Friday, July 31, 2009

Eight Blue Eyes

Patti Dickinson

Last night we had our book signing at Rainy Day Books in Fairway. Owners Vivien Jennings and her partner Roger manage to pair professional and gracious beautifully. The evening began with running into an old friend, Susan and her husband Bruce. Long ago friends. We go all the way back to high school (and that might even qualify for long, long ago!) And Donna....a friend that has been there for every one of life's big events....I have lost count remembering just how many of our kids she and her husband Larry are godparents for! And Claire....a friend of seven years, who came to show her gentle support. And my kids, who came in one-by-one to say, without words, "Yeah, mom." And Wood. He believed in this book before I did. I'd marry this man all over again.

Inside the store, as we waited for the start time, we were greeted by smiling face after smiling face coming in the door, friends who were sharing our accomplishment.

We were seated behind a table, all four of us. Identical, quick drying pens were distributed. And the signing began. Dozens of folks, asking questions about the how/when/where of this book's conception and birth. One woman said to me, "I read your book already, and I am here to buy two more copies for my daughters. I wanted to come to meet you, because I feel like I already know you all." Wow. That alone would have made the evening. Because that is just exactly what we were aiming for....we wanted women to read our book and think, "Yes, I know just what you mean." or "Yes, I have had that same struggle."

As the evening wound down, as the crowd dwindled, about ten of us were still conversing around the table. One of them said, " all four of you have blue eyes?"

We do. And we never noticed it before. Hmmmm. A sequel? Eight Blue Eyes?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Forever Now

by Pat Antonopoulos

We establish our silent companions as we mature, not always able to discard the most painful. The death of a parent, spouse, a child, sibling or a friend can add grief to those over-the-shoulder companions that whisper their presence throughout our lives. Time doesn't really heal loss. We find ways to diminish feeling, but death of a loved one becomes a life time companion.

Memories of harm clutch, and refuse our struggle to let go. Betrayal festers, no matter the degree.

Ghosts? Memories? Spirits? The silent companions are with us. A line in a book, the breeze across the porch, a smile from a stranger, or the giggle of a child can force us recognize grief yet again.

Silent meals become the norm because what needs to be spoken cannot be said. All other conversations are far too trivial. The walls of the house become a fortress protecting us from the world that cannot understand.

All this is reality, that "time to weep". But we are amazing creatures. When we are able, we talk. It takes time and patience to get to the deepest part of pain but baby steps simply take longer. When we find that person who has earned our trust, we begin to diminish our pain.

Friendship is an extraordinary gift that can be shared by all ordinary people.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Artists of pen, paint, movement, camera, sound, raw materials and thought receive the label. Works are sorted and valued by the degree of perceived creativity filtered through layered judgements.

Children bombard with creativity. If not restricted, they play with abandon and their creativity seems endless. The first stick person or a pretend pink sky truly are creative. Pirates, dragons, princesses and super heroes are spontaneous and build on a foundation.

Creativity is beautiful in the bursts that produce, no matter the product. But the other side, the quiet dark side, is as fruitful. We use the work 'block' to describe the times when we strain towards creativity, wondering at our lack.

Maybe those are the trigger times---meditating, walking, staring off into nothingness, simply being alone and giving time for the creativity to rise.

I love the rush of words that can put my thoughts into order, the moment of surprise when a problem is solved mid-step in a slow jog on the river walk, or the inspiration of a beautiful new dessert for a special occasion.

And I have learned to give equal value to the blocks, knowing that they will surprise and delight by clearing the way for something new and fresh.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Phone Call

by Pat Antonopoulos

The gentle voice asked for Pat Antonopoulos who was once a teacher at Westwood View School. "You may not remember us. This is Tori __________."

Tori, Al and their two beautiful daughters, Ally and Lindsay, were an important part of my years of teaching.

Westwood View School was a vital community. Parents, students, and staff truly seemed to be a family with shared goals and values. I loved it there. Retirement was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

And this phone call generated by the publication of Four Ordinary Women is another example of why I cared so deeply about the people of that chapter of my life.

Lindsay and I shared kindergarten together. She was bright-eyed, beautiful, inquisitive and always ready with a smile and laughter. Now she is teaching high school in a southern state and sharing her gifts with her students.

Through Internet connections, Lindsay learned of our book and the signing at Rainy Day Books in Fairway. She wants a copy of the book and Tori will make that happen.

