Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scrambled Egg Ripples

Patti Dickinson

Sunday morning. Wood and I, home with our sleeping college-bound son, Andrew. Everyone else gone! We are three teenagers shy of a chaotic household. One on an Outward Bound, one at the Lake and one at an out-of-town wedding. So I suggest (drum roll here.....) Breakfast out!

So we slid into the booth at International House of Pancakes. (In the retelling of this story later to my absentee teenagers, they did a you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-mom, it's-IHOP!! Hmmm, well I've spent my life calling it the long version!) We order, have some coffee, relax into the comfort of the booth and talk about how we used to do this type thing all the time before we had kids. The young couple in the booth behind my husband have a baby --- a kiddo all decked out in her Sunday finest. Standing on her dad's legs and looking over his shoulder. At me. And she and I exchange about a smile every five seconds throughout the rest of the meal. I mean, this kid is happy.

So we get up to leave, and I tell this couple what a great baby they have, and it is obvious from their smiles that they couldn't agree more. We get to the cashier and I grab Wood's arm and say, "Let's buy them breakfast!" He smiles, and I tell the cashier that we want to pay for the young couple-with-the-baby's-breakfast. She rings both tables up, and we leave. I say, "I have always wanted to do that!!!!!!" (My husband does this sort of thing on a regular basis....he pays for the car behind him at the McDonald's drive-through.)

I have started and stopped this blog many times....didn't want to sound like I was blowing my own horn. No -- I just love that pay it forward concept. We had first-hand experience with pay it forward one time, years ago, after 8 a.m. Mass at St. Agnes, with eight kids in the front pew (they pay attention better from that vantage point, although it makes it a long way to evacuate the church if you have a kid that you have to haul out of there --- especially if said kid is screaming "I'll-be-good-I'll-be-good-I'll-be-good"all the way down the half-a-mile aisle). We were approached by an older gentleman. He shook Wood's hand, and slipped him $100. He simply said, "Boy I remember those days with my family. Have a great day."

I spent the rest of the day wondering what that couple did/said when they got to the cash register. What their reaction was. And if someday a long time from now, they too will go out to breakfast, and reminisce about the day that some couple paid for their breakfast at International House of Pancakes (I like the long version better.) I just love those ripples.....


by Pat Antonopoulos

There are times when I am so annoying. Something gets hold of my sense of "right-with-the-world and I latch onto the subject with brain, voice and typing fingers.

This is one of those times, so be fair and fore warned.

Yesterday, the authors of Four Ordinary Women were interviewed by Rachel of the Kansas City Star. Allison, also from the Kansas City Star, took photographs and added to the fun of the experience.

We sat around the table in Patti's beautiful kitchen answering questions, offering opinions and sharing insights. Rachel and Allison gave snippets of their lives as they recorded our interview. Towards the end of the interview, Wood, Mary Morgan, Andrew and Meghan gathered in the kitchen. Quietly, they watched their Mom and friends as they worked to keep a calm professional demeanor that threatened to give way to bursts of the joy connected with this step along the road of Four Ordinary Women.

Here is where brain and heart are going to falter. I don't think I have the words to usher the feelings of this experience. We ranged from teens to seventy, with generational steps between---students, young professionals, creative and employed adults, mother managing this wonderful family while giving volunteer hours and a retired grandmother. Listening, responding, smiling and engaged attention to one another made the hour dissolve into a moment of pure enjoyment. If laughter and concern for others can cure any ailments, we all came away much healthier and definitely more appreciative of this gift of many facets---Four Ordinary Women.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Enabling--- A Ramble Through That Mire

by Pat Antonopoulos

The word 'purchase' seems to be one of those vogue words that has popped up too often. "To gain purchase", reads like cliche. But there are times when the perfection of a cliche earns the repetition.

Enabling is a word of degree that, when taken to extreme, allows self destruction to gain that purchase--that ever increasing hold that fights off any attempts to break the pattern. Current culture facilitates a hunger for the mire. Reality television, book store sections of memoirs, and T.V. talk shows constantly turn the switch on a fleeting spotlight of fame. Ratings indicate that the audiences cannot get enough of the mire. Some of that hunger for ugliness helps to feed a solace perception that others are worse...that we are not that messed up.

