Monday, March 30, 2009

The Out-of-Town Spouse

Patti Dickinson

Wood is leaving town tomorrow for a few days.  A jaunt to Los Angeles.  I am always a bit on edge when he travels.  It is usually when calamities happen. Broken air-conditioner, a stopped up shower drain that has it raining in the living room onto the piano.  A kid with a broken collarbone.  I can handle those things....a call to the a/c guy, the plumber or a run to the ER.  It's the who/what I am leaving behind that is worrisome.  I mean, who leaves their house to run the morning carpool with a rain forest in the living room?  I guess it's that those things knock out-of-whack the normal flow of the day.  

But those same interruptions are found in life, with/without an absentee spouse.  A throwing up preschooler, a flat tire, a chipped tooth, a fallen tree limb makes it so that your plans for haircut/Board meeting/oil change can come to a screeching halt. In many ways, I think that it is a wake-up call.  It reminds us that we aren't indispensible.  Someone will step up to meet Chris Cakes at five in the morning at the elementary school and the Pancake Breakfast will happen.  With or without us. It serves to remind us that in the hustle and bustle, and the loaded calendars, taking care of that sick kid is the most important thing you will do today.  That sometimes, when the wheels fall off life, families hunker down, and the outside world, with all it's demands (some of which are self-imposed) fades into the background. 


Friday, March 27, 2009

Brain Book

by Pat Antonopoulos

I rarely forget where I put the car keys, my current library book, my purse. Food on the stove doesn't burn and nothing gets locked in the car. My calendar keeps us on time and in the right place each time. With the help of two patient friends, Patti and Wood, I have learned to blog on my new computer.

Because my mother spent the last years of her life fighting dementia, I became familiar with some of the tests administered to test her awareness. In a 'just-in-case' moment, I decided that the "subtract 7 from 100 and continue to zero" must become as easy as reciting the alphabet. To be on the safe side, I put encyclopedia in my list of words to spell backward. Imagine--preparing for dementia!

Light switches do seem to migrate from one side of the doorway to the other and the appliance dials have a way of malfunctioning, but only after 8:00 PM. On the rare occasion, I have looked out the passenger window and taken a nano-second to orientate.

However, the huge display of Brain Books makes the message very clear---- unless---' clarity' is one of the nouns no longer functional. People my age are told we need to do both physical and mental gymnastics, push ups for the muscles and connections for the gray matter.

So I bought the book, thumbed through it and immediately noticed a huge editing error.
All the language activities were English 101 type exercises...too easy, too predictable and kind of fun to whip right through. But the math activities! Why would that much quoted rocket scientist spend time designing totally unreasonable math stuff for such an easy language book? And who invented Sudoku? More importantly, WHY invent Sudoku? If all the columns and rows add to the same number, why not just tell me the number and move onto a crossword puzzle?

Is there a second Brain Book in my future? Maybe, but someone needs to do a better job of balancing the material---say ratchet up the language stuff and understand the proper use
of the 'delete-all-math' key.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos
"When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade"

Maybe you remember that poster message that was once as common as, "Have a nice day."

For years, I tried living up to that judgment call, that challenge to rise above difficulties through my A+ attitude of gathering the emotional ingredients to transform the problems into something refreshing. More often than not, I succeeded because my life structure provided the rest of the ingredients. I had a satisfying job, a family, the comfort of a home in a safe neighborhood----a pitcher, water, some sugar, a big spoon and ice.

As I look at current family and personal struggles, I would be ashamed to even suggest such a judgmental message as "Make Lemonade". How hurtful to tell a struggling individual that all will be well if they simply adjust their attitude and make that sow's ear into a lovely silk purse. How presumptive to step into their moment and decide that an attitude adjustment would change the circumstances. Even the lemons could be crushed by the weight of many of today's circumstances.
I don't hesitate to redirect a whine or a pout when attitude is self-serving and ruinous to family harmony. It is easy to be caught up in the message of me-first-me-above-all-my-needs. Part of my grandmother work is to gently do that redirect. This is making a 'disciple of'. This is good discipline.
We can all have those days when we personify "Grump" and cleaning up our attitude is required if we want to function with family, friends, co-workers. We see the value in that attitude adjustment.
Respect. Respect for struggles, for circumstances, for a huge lack in life 'ingredients" would leave a much sweeter taste than the admonishment to spin straw into gold.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One More Dig at Computers....