I am a bit overwhelmed by this.
Humbling? Indeed.
A beautiful little girl grown to teach her students and still remembering the fun we had in that kindergarten classroom.
Connections of the heart.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nuts and Bolts

by Pat Antonopoulos

Once upon a time...
He told me, with a tinge of annoyance, that I would probably be content living in a home that looked like a motel room. This said as he sorted through a box of my discards swept off any horizontal surface touched by a dust cloth. My box never made it to the recycle, but stayed in his stash of 'stuff' that will be useful in that someday-time.

We come close to agreeing to disagree, but I always hold back. I avoid the barn where all these treasures are stored. Bob and our oldest grandson are the only two people who understand that filing system.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I freely admit that my former classrooms did not have a clear horizontal surface. That filing system was perfect, right? And my desk next to this computer never needs dusting as it is covered with papers, toys and books. But my clutter is different, right again?)

Cannot remember a time when Bob actually handed me a dish of deserved crow, but today I serve it to myself.

Yesterday, he rummaged through his boxes to find the last part needed to repair the 1964 Ford Tractor that mows the field and moves the winter snow.

With cobbled parts, he is now in the process of repairing the huge sprayer needed for our hundred plus trees. Prone on a piece of carpet, covered with grease and sweat, Bob looks up as I walk towards the shed and he says, "What's up?"

"The black ball hooked to the little chain inside the tank won't shut off. I have tried everything and the water keeps running."

"OK". And he is on his way to fix the problem. Meantime, the phone rings and a son asks if Bob has a particular item needed for a project. As usual, the answer is yes and the item will be supplied.

When he sees the mess I am making as I try to fill miniature cupcake pans with thick batter, Bob quietly reminds me that I tossed a old cake decorating tool that would be perfect for this job. "I'll get it from the plastic bag of kitchen stuff that is wrapped in foil, third drawer from the top, back room of the shed."

Baked, boiled or fried, I deserve a flock of crow meat and Bob deserves his favorite dinner every night of the week. And not surprising, he really does love left-overs!

College bound

Patti Dickinson

Andrew, kid #6, is about to go off to college. Launching a kid is never easy. Soon, when I wind down the day, taking that last barefooted walk through the house to make sure it's all locked up, Andrew won't be upstairs sleeping. He will be sleeping in his dorm room, hundreds of miles away. He won't be here for me to ruffle his hair, remind him to take the trash to the end of the driveway on Sunday nights. No one to harass about putting his laundry away (he uses my laundry room as his first floor dresser).

He won't

Boys are different from girls in this process. For girls, it is all about decorating the dorm room. equipping the dorm room. All summer long. Matching comforter and sheets. And the buckets/baskets for storing things have to figure into that decorating scheme. Checking with the roommate about who's bringing a television and who's bringing the microwave. Exchanging emails with the potential roommate. Sort of doing a cyberspace dance to find out what this other person is like who will be spending lots of shared time with you.

Boys? Andrew ordered a comforter, etc. from some company that sends out millions of catalogs to college-bound kids. Andrew picked out his comforter/sheets/towels in under five minutes. Black/grey reversible comforter and black sheets and towels. I am not kidding. Black. He wanted color-coordinated nothing.

I am caught unawares at odd moments. Unexpected tears out of nowhere. Watching him give Meghan a hard time.....and Meghan calling him "Andy", a name he doesn't like, in retaliation. Theirs is a closer relationship than either one of them acknowledge. I will miss Andrew laying on the couch in the playroom, with his laptop on his stomach, feet propped on the armrest, to accommodate his too-tall frame, receiving internet news and watching television news simultaneously. A news junkie, he. He is going for a double major -- journalism and political science. He's the most well-informed kid I know. I will miss he and his dad's "Did-you-hear..." abouts as they summarize the news highlights of the day, while I cook dinner. I love that volley of words and opinions.

But at the end of the day, I will miss his presence. This is a house that is built on interpersonal dynamics. How could it be any other way? Eight kids, two adults. When one leaves, there is a reshuffling of who fits where, as everyone moves up the family ladder. Suddenly there is a new and different oldest kid. Or someone no longer has to share a room. Those ripples are felt and destabilize us until we settle into a new normal.

Forgive my lapse into button-popping mom. Andrew is a kid with a moral compass pointed due north. He is compassionate. Savvy. Appreciative. A good head on his shoulders. All good stuff to have in your "suitcase".

But the porch light will always be on.....

Sunday, July 26, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Oh my goodness! Dialogue through your very caring, supportive and appreciated comments.
Sara, Mari and emptying nest supria are now wrapped and ribboned into my treasure trove scheduled for that someday when my grandchildren open their inheritance-from-the-heart-chest.

I am Mom, Grandma, G.M., and Nana, depending on the child and the whim of the moment. Over the years, I have collected their trinkets-of-great-price, home made cards, photos and pieces of my writing. Mementos of my life passages are also in the box.

