular spot and I spent glorious summer days splashing in the cool water and soaking up the sun. Back in the 1970s, we didn’t appreciate the dangers of long days spent in the hot sun. I was always tanned to a golden brown – “brown as a berry” as my Granny used to say. Actually, now that I’m older, I’m not sure what kind of berry is brown, and if it is, it is probably well past its peak.

Family weekends were usually spent together and while I enjoyed camping trips and Sunday afternoons at the beach, my favorite times were spent locally. During summer nights we would pile in the car and head to Twin Hills Drive-In to watch a movie or two. I learned to lock Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood movies, and to me, Roger Moore will always be Bond, James Bond. The good, the bad and everything between – the fun of the drive-in was being together as a family and visiting with friends in the twilight before the movies began.

Another weekend activity was Friday and Saturday skate nights at the Mercer Roller Rink. I loved to skate, but more importantly, I liked to show off my mediocre skating skills. To this day, hearing the Jackson 5 song, “Rockin’ Robin” always makes me think of skate night at the roller rink.

By the time I was 16, my family had moved to the, then new, Cherokee Heights neighborhood. Many of my summer and weekend nights were then spent cruising the loop between McDonalds and Mr. Kwik. Now a days, the cruising route has changed to the Diary Queen end of town, but cruising is still a Harrodsburg tradition, as it is in most small towns.

For four months during the summer of 1981, I lived in downtown Cornishville and I loved every minute of it. I was still within the boundaries of Mercer County, but I felt like I was a million miles away from civilization. During this time, I worked at Anne’s Hallmark, so I made the trek into town at least five days a week. I enjoyed meeting and seeing the residents of Harrodsburg and being in town kept me close to the city’s heart. Weekends in the 1980s were usually spent at the home of our good friends, Sandra and Anthony Godbey, playing cards and talking all night.

In 1987, I moved to the center of Harrodsburg and this was the first time I had ever lived “in town.” I raised Amber and Marie in a tiny four-room house as I put myself through college. It was during these tough years I came to love Harrodsburg even more. As a single mother, I depended on cheap entertainment, so we sought out all the opportunities Harrodsburg had to offer. The Picnic in the Park became a favorite place on Fridays during the summer. We would pack our lunch, pick a bouquet of flowers and walk to Old Fort Harrod. Once at the park, we would eat, enjoy the week’s entertainment and then climb on the Osage Orange tree.

During this time in my life, we all grew to love the Grand Ole Mercer County Fair and Horseshow. Amber and Marie loved to paint, draw and make other crafts to enter in the 4-H show and Floral Hall, and I even got into the spirit by entering a few of my handmade items. When August would roll around, we couldn’t wait for Pioneer Days. The girls loved entering the Pet Show, visiting the arts and crafts booths, and watching the cloggers on Main Street. September used to bring Oktoberfest at Old Fort Harrod and the girls looked forward to the Wooly Worm Races and Osage Orange Crochet. The Night of the Great Pumpkin is the only event still ongoing in Harrodsburg and it always meant homemade costumes and decorated pumpkins. Following on the heels of Halloween would be the Holiday Gala at the Fort. The special essence of this night was seeing the hundreds of luminaries lining the park, taking candlelit tours of the cabins and stopping for hot apple cider in the museum. Christmas in Harrodsburg used to mean downtown, horse drawn carriage rides in addition to the parade.

Since 1993, I have lived four miles from downtown. I’ve seen two daughters grow up and move on to their own lives and I have one more ready to leave the nest. Although Harrodsburg has changed dramatically over the years, it will always be home to me. I’m proud of the improvements I see every day on Main Street – with the exception of the huge “hole” where the Courthouse used to proudly stand. I’m proud of the businesses that have moved into the area to give Harrodsburg a try, but I’m sad at the historic buildings we have lost along the way.