Patti Dickinson

I have a PhD in PTA.  Honestly.  I have chaired the carnival, the Pancake Breakfast and Field Day. I have been a room mom for twenty-one years.  I have been Recording Secretary on two different Boards. And I have been a worker-bee....when I just show up and do what I'm told.  I like that kind of work. Rubbing elbows with moms who have the same mind-set....running themselves ragged to soccer practices, Boy Scouts, CCD.  Where crock pot meals are served with some regularity. Feeling a communal weariness.  Next year, I am the PTA President at my caboose's middle school.  Dwindling days when involvement at school isn't necessary. I will miss those days.  So this is my departure.....

Today I met with the principal to put the calendar together for next year.  I came out of that meeting, my head spinning with dates.  Scribbled notes, jumbled thoughts, and the beginning of a breath-into-a-brown-paper-bag moment.  What, oh what had I gotten myself into?  :-)

It became clear when I got home that I was going to have to get organized.  Oh, I am organized. To a fault, my kids would say.  They would tell you that my hair stands on end when I find eleven pairs of shoes by the back door.  Eleven. Three kids living at of them male. Males only wear one pair of shoes.  Do the math.  

Organized.  The Lean Cuisines in my freezer are label-facing-out.  Why, you ask?  So that when I am ravenous, I can grab whatever sounds good and throw it in the microwave, eat in under five minutes and thus avoid watching the wheels fall off the Weight Watchers diet plan.  

Organized.  The kids know that if their stuff isn't on the calendar, it isn't happening.  Nope.  The Calendar Queen doesn't like surprises.  I am flexible, but not that flexible. Not finding out at 10:00 on a Friday night that one of my kids is in a math contest that starts at 8 in the morning and we are on the hook for driving four other kids and I don't even know where it is and neither does my kid, and he/she can't find the permission slip anyway.  Enough to ruin a perfectly good Friday night. Grrrrr. 

Organized.  That is going to require figuring out this computer and how to make it do what I need it to do.  My husband (a computer wizard) just doesn't get why I struggle so.  I bet he has shown me a handful of times how to make a folder.  And a folder-within-a-folder.  Still working to achieve competence on that one.  I still like pieces of paper.  I know, the stuff of dinosaurs. I learned to type as a sophomore in high school.  Mrs. Stites' typing class.  Had my typewriter moved two different times because I could not stop "talking to my neighbor".  So I am used to typing, then ripping it out of the machine and there it is.  Sure you can get a piece of paper from a computer, as well.  But you have to make a concerted effort to get that piece of paper.  It's not automatic.

I have mastered some skills.  I can send a link.  Make a folder.  Print.  Email. Forward.  Send an attachment.  The basics.  It is clear that unless I want to allocate several closets in my house to paper re: PTA stuff, I am going to have to learn a new system, and fast.  There is a trust issue here.  When I put something on the desktop, it darn well better be there when I need it. I have a habit of saving something, not labeling it so it just shows up as a "date" where I put it, and you can imagine the angst of needing something in a hurry and having to wonder whether what I am looking for was written in November or January. 

My brain just doesn't work the way computers do.  Take copy/paste.  You highlight first, then choose copy.  I think that is backwards.  It would seem you should declare what you are trying to do first, then highlight.  See what I mean?

I have a lot to learn.....but not at all sure that I am ready for this PTA job to be paperless.  

Saturday, March 21, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

We are just home from the airport, saying good-bye to a son and grandson visiting for a week. This grand parenting role has been an amazing chapter of my life. Of course, I realize that most grandparents view their grand kids as the absolute best and no doubt their grand kids come very close to that absolute.
But mine?
Mine are head-shaking, smile-making perfect in all their imperfections.
Each time they visit, I learn more, feel more and appreciate more.
This will not be a long recitation of grandchildren stories, though I am sorely tempted to let you know just how much fun I experience each time they visit.
Instead, this blog is a celebration of family.
Moments when a 15 year old girl calls just to talk....
a 17 year old boy has absolute welcome in his voice when he gets on the phone...
a four year old tells me that my stern voice is out of place, that only Daddy teaches him with that voice...when a 2 year old runs to his grandpa for an extra hug in the middle of running the little cars down the home-made ramp.
And all of this amazing joy is a tribute to their parents, their aunts, uncles, cousins---their family. These are the people who surround, protect and teach by both stern voice and smile.