Four Ordinary Women just might create the need for a second chest of Grandma's Gold. Of course, the printing of the book and all that led to the moment when the publisher responded with a "Yep" to my query of "You interested?" are definitely life passage moments. This seminal event came months after his initial (and unusually gentle and informative) rejection.

And now? And now you, Gentle Readers, are contributing to what my grandchildren will eventually learn about their grandmother. They will learn that her life was enriched by some very extra-ordinary people.

I'm not the Garage Sale type

Patti Dickinson

We had our first garage sale yesterday. And our last.

This was my big idea.

I am a people watcher from way back. What better way to get a glimpse of people up close than to invite them to wander around your driveway, looking through your stuff? Plus, there's nothing wrong with making a little cash.

I wish I could tell you that it was a snap to pull it together. Nope. I had to browbeat kids to get them to go through their stuff for items to sell. Then I had to sort it all and put it on tables that I had to borrow from three different neighbors. That entailed having to figure out how to make the seats in my SUV go down flat. (You know, one person to read the directions aloud, slowly, and the other person fiddling with all the knobs to make something happen with the seats.) Then you need signs. Those cost about $5 each at the hardware store. Then the balloons to attach to each one to grab motorists' attention -- 3 at $3 each. And finally, the trip to the bank to get money to use as change. A wad of singles and some fives, ten dollars worth of quarters.

Some excerpts:

A woman who walked up with a small white, almost furless, overweight dog on a leash. All the way down the driveway this beast is growling. Growling as in I-am-going-to-take-a big-chunk-out-of-your-leg-if-you-get-close-enough. (I am a cat person)

It's hard not to take it personally when someone wanders up, spends 20 minutes ransacking through your stuff, and then throws it back on the table like people do at Macy's annual clearance sale. You know the one where people knock each other to the ground to get what they want.

We had one older woman whose husband parked at the end of our driveway while she came to shop. She wandered from table to table, sniffing almost dismissively. No sale there. She walks back to the car, opens the passenger door and shouts to her perhaps deaf husband, "They didn't have anything!" Sure we did, we had lots of stuff.

And finally, the professional garage sale-ers. These people could sift through a table of mens' shirts like you would shuffle cards. And then want a discount on the already rock bottom $3 price. This drew some smirks from both Wood and Andrew, who both thought that I had overinflated the prices ridiculously, anyway. When we were setting up, Andrew rolled the Nordic Track out. I slapped a $50 price tag on it. "WHAT? $50????? Are you kidding me? That thing is 20 years old!!!" Well, you know how that one ended. Yup, still have it. You can only imagine the funny comments I had to listen to as that thing got rolled back into the garage.

Interesting experience. Now I can say I did it once. But from now on, Goodwill is going to be the recipient of all of our discards......

Saturday, July 25, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

This is one of those moments when a blog is essential. Something happens and follow-through is mandatory according to a Personal Book of Rules. Granted, few others have access to the non-existent pages of The Book of Rules, but there they are.

Problem is that I cannot sift the thoughts into paragraphs that Garrison Keillor would call 'cogent'. Thoughts are bouncing tangents with no place to land.

Friends and colleagues from past chapters are reaching out with supportive words as a result of the Rachel Skybetter article, Gathering Wisdom, printed in the July 25 FYI Section of The Kansas City Star.

Rachel interviewed us and wrote about Four Ordinary Women. The generated response is so much more than I could have anticipated.

Imagine sorting the dilemma of expressing compounded appreciation. What a gift.

My thanks to everyone who has responded to the article and to our book. I look forward to seeing you at Rainy Day Books and our other author events. Then, eye-to-eye, I can thank you in person.

Friday, July 24, 2009

License Plate Number UCX 858

Patti Dickinson

If you're not up for a rant, better skip this blog.

Late this morning, I had to run Meghan, my high school sophomore, to the dentist. She had her four wisdom teeth out last Monday....carefully scheduled so as to leave enough recoup time to be ready for her final volleyball camp and then tryouts for the upcoming season. And oh, yes, the Jonas Brothers concert with a big group of her friends Wednesday night.

We knew after the surgery that the lower left tooth wasn't too cooperative during the extraction, and that the pain would be greater in that part of her mouth....lots of pain yesterday, and so in lieu of dragging the dentist off the golf course on a Saturday afternoon (long history of the Dickinson's always waiting until Saturday/Sunday to present symptoms of every ailment they have ever had) So I was being Queen of Proactivity and getting this handled during office hours. Sure enough, a dry socket. Nasty tasting gauze is stuffed into the complaining cavity and within thirty minutes she felt better. On the mend....again.

