Monday, August 31, 2009

Desperate Housewife....Fairway, Kansas

Patti Dickinson

Kids are all back in school. This morning, I began my annual kitchen clean up. After a summer of kids making everything from homemade salsa, Kraft mac and cheese, frozen pizzas and fruit punch Crystal Light around the clock, let's just say that the kitchen needed a little work. Admittedly I am a little OCD about my kitchen. I don't like dried dishwasher gunk on my plates, cups or bowls because they haven't been put in the dishwasher correctly. I mean we've got a good quality dishwasher, but the kids think that means that any cooking utensil goes in the dishwasher without so much as a quick rinse in the sink.

As I cleaned cabinets and rearranged some things, I realized just how tired some of my kitchen things were. I mean, I still have two Revere Ware a frying pan, the other a double boiler (but I only have the lid and the pot because I sent soup down the street to an elderly couple years ago and they never brought the middle part back. I sent the kids down once to ask for it, but they didn't seem to have any idea what my kids were talking about.....Note to self: Tupperware next time) I found a pathetic Rubbermaid strainer. It's sunshine yellow and somehow the little holes sort of melted together and only about 1/3 of the holes are capable of straining liquid. I threw that thing away. And promptly got online and ordered a 3-piece graduated stainless steel set from Williams and Sonoma. (I plan on cooking 30 more years to justify the cost!) Cloth pot holders. I wouldn't wash a car with them! Tattered, scorch marks, dingy. Into the trash. Ditto the kitchen towels. Ditto the corn-on-the-cob prongs. Rusted and unappetizing.

So the clean up has turned into a clean out.....three decades is long enough for the ragged, tattered, dated kitchen appliances/utensils/essentials to be expected to do their job.

Next purchase....a brand spanking new ice cream maker. The one we have is a wooden one, mostly dry-rotted, and you have to hand crank it. The most charming part, however, is that as you crank, the ice chips and rock salt spit all over the counter and floor. Rustic. Annoying.

Yup, this desperate housewife's kitchen needs some spiffing up.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Third Man

by Pat Antonopoulos

Early in the movie, Joseph Cotton's character, Marsden, says, "I'm a writer."
Easy. Quick. Confident. "I'm a writer."
Marsden come to Paris because he has been offered a job---as a writer.

Our book has been published. I wrote about 1/4 of that words on the paper,but am I a writer?

Recently, my son asked me to autograph a copy of Four Ordinary Women. Dan purchased it for a former student who is a writer. That was outside--- far outside--- my comfort. Jessieh is a writer. My words are part of a book.

I love to write. I love to find words that fit--that lock in my thoughts---that are rain on my wonderful parade of a life. But does that qualify? Am I a writer?

Maybe not yet, but I am working on it.


by Pat Antonopoulos

Yesterday my friend, Karol, baked brownies "just in case a hungry grand child stopped by". That is what grandmothers do--anticipate. Actually, Karol does much more than anticipate. No matter the situation, she is there for her children and her grandchildren.

Today the batteries failed on Sam's school bus. Without missing a beat, Sam went to the cup of screwdrivers, picked the correct size and handed it to Papa. The bus was up and running in no time.

Sister-in-law, Barbara, records favorite books and sends the tape and the book to Eric in a distant state. Grandmother connects.

Millions of examples every day....millions of grandchildren and grandparents sharing a deep and wonderful bond. From my perspective, the pieces of gold in the Golden Years are the relationships with adult children and grandparenting.

Spic & Span

by Pat Antonopoulos

It is in the air and resisting is a waste of the energy needed for the task...fall cleaning. My grandmother, my mother and I carried the ritual from ceiling to floor every year. My grandmother's rug beater had long been abandoned for a commercial grade cleaner but much of the process has stayed the same. It takes longer now and isn't as necessary as when the kids were young. But there is comfort in good work.

This deep cleaning was once a way of finding lost socks, even lost lunches, in most unusual places. Closets gave up the stash of 'ugly' clothes that miraculously disappeared on Sunday mornings. Forgotten toys moved up to the top of the box.

Every season has special joy, but autumn overflows...cooler air, back to school, Halloween and the cleaning ritual. My grandmother would be pleased that I still want the sparkle of Spic & Span.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Brass Mirror

by Pat Antonopoulos

Wonder if that is how we see ourselves--through a brass mirror. Contour and color are fine, but detail hovers just beyond recognition. Each of us holds the self image developed as we either ran or stumbled through life's chapters. There is little doubt about what we find unacceptable or even offensive in others. Maybe that brass mirror hides those same faults in ourselves.

Introspection can be wearisome....and even a bit boring if it lingers too long. But change is a challenge and introspection is a sidebar.

Recently something brought a fairly major change---Blindside Blog kind of change. And I have not always grieved this one gracefully.

Anger and blaming have been out of proportion. If I were watching another woman teary eyed and obsessing, she would get my undivided attention and my best effort at comfort. I have watched myself teary eyed and obsessing, I know I need a silvered glass mirror and a "get a grip" deep breath.

One of my self-talk expression is, "On a scale of one to eternity, where does this situation fall?" I am getting closer to honest perspective, but a little peek in that brass mirror just might be the comfort I need.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

Mindfulness is a sensitivity beyond the obvious.
I like that.
That overwhelming awareness that happens when the phone rings just as you are thinking about a distant loved one. Or when you dial the phone because you absolutely know that someone needs your ability to listen with your heart. Or when your turn to catch the eye of a stranger who seems to need a response---a nod, a smile, an acknowledgment of their presence. That moment when you realize that asking, "How are you?" will open the gates---because someone truly needs to tell you how they are. And you listen.
I like that.