I don’t like to hear people complain about my town; all the complaints of “There’s nothing to do here,” made me mad. If people don’t like the lack of entertainment or shopping malls, then they should move somewhere else. I like the quiet, historic atmosphere of Harrodsburg – it is what keeps me here. I’m proud of Harrodsburg’s history, and while I also think progress can be a good thing, I think the progress in our town should be toward preservation, not expansion. After all, I’m proudly born and raised in Harrodsburg, the oldest settlement west of the Allegany Mountains.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kids and Disney

Like most children, my girls grew up loving Disney movies and Disney characters. Amber loved “The Little Mermaid,” Marie loved “The Lion King,” and Christine loved and still loves “Lilo and Stitch.” Most Disney movies were fair game for everyone and our family has a group of favorites – “101 Dalmatians,” “Peter Pan,” “Dumbo,” and “Fantasia.” Although Amber and Marie loved the Disney Princesses, Christine has never been into the foo-foo characters, preferring instead to follow “Alice in Wonderland,” “Winnie the Pooh,” or “Mulan.”

When I was little, I enjoyed watching “The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” on Sunday nights with my family. “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Old Yeller,” “The Scarecrow,” “The Parent Trap” and “Treasure Island” were some of the many programs we watched as a family. Naturally, this was many years before the invention of VCRs or DVD players, so we popped popcorn ahead of time and had our drinks ready before the beginning of each show. Commercial breaks meant bathroom breaks and with only one bathroom, there was usually a mad scramble to see who could get to the bathroom first.

I didn’t get my first VCR until Marie and Amber were 3 and 5 years old, but owning a VCR didn’t mean I could afford to buy movies. We would rent movies almost every Friday night and the girl’s preferences were always Disney or other animated movies. “Pinocchio” was one of the very first Disney movies released on VHS, so it became a mutual favorite, but before long, we were renting “Rainbow Brite,” “Care Bears” and “Dr. Snuggles.”

By the time Christine was born, Marie and Amber were 8 and 10 years old, and we were starting to amass a large collection of VHS movies, with Disney remaining a favorite. During this phase in our family life, I was working 12-hour night shifts, so I’m ashamed to admit, my girls watched lots of movies for entertainment, mainly because I wasn’t home to supervise, but they also watched movies when I was home because I was always so busy. I can probably sing you songs or recite lines from most of their favorite movies because they were always on in the background - I may not have been watching, but I was always listening.

Like most families, my girls grew up and soon Disney movies were replaced with films about teen anguish, romance or horror. I found myself wishing we could leave the teenage years behind and return to the happy, carefree days of early childhood. We continued to have family movie night, but it was becoming increasingly harder to find movies we all agreed on.

Deterring a moment from my theme of Disney movies, my hubby and Christine have almost the same interest when it come to the make-up of a movie. Where I go to a movie purely for escapism and entertainment, they can tell you everything about a movie – the director, the producers, the main actors, the production team, when the film was released, where it was filmed, and the list goes on and on. They are like a walking encyclopedia of movies, my own personal Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

Fast forward to present day and 2010 is shaping up to be a memorable year for our family. Not only are we expecting our first grandbaby – a little girl due in June – but also our youngest daughter will be heading off to college. Even though Christine is finishing up her senior year and making grand plans for the fall, she is also having a resurgence of nostalgia for Disney movies. She has begun her own collection of DVDs with all her favorites; she even has a list of release dates for Disney movies so she is watching for her favorites. She has even invested in a few “stuff animals” for her room, with the newest addition being a large blue Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch.” She is looking forward to sharing her love of Disney with her new little niece.

I have a feeling I will be “knee-deep” in Disney movies again in a few years when my granddaughter, and future grandchildren, will discover their own love of the Disney classics. Some things just never go out of fashion, and in our family the Disney brand is firmly entrenched in our memories.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road

Ah, after a long cold winter, spring is finally in the air. All around us is the sweet, aromatic fragrance of ... skunk. Yep, that's right, it's skunk mating season again! This is the time of year when skunks seem to come out of the wood works and they end up ... splatted on the side of the road.