So we stop at the pharmacy on the way home to pick up her pain medicine. (And cherry Lifesavers to get the foul taste of the medically saturated gauze out of her mouth). When I pulled up to the pharmacy, there was a silver Pilot parked in almost three parking places. (Do you know how hard you have to work to get a small car to take up that many spaces???) Mild annoyance. So I go in, leaving Meghan in the car, get what I need, and leave. The car is still there. As we are leaving the parking lot, Meghan says, "That woman in the car next to us left her two kids in the car." I ask, "How old?" and she says, "Five and a little kid." Hmmm. So I turn around and come back into the parking lot to deal with this. Now I am wearing my Good Citizen hat. (I wear enough hats to open my own millinery!)

But she was leaving the parking lot. Sure enough, two kids in the car. Feeling like someone took the wind out of my sails.....a missed opportunity to be the kid-police.

Disbelief. After all that has been said about kids left in cars. It's close to 90 today. The car was in the sun. All the windows were up. Lots of bad guys in the world. What could possibly have been more important to her than her kids' safety? What possible scenario justifies this behavior? In the blink of an eye.....why would someone tempt fate this way?

Is it the "It can't happen to me" mentality? Isn't that the mentality that seventeen year olds use --- just having sex once and just having four beers and thinking they were okay to drive? But this mom wasn't seventeen. She's thirty-something. Old enough to know better. Wish I had had my chance to talk to her.


Thursday, July 23, 2009


Patti Dickinson

Last time I stuck my toe into controversial waters I got dunked.

That being said, I am going to give this another lap (I'm trying to stay with the "water" metaphor, and it's not working too well...)

Facebook. I don't get it. It is superficial. It is the written equivalent of chit-chat. I dislike the in-your-face political stuff. I would much rather engage in a face-to-face dialogue. A time for both sides to be heard, instead of just a knee-jerk response to something on the news/in the KC Star. A response that just sort of hangs there, and there may or may not be any "takers".

A way to keep in touch? Hmmm. There's the phone, there's email, there's the postal service (don't laugh...I wrote four letters last week....yup, envelopes and stamps!) Even texting seems more intimate in comparison. A more back-and-forth kind of dialogue.

Facebook seems kind of narcisistic to me. I mean, is there really someone out there that cares that I just mowed my lawn? That I forgot to exercise three days in a row? That my kid had a cavity? That my microwave is on the fritz and the repairman is an hour late?

Maybe Facebook helps us be more in touch with people we wouldn't be in touch with otherwise. More in touch but with not much substance?


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Tandem

by Pat Antonopoulos

Uh oh. Patti's tandem story equates with marriage wisdom. My tandem story won't make that cut.

Driving down a country road, twilight softening the end of the work week and catching the last dribble of sunlight...propped against a mail box was a tandem bike with a dangling crayoned 'For Sale' sign.

Cannot ever remember buying anything else on a whim...always do the pro/con thing before handing over the cash. But I had to have that bicycle built for two. Twenty dollars sealed the unbeatable bargain.

Our house sits atop the center of about three acres so all path options were down hill, giving us an easy start. Talk about 'down hill from there'. Bob's zigzag steering sent us careening across the slick grass towards the feeble wire fence that protected the cows from this bit of our nonsense. Beyond that was the spring fed but murky pond. Bob laughing and my feet hopelessly back pedaling on non-existent brakes. Maybe, just maybe, my body panic caused the tilt. We ended on the ground sliding easily through the fresh mud.

OK. It was fun. We laughed for a long time with the audience of six heifers munching grass and twitching tails. But not do-over kind of fun. The first person who answered the ad handed me $20.00 and drove away oblivious to my smirk of satisfaction.

What a mistake. Never should have let it go. The buyer hung it on the side of a barn to rust into ruin and I lost the chance to make more muddy memories.
Not a break-even deal.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tandem Bikes as a Metaphor for Marriage

Patti Dickinson

Honestly --- you are in for one of our better stories.

One of our traditions while we are on vacation each year is taking a short trip from Chatham to Brewster, Massachusetts to ride the bike trail there. Over the years with the kids we have gone from the covered bike carrier that seats two kids on the back, to the alley-cat and for more than a few years, we have all been "independently mobile". So we pull up to the Brewster Bike Shop and Wood eyeballs two tandem bikes sitting out in front of the shop. He looks at me and says, "That could be fun." It would have been, if we had been able to get going. (I warned Wood that you were going to hear my version of what transpired!!!)