As parents, we form a lifetime of enabling as the baby begins to learn independence, standing, crawling, walking, running. We are there to enable each step. The ability to sort comfort from responsibility is easily blurred. There are times when our hopes for the maturing child are confused with what will serve the child-to-adult. Enabling can become the habit that allows self-destructive behavior to gain that purchase.

For many of us, it takes years to differentiate between loving support and enabling.
Often, awareness seeps in long before we are hit with a wall that forces a debilitating wash of sadness over the guilt that brought a loved one to such a painful place. Even then we vacillate. We soothe by saying it was done with loving concern and the hope that one more toe hold up the ladder will be the step that makes a difference.

If we, the parent, have been parented poorly, we perceive ourselves as creating a safe place----a place that was not part of our nurture----always there, arms outstretched to soften the fall, soothe the ego, fight the battles, pay the toll, doing what was not done for us. We read the books on love with conditions, natural consequences, incentives, behavior contracts, seeking the help of experts---experts who neither know nor love our children. One more step in the process of enabling a sorting of a mire that has become overwhelming.

This blog IS a ramble. It reads like I am dropping weights on an equal arm balance but have no idea how to stabilize the pressures. A storm is pelleting soaking hail while I stand under a tattered umbrella of mostly spines and little fabric.

Which brings me, yet again, to you, dear reader. Those of you who are parents have thoughts to share, ways to balance, children to help. This blog is for you--for your story, success or failure, ways to enable all of us to improve our parenting, no matter the age of our children. Your input is encouraged and truly appreciated.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Empathy Quotient

by Pat Antonopoulos

Searching for an answer to this division of perceptions.

The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.

The far side of this coin probably results in making excuses for and generally taking behavior outside the realm of personal actions. We have all done it. Blamed the coach, the teacher, even friends for our child's participation in a negative. That side of the coin spins a very long way.

But where is the other side? Lost in the self needs...the I-want...the so called self-actualization process? Have we become so focused on meeting each of our personal goals/needs that we have lost our grip on empathy?

There are times when I believe that we have created a monster of self-esteem, a monster that chews up our gentler interactions with one another. Of course, I am not negating the value of self-worth, the worth that comes for honest successes.

I am negating the cheering section that thunders for every crayon mark, childhood blooper and the nonsense of overdone expensive birthday parties.

Empathy requires a putting aside of self in the interest of 'caring for and feeling with' the needs of others. Empathy once softened the bullying of middle school years and I struggle to find that softening. In fact, I struggle to find empathy in many areas of our society.

Near Empty House!

Patti Dickinson

Silence. Or near silence. The silence of no voices, just household sounds. My spouse good naturedly got up to drive to the airport this morning with Margaret, our going-into-eighth grade daughter who is flying to Boston to begin an Outward Bound. Twelve days roughing it on a sailboat with ten other like-minded, adventuresome girls. Camp-soap-for-washing-all-body- parts-and-hair kind of adventure. They left for the airport about 4:45 a.m. after a handful of my shouted reminders out the back door. Then I walked slowly back to bed, shutting off lights in reverse order as I went. (The reason for the slow part was in case Wood was watching the house from the end of the driveway and I wouldn't want him to see consecutive lights going out too quickly so it wouldn't be so obvious where I was going!)

Mary is at the Lake with her boyfriend and his family for a wedding. Meghan left about 8 a.m. for two days at the lake with a carful of friends. And that leaves Wood and I, and our son, Andrew.

One kid at home. I jokingly told Andrew yesterday that since he was here without siblings (it never happens) that his dad and I could concentrate all of our collective parenting skills on him. That for two nights, he could play only-child. He looked at me warily, searching/hoping for the punch line, until I smiled. He will be out tonight with his girlfriend, or playing late-night tennis with his friends on a lighted court somewhere.