Another Perspective

by Pat Antonopoulos
Love this stuff!
Loved reading Patti's blog, Gutter Ball, and then listening to one of my sons give his perspective on President Obama's bowling comment as reported in the newspaper.
Need to be clear that I have never watched Jay Leno so my sense of the program does not add or detract from any perspective.
My son does not own a television so he, too, has little if any sense of Jay Leno or his program.
Probably important to note that this son discussed the comment with two of his brothers, a sister and a sister-in-law.
No match-ups and no consensus in that discussion. Our family is all over the political landscape and this incident was viewed with the usual variety of perspectives.
A bit of further background is important.
My son is an educator, a father, a consistent supporter of Special Olympics and a young man who has repeatedly handed yet another coat to a homeless person when the weather demanded he walk the walk. He has loved and laughed with the special kids as they toss a ball backwards or run from third to first, smiling all the way. know where this is leading, right?
For a very long time, my son has lamented what he sees as the ' unreasonable corruption of political correctness', the harnessing of thought to fit an outline designed to erase all chance of offense.
From his perspective, the man holding the office of President of the United States meant absolutely no disrespect by his comment. Rather, my son sees the incident as an indication that President Obama has a comfort level that allows him to laugh at his lack of ability and to make a comparison that does not dishonor the Special Olympians.
I do love it.
I do love to realize that each of us comes to every life moment carrying all the memories of past moments, the good and the damaged. We observe. We process. We become....and if we are lucky, we share our perspectives with those that help us enrich and clarify our own perspectives.
I am learning and I so appreciate the process.

Gutter Ball

Patti Dickinson

At first, I felt some trepidation about venturing into the political blogging arena. I am not a feather-ruffler, nor do I like that verbal combat that often ensues when everyone has a different opinion. Leaves me exhausted and ready for a nap.

Thursday night. Jay Leno. Barack Obama as the guest. I didn't see it live, by 10:30 pm I am showered and snuggled in bed with my husband and a book. But I watched it the next day on U-Tube. I listened to the news the next morning, and heard all the static about Obama's comment comparing his bowling ability with Special Olympics.


The only bright side to this whole thing is that there are folks, and plenty of them, who are outraged.

Some in the press called this a "gaffe".  Webster's defines that as "a socially awkward act".  A socially awkward act is picking your nose, or chewing with your mouth open, chewing gum at church or not flushing.  

I would call the Jay Leno incident degrading, insensitive and a reflection on the character of Obama.  Way out of the league of a simple "gaffe".  "Gaffes" don't diminish others. 

I am not entirely sure why we give our leaders a pass based on our emotional reaction to them. Why is it that we don't hold our leaders to high standards anymore?  Not higher-than-average standards, mind you, high standards.  

We watch a steady dose of late-night television, that's depends for its very life on put-downs that pass for humor.  And the laugh track laughs. 

I once bowled a 118.  Career high.  Lousy bowling.  Just that and nothing more.           

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Kleenex and Valet Parking

Patti Dickinson

I am almost never sick.  I attribute that, not to healthy eating (I never met a Twinkie I didn't like) but to a strong constitution and to immunities that I built up when I taught school (suffice it to say that I had pink eye once a week that first year I taught!).  I am also a lousy patient.  I don't slow down, I don't rest, I don't drink fluids and let the world get along without me while I step off the treadmill for a bit.  I had five C-sections and came in the back door delegating clean-up duties while I hauled the laundry basket down the stairs.  

This week I got hit with the second sore throat/cough/sneezing bug of the winter.  

You know how everyone is "cheap" in different ways?  Some people clip coupons, some people reuse aluminum foil.  Some people turn off the water in the shower while they suds up.  Me? You will not find a single box of Kleenex in any bathroom in this house.  We blow our noses with paper towels. Sturdier, bigger, handier.  Right there on the kitchen counter.  