So we both straddle the bike. Wood in the front, me in back. I put both my feet on the pedals and wait. Wood looks over his shoulder at me and says, "We can't get started this way, Patti. We have to put one foot on the pedal, push off with the other foot, and get going that way." So we try that. He is pedaling and we are wobbling all over the place and I am trying to keep my balance and get my feet on the pedals at the same time. Except he wants to lean the bike as he's doing all that. Aerodynamically and taking into account some law of physics, this isn't going to happen. Who can pedal with one shoulder parallel to the ground????

So we give it another try. Wood tries to lean and I am trying to bring the bike back to a 90 degree angle with the dirt path. Now we are definitely not working together. The young girl who is trying to rent us some bikes, and the now gathering crowd who would much rather mind our business than their own and our four mortified children are all witnessing this ridiculous attempt at riding tandem.

Three tries. That's what we gave it before Wood says, "That's it. Patti, we have been married for 34 years, and I know when something isn't going to work. This is one of those times." Lots of big grins from the men gathered in the group that are now gawking at us. I am sure that we were the talk of the bike shop for a few days. We wound up on our own bikes and rode to Coby's for hamburgers and the best milkshakes in the world.

Yup. Tandem bike riding is a lot like a marriage. Sometimes in sync. Some days have a rhythm. And some situations require shifting gears and some just require that you put up the kickstand and walk.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Frank McCourt

by Pat Antonopoulos

A newspaper paragraph reports that Frank McCourt is seriously ill---a small paragraph without photo or fanfare.

Angela's Ashes, Tis, Teacher Man, accomplishments of both life and talent are first out on my shelf of rereads. I have lost count.

I love these books and feel that connection to the man whose talent shared stories of dedication, perseverance, unimaginable hardship and underpinned by a bit of self mocking humor. I love these books. I ache for Frank and his family. I rage at the newspaper wrapped leavings throw out to the starving by priests with plenty. I salute the courage of little Frank and all others who survived those times. How I would love to sit down with Frank McCourt and listen--not converse--just listen. That face-to-face will never happen, but I can be content with his printed voice.

Our sometimes convoluted public values tend to celebrate the heroes of glitter and sport far more than we celebrate the heroes of life and letters.

I celebrate the life and work of Frank McCourt. I thank him for his work as teacher and writer, for his stories that fill me with admiration for everyone who struggled through Ellis Island with courage and values intact.

Safe journey, Mr. McCourt.

Friday, July 17, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

This is an appreciation blog directed to faithful friends and wanna-be/trying-to-be readers of Four Ordinary Woman. From South Carolina (Tim and Sally) to Colorado (Kaiya) to California (Joanie) to Karol (Kearney) come the newest and much anticipated delivery date of July 26. Their reassuring messages help to calm the flutter-by moments of apprehension.

"In a couple of days" is the standard reply from the publisher and, true to my usual nature, I check the front stoop in exactly two days. Without the support and encouragement of good friends and family, there would be pacing groves in the deck and domestic tranquility would be challenged.

So, faithful friends, please do not give up on us. We are published and your copies will arrive a couple of days?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Sister and I

by Pat Antonopoulos

Family friends often commented that my sisters and I were found in once-removed-cabbage-patches. They had snapping dark eyes, olive skin and brown/black hair. My Casper eyes are blue-to-pale and blue doesn't snap. Both sisters had reserved front row choir places, crystal, on-key and just the right height.

Off keys told to lip sync and bean poles shared the back row. My ticket was double punched.

Recently, one of my sisters and I attended a meeting together. Someone at the meeting commented how much we are alike...mannerisms, faces and voices. We were told that our telephone selves were indistinguishable.

Benjamin Button inside-out? Aging into duplicates because aging is lines, wrinkles, grayness and a chink in the vocal cords? All babies look alike so all old people follow a backward pattern?
Maybe not.

Maybe years have allowed us a smattering of the best of one another, honed by the blessings of our lives. Time may be a reflection of the women we worked towards becoming, allowing a softening into heads/tails...alike/different...a reflection of the a life time of sibling affection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Morning stillness can be perfect. Alone, not awaiting, not anticipating...just alone in the quiet--a beginning.

Insomnia driven stillness rasps and grates, begging for snatches of sleep.

Quiet is a measure of distance when it separates a quarrel, anger and pain imprisoned in the stillness of refusal.

We learn from both loneliness and being alone. Quiet moments, tipped and balanced, serve us well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

"So I go...and then he goes...and I'm I go...and then I am like so annoyed!" Snippets. Overhead as I stayed several strides ahead of a cell phone user on the walking path.

Yesterday, my wordsmith brother sent an commentary on the use of the word 'up'. "Fry up some bacon. Open up the windows. Close up the store. Dish up the ice cream."