Boy, I am a lucky woman. Kids with a sense of adventure, kids with friends surrounding them. Can't put a price tag on those things, huh? Date night tonight....dinner at Lydia's, my most favorite restaurant, and Wood's not-so-favorite, so it's a nice gesture.

In the coming years, the last four kids at home will grow up and head off to the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, our lives as a couple will play out here....and in many conversations on the front porch, we will reminisce about all the goofy, happy, sometimes sad things that were the script of our lives. Yup, I'm a lucky woman.

Friday, June 26, 2009

No Sputter Zone

Patti Dickinson

Friendship among fifty-somethings.....they take work to keep them from sputtering.

As many of you know, I lost a friend to lung cancer January 4 of this year. For about eight weeks, three of us came and went from hospice and shared some incredibly intimate moments with Janice, her spouse, her kids, Renee, her long ago college roommate and each other. This went way beyond the kind of conversation you would have at a chance meeting in the produce aisle at the grocery store. We were part of the journey of Janice leaving this life...and all the emotions that go along with that.

And gentle Sara....she made it her mission to make sure that we didn't lose touch....we who had shared some terribly difficult moments together at Janice's bedside. Many emails have bounced around cyberspace, trying, since January to find a date/time that we could meet for dinner. We finally accomplished that. Busy schedules...one of us, Carol, is a doctor. Her schedule can be unpredictable.

We met last night at Cactus Grill, over espinaca dip and two baskets of chips. We fast-forwarded each other through our lives over the past six months. Hit the highpoints, laughed at Carol's duck story (driving to work down Rainbow at seven a.m. on a Sunday morning, and there is a duck, with eight or ten ducklings trying to get across the street. Somehow one of the little ducks got caught in the storm sewer, she called the police, they "don't handle ducks" and Doctor Stanford, on all fours, yanks this little duck out of the drain and shoos all the ducks out of the street with no help from the police!!!). All this, before doing rounds at the hospital. We talked of the upcoming release of a book I co-wrote, Four Ordinary Women. The how/when/where/why. The whole spectrum, from rejection letters to book signings.

And isn't life funny? Three women who had three sons who were elementary school classmates. Their moms drawn together by school carnivals, Boy Scout campouts, spelling bees and first dates. And they lose a friend to cancer. Honored to have shared the escorting-out part of our friend's life.

Thanks, Sara for making last night happen. The power of women's friendships is underestimated. They feed the soul, elicit laughs that make our faces hurt and connect us not only to each other but to understanding more about ourselves.

The John Deere paradox.....

Patti Dickinson

How is it that Andrew, my college-bound son, considers it "way too hot" to mow, but not "way too hot" to play three hours of tennis in this blistering heat?

And the mower is self-propelled.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Tribute

by Pat Antonopoulos


One man, four names given by four grandchildren.

An arbitrary decision made by card manufacturers has designated today as a time to appreciate generations of fathers. We probably need that yearly prompt reminding us to honor dads, thanking them for the years of intense commitment to protecting us body and spirit.

Our tributes are laurels for every man who deserves the title and who lives the responsibility.

A more specific and personal tribute is for Grandpa-G.P.-Papa-Hahba, a man who, by saying, I Do! accepted a ready-made family. It is this family who gave him the joy of four grandchildren. He has truly honored his role of step dad, protecting body and spirit in all his five chosen children.

Today, he is husband, step dad, father-in-law and grandfather. And he lives these promises 365 days year to year to year. There are no cards or gifts to honor that level of commitment. From deep in the heart...thank you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Kahlil Gibran said, "Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity."
Isn't that beautiful! Friendship becomes a force--a sweet imperative for a rich life. But more...so much more. Responsibility takes friendship out of the modern concept of both networking and good times. Responsibility puts friendship into one of the most important commitments we can make. Nurturing a friendship is a nurturing of self and never to be taken lightly.