Okay -- I do have a small stash. Stuck in the back of the pantry. Just in case we have company.   Or in case someone gets really, really sick (and I am the judge of that).  Last night was one of those cases.  I pulled out a box and my husband (who just got over a bad cold) looked at me in disbelief.  "Where did those come from?????"  Innocently I said, "The pantry."  He looked at me and said, "Where were those when I had a cold?  How come you don't have to use paper towels to blow your nose?" He had me there. 

But he would never dream of valet parking.  He would rather find his own parking space even if it means that we have to walk in frigid temperatures, sleet hitting us in the face, from another zip code.

Yup, we all have ways that we are cheap.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bleacher Madness

Patti Dickinson

Saturday morning before dawn, my husband Wood and I, and our high school freshman daughter left the house to drive thirty minutes away to a volleyball tournament.  Five teams were competing.  I had a book and my knitting, for the time that Meghan was refing and not playing. Wood and I were lucky enough to get seats at the very top of the bleachers, guaranteeing us a wall-backrest. We were staking out our territory! 

I am a people-watcher at heart.  I have a very wide nosy streak. I have been known to do the universal signal for "quiet", vertical index finger to lips, to Wood, in order to better listen to conversations on planes, in restaurants, well, just about anywhere.  One time, seated at a table at a nice restaurant, I watched a couple have an altercation at the next table, figured out quickly that this problem involved his mother-in-law and she got up from the table and left him sitting there by himself. Walked right out the door and never looked back. He stayed and finished his meal.  My husband would have missed the whole thing, left to his own, not-nosy devices.  

Back to the volleyball game ---  

Two people over from where I am sitting, is my next suspect. She is a woman in her late-forties.  (I heard her tell someone that she was 47....)  Everytime someone on her daughter's team made a mistake, she would sigh loudly, and shake her head.  Two mistakes in a row, and she would shout, "GET IN THE GAME.  GET THE BALL OVER, GIRLS."  (Isn't that kind of obvious?  This is Volleyball 101, getting the ball over.)  Third mistake?  Ohhh boy. This brings her to her feet, leaning dangerously over the row in front of her, red-faced, stabbing her finger at the players screaming, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE?  TALK TO EACH OTHER. MOVE.  ARE YOU PLAYING VOLLEYBALL OR NOT????"  Then she sits down, looking exhausted.  Now wouldn't you just have loved to be her daughter?  Your mom, who probably needs a quick blood pressure check and a Valium IV, sitting in the bleachers, not there to celebrate the good stuff you're doing, but to keep a running critical commentary of your game. 

I mean this is the kind of rage someone would be justified in having if their grandmother just got run over.  Twice.   

And we wonder why our current generation has no manners???? She certainly didn't discriminate....everyone was an equal opportunity target for her rage.  Refs, kids, coaches. My mom would have said that she was "spitting nails". 

Either way....this woman spent the same twelve hours on the bleachers that we did.  She spent it screaming.  We spent it watching our daughter get some wonderful hits, and make some mistakes.  Life, right?  She is the reason that parents now have to sign "Code of Conduct" agreements.  I kept thinking to myself, "Why in the world is this woman so upset about high school volleyball?"  What am I missing here?  Why the rage?  Why the screaming?"  

I wonder how she would react if the next time she made a mistake, those around her reacted the way she did.   

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Merit Pay

by Pat Antonopoulos

Where to begin?
Maybe with the teacher facing 25 third graders from families struggling with poverty, poor educations, minimum wage jobs and run down neighborhoods.
Give that teacher a 'little blue book' with the requirement that classroom disruptions be noted in the book rather than sending the most disruptive child to the principal for help with behaviors. Of those 25 children take notice that 23 of them are so emotionally scarred that they constantly quarrel with one another, vie for the teacher's attention, and appear to have come to school without any training in self discipline.
Take a look at this teacher haggard by fatigue, frustration plus evening and weekend hours dedicated to the needs of the students. If the opportunity arose, you might notice that the teacher's personal money is being spent for classroom needs.
Over the past 15 years, maybe longer, teachers have been mandated more and more parental responsibilities. Many classroom discipline problems rarely existed years ago. Parents took responsibility for their children's behavior. Parents expected and insured that their kids knew what was expected in the classroom.
Behavior problems at school were quickly addressed at home.
And now? Now the teacher is expected to handle all those issues in the classroom and can even be criticized for the child's behavior! "What did you, (the teacher) do that created the situation whereby my child acts like this? What have you done to correct the behavior?"
Merit pay?
Test scores?
Principal's anecdotal records?
Parent input?
The Merit rests in showing up every making all the effort needed to educate the children so they can break the cycle.
If we want our children educated, parents must take back the responsibility of teaching appropriate school behaviors.
In the meantime, Merit Pay must include those teachers who continue to care about our children even in circumstances where test scores might not or cannot reflect the dedication of these teachers .