Language is dynamic and new words are important as we express concepts formed in that intense new dynamism. Webster expands with each addition.

But how are 'like' and 'go' dynamic replacements for 'said', 'replied', responded' 'answered'? How did 'up' morph into a two letter stumble to anyone trying to learn the language?

So like confusing, you know?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Working On It

by Pat Antonopoulos

You are responsible.
That was a mantra during a time when 'mantra' would have needed definition. Probably dangled on the coat tails of the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin. Adam and Eve did the crime---and it lasted for all time.

Actually, teaching grade school believers that they could make a difference (and had to accept responsibility) produced some caring givers who truly lived making that difference. Of course, I am not saying that a firm Catholic education was the only source of devotion to reaching out. Most churches are meeting human needs, both physical and spiritual. A family member recently told me that he went to the Episcopal Church for "all the glory and none of the guilt".

Which brings me to saying the four letter word 'can't'.
"Sorry, but I cannot to that. Wish I could help this time, but I need to say NO."
Firm, right? Clear? No equivocation?

My 'can't' is often chased down by a list of 'shoulds', and I cave. Don't misunderstand and assume that I placing this responsibility on an early education that it at the top of my most-valued-list. The nuns have my admiration and respect. Guessing there are huge piles of psychological reasons why I cannot stand firmly behind my 'can't. Not the least of which is the truth that I become less by doing less--that it IS my responsibility to be responsible. Must be a set of those dilemma horns points poking holes in my resolve.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One of One

By Pat Antonopoulos

She most certainly is that---one of one! My daughter-in-law is working for the success of
Four Ordinary Women. Today she went to the Jefferson County Library in Colorado and requested the book. Guess what? She is on the waiting list, one of one. How nice is that!
This week, she plans to visit book stores in the Golden/Boulder area, requesting the book and singing praises as she moves from store to store.
Her email address book is another source of her support as she shares the website
with friends and extended family.
The most wonderful part is her determination to do all that she can to help me, the mother-in-law, achieve this dream. Kaiya IS one of one.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Grandparenting. What could be sweeter? Every week I resist the urge to share my grandmother stories, knowing that every grandmother has a repertoire of wonder from her grandchildren.

Today, I surrender.

Backyard dirt covering 2 1/2 year old grandson after a slide from a tree. Brushed off the worst of the mess from this perfect little boy and I said, "There! All clean."
"No, Nana, not 'clean'----clean and handsome. I am clean and handsome!"

Four year old grandson habitually awakens in the darkest part of early morning and climbs into bed with Momma and Daddy. Yesterday was unusually busy and he slept through the night, awakening with early light. Crawled into bed with Momma and Daddy, gave Momma enough of a hug to awaken her and he said, "Hi Momma. Sorry I am so late."

Beautiful 14 year old grand daughter bought fabric to quilt for a new cousin expected in August. Lives two states away and planning a visit so we work together on the project.

Seventeen year old just emailed his American History subject scores on the ACT and AP tests...ACT 780 out of 800 and AP a perfect score of 5.

This grandmother is totally swathed in blessings.

Sounds of Purpose

by Pat Antonopoulos

English Landing Park has a three mile walking path, river on one side and BNSF tracks on the other. Wonderful old trees shade the river side and full sun tans the skin on the track side. Leashed dogs, bikes, joggers and walkers cover the distance every day. Toddlers on trikes and babes in strollers take time from the playground so parents can make the miles.

For some, the path is a meditation place--a time to let thoughts drift and sort the stumbles in life. Serious runners sprint towards that new personal-best, constantly checking time and distance. Older folks and the weight conscious people often struggle, determined and focused. Young athletes bounce between serious running and sky-larking with the exuberance that is special to the teen years.

Heavy sand dredges powered by tugs often cover the river's rush as it laps the banks. Regular BNSF runs, empties heading west and full load coal trains moving east, are as dependable as the chimes of the Park University campus.

Couples and running buddies use the park time as catch-up time, sharing stories and making plans. Cell phones are a constant, broadcasting brief snatches of private conversations. Exercise and business are joined as a way to bundle minutes. Music and news via ear buds insure the listener's connection to media sound.

Not Waldon Pond, but Missouri River, 2009---with sounds of purpose.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Outward Bound, Homeward Bound

Patti Dickinson

As some of you know, Margaret, our going-into-eighth grade daughter, went on an Outward Bound. Sailing in Boston Harbor, with nine girls for ten days. Nothing plush about this adventure. I am told that it was "peeing over the side of the boat". No mascara, no razor, and no conditioner. Bare-bones-ing it. This kid can now use the sailing lingo and is looking forward to sailing with her dad in Chatham. Not as a passenger, but as one reckless Olive Oyl. She got off the plane last night, sun-sprinkled face, more freckles than she left with, and enviable blond highlights. We stopped on the way back from the airport, where she devoured a double hamburger plain, large fries and an M & M McFlurry. All without coming up for air. Some serious chewing with food in her mouth as she recounted her ten days away.