Often we read that a true friend will accept us totally, the part we show most of the world and the part we cover in shadow. Maybe. But the shadow part cannot surpass the boundaries a friend holds as inviolable. There are limits of acceptance. Many friendships are strained because a line is crossed. All friendships do not survive the burden of another's darkest self. Some friendships do not survive something as mundane as routine social mores. Some do not survive our individualistic society because caring for the friend as one cares for self just isn't going to happen. We accept the ministrations of friendship as our due, but sometimes pass over a quiet plea for help. Some of us want to receive the care from friendship rather than be the provider of shelter in those darkest times.

Maybe the process of friendship is ongoing...takes a long time to become...has name but not substance for extended periods. Maybe we need a new word that fits between acquaintance and friend...a word that honors the becoming but does not presume the result.

Exploring friendship, we can discover those who truly listen and care about the voice in which we speak. We find those who let us unfold one conversation at a time accepting differing points of view as a building process and not as personal attacks or arguments. And if we are very lucky, we share a great deal of laughter and support as we explore.

Are you kidding me?????

Patti Dickinson

What's up with all this reality television? Wood is out of town, so last night I found myself scuffing around the house looking for something to do. I sat down with my daughter, Meghan, who was watching 18 and Counting. For the uninitiated, this is a family with 18 kids who, in this particular episode are traveling cross-country to a convention that they attend every year. I tuned in late, but I think that the gist was that all the attendees were families that home-schooled their children. (Memo to self....this should be the first indicator that a mental health evaluation is indicated....)

Look, I have eight kids. I know big numbers. I know how much spaghetti gets snapped over the boiling water to feed a family of ten. I know that once four of the ten of us shower, six are going to be sudsing in ice water. Ever wonder why when you ring my doorbell after six pm I am fresh-scrubbed with wet hair?

I watched this group load up the silver home-on-wheels that slept eighteen. That included a trailer on the back that contained eighteen bikes, two large picnic tables, and two golf carts. Could I be making this stuff up??? I don't know how long they were staying at this convention, but the dad made mention of the fact that they had packed equal numbers of hot dogs and hamburgers to cook on their brought-from-home, oversized charcoal grill. Five hundred, total.

I consider myself a pretty decent mom. I never forgot to enroll a kid in Kindergarten. I never had a Dickinson version of a kid who was Home Alone. Remember that movie? (Okay, one time we all went to a Girl Scout Picnic at the kids' elementary school. We piled hot, sweaty, dirty kids in the car to go home, got home and corralled them toward the bathtub. One at a time, dunking them in, drying them off and heading them toward bed. But wait....someone is missing. OMIGOSH. Mary Morgan is still at the Girl Scout picnic!!!! Turns out, she was busy with friends and never even knew that she got left. To this day -- and she is TWENTY years old, she still talks about being the "forgotten middle child".)

I ratcheted up my voyeuristic curiousity when I watched them pull the silver-mobile over on the highway because they had a flat tire. Honestly, the dad had to be on a Valium drip. Gets out of the trailer in the pouring rain, and circles the vehicle while smiling. Finds the tire that is shredded, and nonchalantly begins looking for the right tools to fix the problem. Not the frantic search that would happen at the Dickinson's.....let's just leave it that it would be a very different scenario in our family. The mom, that would be me, would likely wonder aloud (trying hard to keep the shrillness out of her voice) whether it might not have been a good idea to check the air in said tires before venturing hundreds of miles down the highway. Nope, the dad maintained his cool until the repair was complete. In fact, the family, waiting inside, were having lighthearted conversation, and one of the kids was wandering around outside, picking wildflowers. And he wasn't yanking them out of the ground in handfuls, either.

This isn't reality television. Can't be. No one smiles over a flat tire in the rain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Midnight Rainbows

by Pat Antonopoulos

Insomnia plagues some of our family members. Bouts of sustained sleeplessness come and go with no discernible pattern. Deeply asleep for the earliest part of the night and then suddenly wide awake with no hope of more restorative hours. Attitude suffers right along with energy levels that drop steadily. How I dreaded the first sign that the cycle was beginning.