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grandpa's Arms

Patti Dickinson

Just the other day my daughter Elizabeth came over for a visit with her daughter, Piper. Elizabeth is eight months pregnant with our fourth grandchild.  Piper went over to the kitchen window and saw our newly hammered-to-the-tree birdhouse.  She walked over to my husband, Wood and said, "Birdhouse"?  He took her hand, arranged her poncho and took her outside.  I watched from the window.  They walked hand-in-hand out to the tree, and he stooped to pick her up to allow her to look inside the house.  Just a few solitary moments together outside.  A grandpa and his granddaughter.  

Gave me pause....watching this man of mine who I have shared thirty-four years of marriage and raised eight kids with.  I wonder how many times he has bent over and scooped a kid into his arms.  To swing in circles in his arms, to bandage a bloody knee, to read a story, to lull to sleep, to quiet a nightmare, to buckle into a carseat, to haul out of a restaurant when the behavior fell apart.  

Now he is polishing those rusty skills and reinventing himself as a grandfather.  

The Studio, Kansas City, Missouri

Patti Dickinson

I am a knitter.  

I have been knitting since I was in college, with many knitting-sabbaticals in the interim.  But I always drifted back.  I maybe could be better described as a yarn collector.  I love the quiet of the knit shop that is just a stone's throw from my neighborhood. The colors, the feel of the yarn, the possibilities for creating something homemade. I have taken some classes there...and I know many of the women who work there.  More than one of them has dealt with my catastrophic knitting dilemmas....untangling the yarn, showing me where I even am in the knitting pattern, or telling me if I have knitted my sock in the round inside out. None of them turn white when they see me coming with a wad of yarn in my hand.  These ladies can take it on the chin.

So yesterday I decided that I needed to finish up the five unfinished projects that I have.  These are unfinished because I am stuck.  So I took two of the projects that I had stopped working on and pulled them out of the bag to refresh my memory, because I got stuck a long time ago.  The bags were dusty! I needed to figure out where I was in the pattern and why I had stopped. Once I had that figured out, I was a woman on a mission.  Off to see Jane.  Or Cindy. Or Mary K.  Or Dee Anne. They would know what to do.  

Sure enough, three of the four of them were there.  They got me back on track with both knitting projects, but that wasn't all.  We talked of the new arrangement of the store, Cindy and I chatted about her three boys, and how well they were doing in school.  Jane got me jump-started again on my knitting projects.  Nice to visit.  A wonderful way to spend an hour.  Almost like stepping off life's treadmill for a quiet visit with women that have come to be friends. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Do We Care?

by Pat Antonopoulos

In the not so distant past, a very good friend and I did a workshop on Effects Of The Media Message. We researched, created charts, read books,quoted professionals, supplied boxes of data to support our observations. We made ourselves available to any group who would invite our message.

My friend and I were elementary teachers, sharing a common area outside her music room and my kindergarten classroom. Someone smilingly deemed our school 'cupcake land' as we seemed to have so much of the good that circumstance can offer. Even here, we documented the changes so evident in our students.

As we presented our workshop material, we talked about the increase in bullying behaviors, the decrease in respect for others, the harm created by fake self esteem--esteem bestowed but not earned.
My friend and I had uncounted examples of media messages wherein the 'put-down', the sarcastic response, the dumbing-down of interactions were prominent. We had so many examples of winning-at-any cost. Examples of media violence filled several boxes.

We viewed many scenes of young girls being portrayed in ways that took away their childhood. Sculpted hair, make-up and clothing designed to be sexy were offered as the ideal.
There were statistics saying that the most popular graduation gift (late '90's and early 2000's)
for females was breast augmentation. Looking good, no matter the cost.