She came back happy, healthy, confident. She showed us the sea glass that she found, some heart-shaped rocks and an amazing piece of driftwood. All things, that while she was away, connected her to us.....because we have been collecting those things for years. Our dining room table has an old, distressed bread board, that is full of heart-shaped rocks from our travels. Nice to know that those things "stick". That that tradition had a continuity even when the rest of the Dickinson's weren't around.

6 cents shy....

Patti Dickinson

Debit cards. Have to admit I am a dinosaur on this one. I still balance our checkbook! Not so with this generation of teenagers (and 2/3 of the adults I know!!!).

My daughter, Kathleen, newly transplanted to Chicago, after graduating from Knox College this June, has a real handle on this debit card thing. In fact, she now holds the dubious honor of being the Dickinson-kid who has let her balance drop to the lowest Dickinson-record without overdrawing the account. Ready for this? A NICKEL. That was her balance. She seriously thinks that that is "handling her finances".

She has an internship at The Vitalist Theatre, and is wearing out the sidewalks looking for paying work. As in a living wage, as opposed to a stipend. Thus far, she has been turned away by a flower shop, an ice cream store, a dog-walking service and Target. (And you know that I am muttering...."Four years of college tuition only to be shown the door because of some serious over-qualification!")

Yup, 6 cents shy of a $30 overdraft fee. Living on the edge.....

Monday, July 6, 2009

Weren't we just.....

Patti Dickinson

July 4 found the parent-Dickinson's with an empty house. Never happens. Andrew was playing tennis with his buddies, and going to a city-held fireworks show, Mary Morgan was at a friend's farm with a group of kids and Meghan was at the Lake. So Wood and I did the traditional Saturday-night thing. A trip to Border's, followed by dinner out. All the kids would be home July 5, so we planned to do our traditional brisket dinner-potato-casserole-corn-on-the-cob-homemade-ice-cream meal that night. There were 10 of us, including a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a spouse and a grandson, Ben.

Ben is a delight. He is a chatterbox, a steady stream of observations falling from his mouth. I have a hard time picturing him quieting down to sleep. He loves Meghan....picks her out of a crowd and directs all his observations at her. First thing he wants to do when he gets to our house is "find the kitties". Two kitties who barely tolerate him. Cats have a sixth sense that recognizes erratic, unpredictable monsoons.

As Wood and I were getting all the food assembled for the informal buffet (translation: no fancy serving dishes) the rest of the family was outside in the backyard, taking in Ben's nonsense (and almost-three-year-olds have plenty of nonsense to spare). I turned to Wood and said, "Look outside. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were wiping noses, doing assembly-line-baths, buckling a houseful of kids into car seats? Wasn't it just yesterday that we spent all of May attending soccer pizza parties, Girl/Boy Scout picnics, strings concerts, field days, awards ceremonies and Kindergarten graduations? And we have a big gang of teenagers and young adults who gather here, enjoying each other's company...who have a shared history, people who know more about each other than anyone else ever will. I just love this stage." Wood turned to me and responded as he always does....

"But Patti, you love every stage."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

More Beliefs

by Pat Antonopoulos

What a perfect idea. Patti has combined the call for comments with the opportunity to share what holds us together, the glue of compatible beliefs.

I believe that friendship is the most delicate of connections. It is a bond strong enough to handle the weathering of the most difficult days, but can wither with the ordinary.

I believe that we parent until we die, though we need to parent very quietly once the child reaches puberty. After the child becomes an adult, totally silent parenting is our best option.

I believe that having fun is vastly over-rated for the young and under-rated for the elderly.

I really believe that this "I Believe" is one of Patti's stellar ideas.

The Gritty Fitty

by Pat Antonopoulos

Alarm set for 5:00 but sleep stopped at 4:00 AM. Holding pattern.
Thunder storms throughout the night, swelling the river.
Kayak loaded atop the van.

My oldest son, Mark, will soon celebrate his 50th birthday. As part of his celebration he is running this July 4 kayak/canoe race from Lawrence to Kansas City.
This 'Gritty Fitty' is also preparation for the August run from Kansas City to St. Charles, Missouri.

We drove to the Lawrence start point, not in silence but quieter than usual. Private thoughts.