One of my sons decided it was because there were periods when we could not switch off our minds. Darting from one thing to another, the mind would not quiet enough to allow sleep. So...I tried boring my mind into giving way. Not exactly counting sheep, but all sort of convoluted math activities designed to force sleep out of frustration. End result was I did get faster at subtracting multiple numbers from 999---over and over and over. Tiny benefit for prolonged effort.

A simple solution might have been and OTC sleep aid, but I tend to research every thing I swallow and usually decide that the side effects sound worse than the current problem.

My new plan is discovering midnight rainbows.
My life is blessed with amazing people and the memories surrounding each of them.
When insomnia gives me extra hours, those hours become a concentrated effort to focus on important moments of our lives.

Maybe the key words are 'concentrated effort', because it certainly isn't an activity to turn off the mind. Frustration begs for sleep.
Morning grogginess continues to need extra caffeine. Being alone for a long morning walk takes the grouchiness out the door and away from affecting others.

Those midnight rainbows absolutely do not sparkle, but they are adding some comforting memories to those sustained sleepless hours. And the recall is forcing me to focus on the amazing people in my life, children, grandchildren, siblings, friends,former students and their families.

My grandmother had a saying cobbled and convoluted from her sense of life: "Don't waste your time trying to make a silk purse from that sow's ear." Always makes me smile...and I sometimes do wonder if Grandma had it right.

In the meantime, insomnia has an adversary, midnight rainbows, and rainbows always elicit a sigh of appreciation.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Seven Steps

by Pat Antonopoulos

After years of gathering, supporting, building relationships and writing, we scuffed in a circle not knowing how to proceed. Publish? Not Publish? All of us? Some of us? A friend who knew the intricacies of publishing suggested that 'getting published' might not be the most difficult challenge. His perspective suggested that maintaining the relationships was an even greater obstacle. Competition, ego, assigning blame--all human tendencies, would ooze into the process.

In our euphoria, we discounted his experience, vowing that we had the character and courage to continue in friendship and determination. However, balancing the wishes of everyone could not happen. When the goal of being published became firm, our group grew smaller. From the original ten women, various kinds of attrition brought us to four --- Four Ordinary Women.

We began the work of finding a publisher, making that goal the measure of our success. Hours and efforts melted into the joy of knowing our book was in process. A publisher sent a contract.

A new yardstick, a new goal, new hours and efforts took renewed commitments of time and energy. With a beautiful book in hand, we realized that the launch was not the success. Launch was a step, but not a time for laurels.

Our first signing event at Keeler Womens Center was amazing, a subject of previous blogs. This will always carry the imprint of our first public success. In truth, it was a gentle and supportive baby step. Much more was to come.

As we reviewed our new and daunting goals, someone suggested the trite game of Seven Steps to Kevin Bacon, a method of connecting any human on the planet to any other human by seven steps of increased contact. If the game works, any of us could be introduced to Joyce Carol Oats, Bill Gates, Colin Powell, Pope Benedict, Oprah, Ellen, Coretta Scott King, or a woman selling jewelry in a remote village somewhere on this earth---all through seven handshakes along the process. These seven steps might connect Four Ordinary Women to that public figure who could help us with impressive sales.

Together, we have smiled at this suggestion as we continue our work of making contacts, pursuing author events,gulped and shallow breathing when overwhelmed, middle of the night prayers, day light doubts constantly squelched by an intense belief in our book and in one another.

But...just in case you, dear reader, happen to be one of our seven steps to success, we invite you to visit us (gold embossed heavy duty invitation) through our website www.fourordinarywomen.com

Friday, June 12, 2009

40 in a 30

Patti Dickinson

I confess. I have a lead foot. Wood would tell you that I can drive a GMC truck as if it's a sports car. That's a compliment, right?

I left the house this afternoon to drive over to Elizabeth's so she and I could go to lunch. Got in a bit of a hurry. Ten miles per hour too much of a hurry. I see the cruiser, lurch the car to slow down the forward momentum (I've often wondered what cops think when they see cars doing that) but my timing was off. I registered on the radar. Quick little "Wrrrrp" of the siren and I was busted. I pulled over and by the time he got to my driver's side window I had my driver's license ready. He looked at me, I returned the look and said, with a smile on my face. "You got me." I guess the usual reaction is more toward the "&%#$*" end of the spectrum, because he smiled, but tilted his head and looked like it was paining him just a bit to have to do this to me. So I said, "Hey, it's okay. You got me fair and square." He took my license. I said, "I live right up the street...." and he made eye contact again and said, "This one's on me. Bad idea to speed in your neighborhood."