Our girls, our daughters, granddaughters, students, kids next door, were being forced by media pressure to move into behaviors for which they were emotionally unprepared. Fashion demanded tiny tops, short skirts, and tight clothing. These are adult choices, not choices that we should welcome for our middle school children.

There are reports of sexting (the subject of an earlier blog), and even oral sex in the school stair wells. Adult choices being forced onto ever younger children. Choices presented to them by the messages of the media.

Our children have a lifetime of choices ahead. We have forced them into early behavior decisions without insuring the maturity to understand long-term results.

We read about large numbers of depressed young teens, especially girls. We hear of overwhelming sadness coupled with acting out behaviors. Books are being written on the subject of bullying and the staggering increase in these behaviors. When confronted with accepting responsibility for personal behavior, many teens are appalled. Consequences are for someone else. The responsibility is owned by another.

This is not a school issue, though many of the difficulties are apparent in school settings. Teachers and school administrators cannot be the solution. Theirs is the business of educating so our children can become fully functioning adults. Mandated solutions rarely produced good results.

That leaves us---parents and even grandparents. We are not our kid's best friend. We are the adult parent making the difficult choices, guiding, protecting, nurturing our young teens. And we are required to make these choices without a guide book. There are no easy answers. Day by day by day...hard decision by difficult decision, we take back our young teens.

One final thought...
After completing one of the presentation, I was answering questions and welcoming comments from the audience. A mother shook my hand and thanked me for the material. Then, she said, rather sadly, "You know why you will fail in this quest? Because we need the television to make our lives so much easier. We will not give it up."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cooking at 6 a.m.

Patti Dickinson

Got up this morning a little before six.  Before I even had to start getting the kids out of bed, one by one, I had a little time to myself.  That first cup of coffee in the stillness of the morning, dark because of daylight savings time. 

I got out the Weight Watchers cookbook (honestly, some good recipes in there!) and found Margarita Chicken.  Ooops.  This needs to be marinated for 24 hours.  Not to worry, we'd do the shortened version of that, and give it a good solid 12 hours.  Not the first time I have adjusted a recipe to accommodate my lack of planning.  (I made a slow-cook homemade spaghetti sauce once that was supposed to simmer on the stove all day on low.  I just cranked it up to high, and voila, pretty decent sauce in under thirty minutes!)  

I threw the rock-hard chicken in the microwave and pushed "thaw". Meanwhile, I was mincing garlic.  Turning to the refrigerator to get the lime juice, I smelled a suspicious odor.  Something was burning.  Turned, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw small, contained FLAMES inside the microwave. Not a good sign.  The little twist tie had gotten hot enough to ignite the plastic bag!!!  (Somewhere in here there is a science fair idea....)  I wanted that chicken defrosted, not burnt to bits!!!  I opened the microwave door and smoke came billowing out.  Another panicky moment.  What if the smoke alarm went off and the fireman came with that red truck, and I had to tell them that I was defrosting a little chicken in preparation for tonight's Margarita Chicken??? What if I woke up FOUR FIREMAN for THAT?????  I opened both kitchen doors, and turned on the kitchen fan in hopes of ridding the kitchen of the smoke.  I must have been living right...crisis averted.  

Now, where's that coffee?  

Friday, March 6, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Patti Dickinson

To see my latest letter to the editor from the Kansas City Star click HERE and scroll to the bottom of the page to Sympathy for beggars.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Within These Walls

Patti Dickinson

Sitting in my kitchen yesterday, finishing up the last couple of swallows of my coffee before I headed out for my work at the Clinic.  Quiet moments, husband at the office, kids at school. Mary Morgan, home on Spring Break, sleeping the slumber of a too-tired college student, seemingly oblivious to the cacophony of getting kids up and out, doors slamming, the cereal bowls hitting against the sink, the metallic sound of jangled car keys.  Multiple trips up the stairs for jackets, a forgotten book, a tennis racket.  Repeated pleas to hurry up.  

I thought about what memories were contained within the walls of this house. 