I swear, I drive less than five miles into town to go to work, and there were at least 8 dead skunks along the way. Some of them were on the sides of the road, some in the middle of the road. All those dead skunks makes me think of the old 70s song, *"Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" by Loudon Wainwright.
"Crossin' the highway late last night
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn't see the station wagon car
The skunk got squashed and there you are!
You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven!"
Skunks are mammals best known for their ability to secrete a liquid with a strong, foul-smelling odor. Also known as "polecats" in many regions, skunks are actually a form of weasel known as Carnivora. Naturally, the word Carnivora refers to any meat-eating mammal, but skunks not only eat meat, they also eat many forms of plants, changing their diet with the seasons. It is the skunk's omnivorous diet that leads them to garbage cans in many urban areas. They have also been known to enter garages and out-buildings, especially of people who own pets because skunks have developed a taste for cat and dog food. They also like to lounge under porches, away from prying eyes.

A few years ago, Christine and I decided to take a paper route during the summer and although we delivered papers every afternoon, Monday through Friday, we also had to deliver at 3am on Sunday mornings. On these early morning deliveries, my wonderful hubby usually went with us. Of course, out in the county we saw all kinds of wildlife, but one of our routes was in the heart of Harrodsburg and we were privy to all kinds of nocturnal life roaming the city streets. I swear, there was one skunk that was in the same yard week after week after week – it must have been his home territory.

Skunks must be creatures of habit because we usually knew exactly where the skunks would be. They had a tendency to be in the same areas every Sunday morning and these were the homes we always used a flashlight to light the sidewalks. Once you've been startled by a skunk standing two feet in front, you learn to be careful about where you step.

Considering the number of dead skunks that line highways and roads during mating season, you would think skunks run in packs, but skunks are solitary creatures during the warm months of the year. During colder winter months, they will also seek shelter in the crawl spaces of homes or under porches close to a house's foundation. They will dig burrows for dens, or occasionally inhabit man-made or natural hallows.

Most people think skunks hibernate during the winter, but they are not true hibernators. They go through long dormant periods, but venture out every few weeks to find food. Female skunks may "den up" together for warmth, but males prefer to den alone. Mating season usually begins in late January and ramps into high gear by the middle of February.

Skunks range in appearance from species to species - some are black-and-white and some are brown or cream colored. Although they have an extraordinary sense of smell and hearing, they have very poor eyesight. This may account for the number of dead skunks on the roadways - the poor little things can see the huge motor vehicles coming. Skunks also have an extremely short life span, with very few living over three years.
"Take a whiff on me, that ain't no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose
You don't have to look and you don't have to see
'Cause you can feel it in your olfactory"
Anyone who has ever had a run in with a skunk will know that the most notorious feature of skunks is their anal scent glands, which they use as a defensive weapon. These glands produce a mixture of sulfur-containing chemicals which give off a highly offensive "rotten egg" smell. They can spray up to 15 feet away and the odor of the fluid is strong enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers and can be very hard to remove from clothing
"Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
The blood and the guts they're gonna make you swoon!
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high heaven!
All over the road, Technicolor man!
Oh, you got pollution
It's dead, it's in the middle
And it's stinkin' to high, high Heaven."
So, when you're driving down a country lane on a warm spring night and are overcome with an intense feeling of nausea, chances are it's the overwhelming scent of "od 'de skunk" wafting through the air. Ah, springtime in Kentucky ...

*“Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” lyrics copyright Loudon Snowden Wainwright III from “Album III,” produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye for Columbia Records.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Decade is Dawning

Another year is here – where did the time go? 2010 is gearing up to be a great year, but it is also the ending of another phase in my life.