What a day brightener.

Hand wringing, then hand shaking

Patti Dickinson

Yesterday morning I got up with a huge knot in my stomach. Looked in the mirror and saw the result of three continuous days of Kansas humidity. Fuzz hair.

Big day today. Our first ever book signing. Today three of the four authors of Four Ordinary Women were going to Keeler Women's Center to talk about women's friendship, and the why, when, where and how of this book writing journey. We were a wreck. All three of us. I left the house without my purse. No driver's license (and probably the only time in the last six months that I drove exactly the speed limit there and back all the while praying that I didn't have an expired tag!!!). Nine pennies in the cup holder in my car. Good thing I wasn't a Boy Scout. The two other authors forgot their outlines.

We stood at the front of the room as people came in. There was a nice sign-in sheet, not a xeroxed plain piece of white paper. Papers with a pink logo, some pens nearby and a small vase of fresh flowers. What a nice quiet, no-fuss way to welcome authors and participants. I felt the knot loosening. And then the participants came. Kind, encouraging faces....extended hands, many taking my hand in both of theirs (don't you just love that?) Making eye contact, and making this initial introduction much more than a way to get from the sign-in sheet to a chair.

We were introduced, talked, answered questions, read from the book....all the expected stuff. But what wasn't expected was the feeling lingering in the air. The we're-happy-for-your-success, we-appreciate-you-being-here, we-are-happy-to-have-spent-this-time-with-you. This group didn't follow the sum-is-greater-than-the-parts adage. No, the parts, each and every person present, were great all by themselves. It was just terrific to be in a roomful of them. Strangers all.

I hope that some of them will read this....I want them to know that they are the most gracious and genuine group of people that I have ever had the pleasure to share time with. God bless you all.

We Are Launched/ Keeler Women's Center

by Pat Antonopoulos

Funny. I thought I would open the blog and my fingers would do this automatically...that all the emotions of my heart and head would spill through my fingers...that this one would write itself. Not happening easily. Who knew that appreciation and gratitude could produce overload.

On Thursday, June 11, Patti Dickinson, Jo Ann Stanley and I gave our first Four Ordinary Women presentation and signing event at Keeler Women's Center. Shawna Samuel, our fourth fellow author could not attend.

Sister Carol Ann and Sister Barbara were gracious and welcoming, doing much to calm our butterfly jitters.

I was reacquainted with the sure and certain knowledge that the audience makes a huge difference. The women and men attending our event were amazing---smiling, nodding, making eye contact and generally giving us the feed-back that made the presentation flow with ease.
Questions were pertinent and important. Their comments gave us an inch or two of new height as we tended to do that float-off-the-ground thing---just a bit.

From pretty overwhelming apprehension to total fun and appreciation in just over one hour! Who knew?

My parents taught appreciation and the importance was not lost, but this Keeler event has done much to reinforce that life lesson. As I continue to float around on this cloud, I know why the cloud is firmly in place.

The foundation is our book, Four Ordinary Women, and the hours to months to years that Patti and I have invested in this endeavor. We have been supported by the ongoing encouragement and help from Wood Dickinson, Bob Antonopoulos, my son, Chris Day, and Jim Riordan at Seven Locks. Keeler Women's Center has given us our first big step and the audience made that step more fun and productive than I dared to imagine.