We conceived four of eight babies here.  I cried in the kitchen when I got the phone call from my dad saying that my mom had died.  That was the first time I ever heard my dad cry. Thanksgiving dinners, Halloween costumes, Easter egg hunts,  fires in the fireplace.  Games at the kitchen table -- backgammon, Chutes and Ladders, Blink.  First days of school.  The kids' friends coming through our back door to play, work on school projects, have band practice in our garage, come to a birthday party.  

How many first time drivers headed down the driveway for that first solo trip in the car. Homecoming and Prom pictures taken on our front porch.  Kids coming through the back door with good news and bad.  A detention, making Varsity, a fender bender, a college acceptance letter, a failed test. How many phone calls had come from teachers, boyfriends/girlfriends, from the pediatrician, an out-of-touch college roommate.  Basketball and Four Square games on spring/summer evenings. 

How many years we hung the stockings with care.  How many times we have crushed Shredded Wheat by the front step for Rudolph (and how much Shredded Wheat that Rudolph was too full to eat would get tracked into the house).  How many times we pulled out of the driveway for our vacation. Raking leaves, putting Christmas lights on the house.  How many college applications have been filled out. How many newpapers have been thrown in the driveway, how many times my kids mowed the lawn, how many gooey butter birthday cakes I've made.  This house was the scene of one broken leg and two broken collarbones.

And as each grandchild made his/her appearance, we were back to sticky handprints on the windows.  

Yes, we'd come full circle.   

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Reluctant Blogger

By Pat Antonopoulos

Remember that book, The Reluctant Tourist? A traveler not into the moment, not able to appreciate the adventure? The content of the book escapes but I do remember the title, perfect for my attempts to blog.

Blogging is part of the new highway of adventure, right? A way to get from here (my words) to there (you, the reader). I am the tourist and I come to you, the reader, with a spirit of adventure, a willingness to risk my thoughts as they will be processed through your perspectives, a tourist of the mind.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you might have noticed some foot-dragging by one of Four Ordinary Women. That would be me.
My blog-mate can write of tee shirts, coffee grounds, and winning or loosing old reliable games. She writes it with a sense of fun. Her blogs are good for double it twice to savor all the words and the content. Guessing that her blogs outnumber mine three to one.

However, this is not to say that I value these exchanges any less. Stephen King uses 'gentle reader' when he speaks through his books. That is nice. I like that. And I would very much like to find your words on our blog. Wouldn't it be fun to take this tour together?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A New College T-shirt for the Laundry Basket

Patti Dickinson

For those of you that have been following my blog, you know that I have a high school senior. Andrew.  This morning he and my husband got up at five a.m. and drove to Lincoln, Nebraska to look at the University of Nebraska.  Neither one wanted breakfast (okay, I just offered a banana or a bowl of cereal, it's five o'clock in the morning!  I can't do pancakes at that hour!). Anyway, I knew that the first stop out of the driveway was the McDonald's drive-through.  They don't tell me because I always go on my tirade about what a nutritional train wreck that kind of breakfast is.  Who eats fried eggs with American cheese on them, anyway?  Ugh.  

The University has 17,000 students, a much bigger school than he thought he wanted.  But after looking at a 3,000 student school, he knew that that wasn't a fit.  One of the professors he met did layout design for the front page of the New York Times.  I mean....what's not to like about that kind of experience?

He bought a UNL t-shirt.  In this family, that kind of seals the deal.  You come home from a college visit with a t-shirt, well --- now we know who to make out the tuition checks to. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Not So Ordinary Experience

by Pat Antonopoulos

Our writing is our neighborhood to share with the reader, to mourn and to celebrate what is---and what isn't in our lives. Perspectives. Fresh insights into the common aspects of our lives. Learning, through writing, to treasure family, marriage, friendships.
These are just two examples of our efforts to write the perfect subtitle. In ten words or less, explain your book and voila! a subtitle for the book cover. Simple, or so we thought.

We struggled, and still struggle, with a subtitle for our book, Four Ordinary Women. lists our book, but without a cover picture or the names of those people who wrote such beautiful and appreciated endorsements. By the end of next week, every aspect of Four Ordinary Women will be in place, we will be officially launched.

Our life lessons are made public. Our perspectives open to scrutiny. We wrote to share both wonder and anguish, hoping for that connection with you, the reader, that comes through genuine concern.

Please accept this invitation to join us by reading and sharing your thoughts about Four Ordinary Women.