For the past 27 years, I’ve had at least one child at home. From infant care, toddler days, preschool adventures and after school activities, Mom’s taxi service has hauled kids from one event to the next and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. But 2010 will see my youngest child leave home to begin her college years, and I’m going to be left with an empty next. What am I supposed to do? How do you change a lifestyle you’ve had for 27 years?

The Rightmyer family circa 1999 - Marie, Christine, Amber, Bobbi and Keith

I already miss the days I used to volunteer at school. I always made time to help out several days a month when my girls were in elementary school. I’ve helped with Girl Scouts, band, choir, dance, soccer and academic practice as well as multiple church activities. When the girls got too old to want me at school, I found other ways to volunteer to show them the joy of giving your time to help others.

At least my girls have left me a little at a time – this has helped my adjustment period somewhat, but it doesn’t take the pain away entirely. Marie was the first to leave and it nearly killed me when she moved out, but I realized I was going to have to let her go eventually. Two years later, Amber was gone and the pain was just as acute, but I knew I would survive.

Christine, Marie and Amber - circa 1999

For the past 8 years, Christine has been my only child at home and we have grown very close. She sometimes complains she feels like an only child because there is such a large age difference between her and her sisters. Of all my children, Christine and I are most alike. We both enjoy reading and many times we will spend an afternoon reading, even though we are reading separate books. Or we have been known to brain storm ideas for writing projects, bouncing ideas off one another to see what we think might work for a story. We both enjoy volunteer work and Christine has been a big help to mean with many of the tasks I’ve taken on.

Of course, Christine has inherited the “worry gene” from me; she worries about everything, just like I do. She is more concerned about keeping everyone else happy than she is doing things for herself. She is a true friend and someone you can count on when the times are hard. I really wish she wouldn’t worry so much – I want her to enjoy her happy teenage years while they’re here. But just like I know I can’t stop myself from worrying, I can’t keep her from worrying either.

Looking forward into 2010, there are many things I am actually looking forward to. First and foremost is the fact that I will be a grandmother for the first time. I am so excited and I can’t wait to hold this little bundle of joy in my arms. My middle daughter, Marie, is expected in June and we are all eagerly awaiting this newest addition to the family.

My first grandchild, the Tadpole - 12 weeks gestation, due June 2010

This will also be the first year I have sent a child to college. As much as I wanted Amber and Marie to attend college, they had no interest in continuing their education. Although this saddened me at first, I realized it was their life and they should have a choice in what they wanted to do. So, instead of seeking a college education, they both entered the work force and they seem content with this decision.

Christine, on the other hand, has been looking forward to college for many years. She plans to seek a degree in Art Administration and she also wants to study abroad, hopefully in Japan. At some point after graduation, she wants to join the Peace Corps before settling down with a career. This past fall was full of applying to colleges, filling out scholarship forms and researching all grant opportunities; I know this spring will be full of last minute preparations, but it will be a fun experience.

This year is also the year I plan to have a book published. I have been working on many things, but can’t seem to narrow my focus down to one thing, so I’m not exactly sure what the book will be. I do know it will be one of the following possibilities: a collection of my Mercer’s Magazine essays, a poetry collection, a book about Harrodsburg, or a young adult book I am almost finished with. Because I’m interested in so many areas, it is hard for me to work on any one project for a long period of time, so I catch myself working on each one for a short period of time. This may not be ideal for most writers, but it is the techniques that work for me.

I guess the most special thing I’m looking forward to is celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary and being able to spend more time with my hubby. Keith and I have been together for 24 years, but we’ve only been married for 20. Since we have been together, there have always been children in the house. Even though we had a wonderful week long honeymoon, we’ve never really had any time alone with children. And as much as I miss the kids being around all the time, I’m excited about the new status in our relationship.

Where did the time go? I don’t know, but I do know that the older I get, the faster time seems to speed by. You’ve got to reach out and grab a piece of life while it’s spinning by, because if you wait for things to happen for you, it may be too late. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year and enjoys the fruits of a new decade.