My most sincere thanks and deep appreciation.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leaning in

Patti Dickinson

Last night Wood and I went to the Yanni concert at Sprint Center. Yanni is one of the reasons I don't blow the blood pressure cuff right off my arm when I go for my physical. He calms me. We had great seats, in a just a little more than a half-full Sprint Center. (We got those good seats b/c my spouse has learned to work the system. You join the fan club. That removes the option of banging-your-head-on-the-ceiling seats.) Anyway, seats good enough that we could count freckles. Halfway through the concert....through music that moved me to tears (I know, everything moves me to tears) I had a lightbulb moment. Yanni is a man that leans into his passion. Puts himself a little bit off balance to make connection with the soul of the audience. And I started doing a mental checklist of people I know who do that same kind of leaning.

Joe Rodgers does. He trims our trees. Oh, he doesn't just cut out the dead stuff and leave a mess in the yard that the mower will be choking on for the next couple of weeks. No --- Joe is an artist. Trees are his passion. He walks around the yard. Index finger of his right hand, vertical over his chin and lips. No hack job here. Our trees are artistically manicured. He worked diligently on a tree of ours....an old hackberry. Joe thought it was about 150 years old. Sat right in our front yard, framing the house. Joe gave that tree a lot of attention each time he came. And he always said that it wasn't thriving anymore, but he wouldn't take it down. Said he had it cabled just right and if it ever did come down, it would fall into the driveway, not onto the house. He was right. It fell into the driveway. But darn it, it's where the 1981 navy blue Volvo station wagon was parked. Hit it in the middle of the roof and the car was shaped like a V.

I know a para at the middle school where Margaret goes to school. A retired fellow. He is at the front door when the handicapped bus arrives each morning. He wheels in the four or five kids who are in wheelchairs. He leans into his day too. Cheerful, happy to see those kids, and they light up when they see him. Yup, he touches some souls.

Mike, the sacker at the Hen House. Shines from within. Asks about the kids, my husband, helps me out and seems surprised every time I tip him (I have a rule about tipping. If the sacker doesn't talk to me on the way to the car, I tip $1. If he talks, I double it. Mike costs me a little more...but his happy demeanor is such a refreshing diversion. Yup. Mike leans into his job, too. Sacks those groceries, and talks all the way to the car.

Would you share a "leaning in" person that you know?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kid # 4 is Launched

Patti Dickinson

Friday, late morning, our family made the six hour trek to Galesburg, Illinois, to attend Kathleen's graduation from Knox.  A button-popping moment for her mom and dad.  This is a kid who personifies joie de vivre (brushing off my high school French here), owns a moral compass that points due north and has just been a great kid always.  Well, just about.

Oh, she's had her share of missteps.  When she was five, she was out in the backyard with her sister, Claire, who is eleven months older than she is.  They were playing out in the woodpile. Kathleen picked up a log, looked at Claire and said, "Duck", then pitched the log right at Claire.  Claire, instead of "duck", the verb, (as in flinching and with haste, move in a different direction) said, "Where?'  thinking it was "duck" the noun (a web-footed bird with an orange beak) and got hit right smack in the middle of the forehead.  Kathleen, horrified, came running to the back door, Claire (still seeing stars and now with an ugly welt in the northern half of her face) in tow.  

Graduation was memorable.  It was held in the courtyard of Old Main, under a threatening sky.  Right after the keynote speaker took the stage, the sky opened up and it poured.  Fortunately for the Dickinson family, the mom, ever the pro-active genius, insisted that we stop at Target the day before to buy three umbrellas that we could share in the event of a bad-outcome weather-size, amidst the groans of all the other Dickinson's who thought the whole stop to be totally unnecessary and even a bit annoying. I did some shameless smirking as I handed out the umbrellas as we got pelted with rain, making each kid look me in the eye before putting the umbrella in their outstretched palm with a decided thwack as it made contact in the hand-off. (About five percent of the audience had umbrellas....it would have been a terrific and highly lucrative money-maker had I thought ahead....)

After the ceremony, there was a picnic lunch.  I was having a very hard time swallowing the sandwich.  This had nothing to do with the overdone beef, and more to do with the lump in my throat.  This year, we wouldn't be driving Kathleen home with us for the summer.  This year, Kathleen was moving to Chicago. She will be putting her technical theatre degree to good use, working at The Vitalist Theatre.  A wonderful internship that was a result of four years of hard work. She is lucky to have snagged that job in this dismal economy.  