Start time was 8:00 AM but the lot was crowded when we arrived at about 6:35. No nonsense as each participant went through a personal check list, loading water and energy food into the small storage compartments.

At one point, I walked the ramp listening to the water sounds and watching for floating debris.

Mark was meticulous in his preparations. His equipment is sound. His judgment, honed through mountain climbing, ice climbing, cycling and long practice in the kayak, did not come into question. He was anxious to start, but not apprehensive about his ability. My trust in him is complete.

All that being said, my 'mom' instincts are on high alert and I am counting minutes until we drive to Kaw Point and watch the racers cross the line. Pride, relief, excitement at meeting this new challenge...The Gritty Fitty.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Grateful to the 12....but

Patti Dickinson

Here's the 411.

I have written 79 blogs since February. Our blog has had 1152 hits. We have 12 followers. And here's the embarrassing part. 8 of those followers are my family members! 4 are faithful friends.

And the rest of you? Fear of commitment?

Please, please consider signing up as a follower, and commenting on our blogs....sometimes it feels as though I am writing in a vacuum, unless one of my kid-followers says, "Mom, why did you tell everyone that my room is a train wreck.......?" (Just for the writing that sort of kid-tell-all hasn't improved the room situation any...)

So --- anyone?

Boy, do I wish I'd written this book.....

Patti Dickinson

A friend of mine, and six-houses-away neighbor, wrote a book entitled I Believe. It was written by Allan Stark. His kids and mine went to Westwood View Elementary School together. I have been friends with his wife for years....we used to run into each other regularly at Mission Highlands, a just-down-the-street mom and pop grocery store, where the cart would barely fit down the aisles. Both with toddlers in the seat of the cart...and we would stop, block the already-too-narrow aisle, and catch up until one of the two toddlers started to fuss, needing the cart to move.

This book easily makes my top five. It is one man's beliefs. Allan talks in the Preface about the inspiration for the book...that it is not so much what a man believes, but that he knows what he believes.

Here are a few excerpts: "I believe in saying 'good morning' to my neighbors." and "I believe I could survive on peanut M&M's." "I believe in stopping my car to help turtles across the road." and "I believe kissing and making up is one of the best things about marriage." You get the idea.

This book's ripples are, and continue to be, felt at the Dickinson's. Every so often, I will tape a sheet of butcher paper on the refrigerator. Pen close at hand. I tell Wood and the kids to write down their beliefs. Most of them are funny, or surprising. Stuff you knew you believed, but would never have thought to write down.

So --- here's the challenge. Would you guys do that? And here's the important part. Share them with me, here on this blog.

Sadly, this book is out-of-print. So I emailed Allan, and he said that it can still be ordered from Amazon's and Barnes & Nobles's websites.

Small book, big inspiration.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!


by Pat Antonopoulos

A single kiss and the Princess changes a destiny from a diet of flies in a world of pond water to palace life. Not a single carry-over wart to mar the happily ever. Sweet, right?

As a child, Hansel and Gretel had the dog eared corner in my book. No test kisses, no woodcutter to handle the wolf, no dwarfs to win over through cooking and cleaning.
Gretel knew when to act and the witch was toast.

A delightful young feminist recently talked about creating a version of Rapunzel in which the female doesn't require a Prince to save her day. Rachel's story reminded me of a tradition with my two oldest grandchildren.

At bedtime we told stories and the last story of the night was usually a new version of Rapunzel...same basic structure but different twists and turns leading to a altered ending.

Guessing that about now many English majors readers might be doing a mini-metaphor-eye-roll. Deserved, no doubt.

About now I should be tying the string that excuses my overstretched connection. Not really certain how to do that but...

We told our Rapunzel versions during the time my grandchildren were four and six to about the time they were 10 and 12. Rachel probably wrote her Rapunzel in her late teens or early twenties. I memorized the story in the 1940's and heard Rachel's version in 2009.

We are.
The connection strengthens us, even when we are unaware of the link through a simple fairy tale tether.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

We Need To Talk

by Pat Antonopoulos
Soap Opera phrase, right? Spoken with heavy emphasis, earnest face full on the camera followed by quick switch to commercial?

Sponsors know the audience is connected, can count the numbers, and judge the response by visits to the product.

In a very real way, Four Ordinary Women is becoming connected to you, Dear Reader. You are our audience. The number count tells us that you visit this product. But unlike the one-way message of a television program, FOW hopes for much more.

YOU---You, Dear Reader. You and your thoughts are the greater connection. Your comments can expand the reach of women, one to another. You have a perspective that could enrich this space, balance our views, share your experiences.

Your comments are important. This invitation is sincere. Our door is open and waiting for you to walk right in....