Both Wood and I wrote her a note (we have been writing the kids notes for years.....to celebrate privately and in words that they will have forever, celebrations, disappointments, accomplishments and defeats) and I told her that the porch light is always on.  Ultimately, that is the biggest gift for both of us. To be blessed with her visit and to know that home, home will always be where her story began. 

Break a leg, Kathleen!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Times Square to the Roeland Park Dome in Less than 24 hours....

Patti Dickinson

I am back from the Book Expo.  It was held in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.  We took a hair-raising taxi ride over there from our hotel (I've had going on seven kid-drivers in my house and none of them came close to this ride!)  How is it that these drivers never have wrecks?  They maneuver their golden yellow cars into spaces in traffic that I could not have imagined that they would fit....but we got there in one piece, only slightly disheveled (front and back windows of the taxi all the way open and in between blocks/stop lights we were easily going 60 mph, so you can imagine the hair.....we sort of lurched our way to the Book Expo.  

Once there, we just stood in the lobby starstruck.  Joyce Carol Oates was signing autographs....and the place was packed with publishers, authors, buyers.  We got a guidebook, where all the publishers were listed by location within the building and headed up the escalator.  Once we found the Seven Locks table, I got my first time ever look at Jim Riordan, the publisher who made this not-so-small miracle --- taking a bunch of dog-eared m/s pages and waving the editing wand, converting them into a hardback book!  Wood took a picture of the two of us, with me holding the book.  Yup, the whole scene screamed "first time author".  I don't imagine Joyce felt compelled to have a picture of herself with her publisher/book.  

The rest of the weekend was wonderful.  All was quiet on the home front....no news is good news kind of thing.  We ate some great food -- Sardi's, Giambelli's 50th, and 21 Club.  Took in two plays, Mama Mia and 9-5.  Prince Harry was in town, as was Barack and Michelle for their "date night".  Those two gave new meaning to the word gridlock.  Bomb squad trucks, and easily 15 of NYC's finest on each street corner, for miles.  I love the sights and smells and noise of NYC.  I was born in New York, and a part of that grimy, busy city will always be part of me on the cellular level.

Wood and I took a nap....something we haven't done in years. Time to talk, uninterrupted. Those conversations meandered in a way that they just can't at home, with phones jangling, kids needing rides....life interrupting.

But this morning, at 5:45, I was back to hitting the floor running. 6:30 swim practice and a 7:00 volleyball clinic.  Stopped for bagels on the way home....it's good to be back.

A Death in Kansas

by Pat Antonopoulos

This is not a statement of my personal beliefs concerning abortion. It is not my intention to address my beliefs and/or the beliefs of others concerning abortion.

These facts were reported on the radio early today.
Dr. George Tiller, M.D. is dead, shot while ushering at his place of worship in Wichita, Kansas.
Dr. Tiller performed abortions at the clinic started by his father. He leaves a wife of 45 years, several children and ten grandchildren. The shooter a 51 year old male, lived in the Kansas City area.
Again, these are the facts as reported on the radio.

That trite cliche, "Cannot get my head around this" expresses my efforts to sort through the feelings that came with the news report. Did the shooter believe himself to be the appointed executioner? Did the shooter use the pragmatic end justifies the means to make the decision to pull that trigger? Had the shooter agonized balancing his beliefs concerning abortion with his beliefs concerning the murder of a man? Was this act his considered sacrifice---the sacrifice of Dr. Tiller and the sacrifice of himself?

Perhaps some of these questions will be answered as the story is covered by news sources, by pro life supporters and by pro choice groups, by organizations defending the legal status of abortion and church groups defending their beliefs. Each group will have the opportunity to see the act as reflected in their position statements, to balance as their beliefs dictate.

Again...this is in no way a statement of my personal beliefs regarding abortion.

But it is a statement of mourning, of grief for this act, and the ramifications of the act. Grief for what led to the shooting, grief for the symbolism of shooting a person in a church,
and grief for what will most likely follow this Sunday morning shooting.