2/3 Full Inbox

Patti Dickinson

Kathleen, my newly-graduated daughter, is living in Chicago, working at The Vitalist Theatre. She has an internship that runs through October. She is the assistant-stage manager on "The Night Season", working fourteen hour days. Not even a text message in the last ten days.

Andrew, a college freshman, has been at The University of Nebraska for a week today. He's sent nothing but text messages. What I know: he loves his classes. His roommate drinks Pepsi all day long. He has 72 of 100 pages read for a paper he has to write for his political science class. That's about it. Maybe it's the male/female thing. Women want details. I want to know what he and his roommate talked about as this kid is guzzling the liquid nourishment. I want to know what he had for lunch and how it tasted. I want to know what the kid is like that he played tennis with --- where he's from, what brought him to UNL, if he has a girlfriend....

Mary Morgan is in Denver. Junior year nursing student. Big talker. She calls. Sometimes an email. Rarely a text. Her stories are almost explosive. I can picture her, walking to class, talking to me, waving her arms around, stopping on the sidewalk to get a point across that requires all of her be focused on the telling. She called with details about her nursing classes. She learned how to put on gloves without compromising sterility, and how to restrain a patient. (Hmmm...wonder if that will come in handy one day when she has to restrain some Kindergartner for their school shots....just about one of a handful of times that my husband took one of the kids to the pediatrician and he came home from his trip with five year old Mary, with his hair standing on end, with a report that no fewer than three nurses had to hold her obviously none of those nurses's strong suit was patient restraint!!!)

Same mom and dad. Such different communication styles. But last night I wrote an email and in the subject line was "Mary wins the Gold Award". That got them going. Told them that Mary won, Andrew came in second and Kathleen was bringing up the rear. So you think sibling rivalry is only for the single digit years? Ohhhhh no. These kids are 23, 20 and 18.

But I got two emails out of the deal. In my in-box, first thing this morning!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The rearview mirror

Patti Dickinson

Last Thursday, we took Andrew to college. Kid #6. He is a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He is our first kid to go to college with a car. The emotional climate was a mixed bag. Wood was all about the statistics and minutia, how many miles, putting the address in the GPS, checking the gas tank, the mileage, the ETA. I was all about figuring out how to breathe with a lump in my throat the size of a softball and Andrew was steeling himself for being plunked from an environment where he was comfortable, into a new environment that is 202 miles away, and 18,000 kids strong. Wood and I drove in my car with Andrew's stuff, and he followed behind in his car, also loaded with everything that will recreate home 3 hours and 40 minutes away.

So I drove, Wood navigated. (I drive a lot, because I have a hard time sitting still in the passenger seat and if I am doing something, I don't need to stop for snacks or something to drink every 45 minutes.)

I kept checking the rearview mirror to make sure Andrew was keeping pace (that's another whole story, let's just leave it that sometimes my pace is a little fast, and I certainly don't want to leave this already-a-wreck of a kid in the dust on some highway four states from home). Yes, I was looking back, both literally and figuratively.

And I did a lot of that that day. I reminisced. I cried. A lot. Eighteen years, over in a flash. Eighteen years of learning to ride his bike, scoring that first soccer goal with his quick glance to the sidelines knowing that we were there. Wood and I screaming shamelessly. The first day of school. Walking into his Kindergarten classroom with his madras shorts, his buttoned-up-to-the-neck polo shirt, brand spanking new tennis shoes and backpack. And the hundreds of papers, spelling tests, book reports and art projects that came through our back door at the end of the elementary days. The friendships, the rivalries. The ups and the downs. The backs and the forths. The weeks, months, years. Andrew will now be waking up somewhere else in the morning. He will be finding his own way. He will be making most of his decisions independently.

Move-in went smoothly. Boxes hauled up four flights of stairs. His roommate got there, and we shared a few laughs over this kid's Pepsi addiction when he wasn't in the room. He brought 8 12-packs of Pepsi. I guess that kid runs on caffeine.

After the move-in, we took Andrew to lunch at Olive Garden. I looked up once and caught his eye. I teared up....knowing that we were counting down to the inevitable goodbye. He mouthed "Not yet, mom." He wasn't ready for my tears. Must be hard being a kid, watching your mom cry.

So we dropped him off at his car, so that he could go from there and find the building to pick up his parking sticker. He hugged me hard. I hugged him back. Hard. And we left. Drove off, with me wiping tears, sobbing. Not over. But --- kind of over.

I miss him....the funny stuff he does with Meghan at dinner....she calls him "Andy" ( a nickname that never stuck) and he looks at her, with a whimsical smile and a slight shake of his head. I miss the political talk at the table, the banter back and forth about what's going on on Capitol Hill. The background noise of Bill O'Reilly. I haven't made salsa in a week. No one else in the family calls it a food group. No more pitchers of red Crystal Light in the refrig. No more mountains of clothes, backed up in the laundry room. There is a small pile of his clothes, what he wore the day before he left, and strangely, after all the complaining about clothes never getting put away that I have done, I am comforted with that small pile of his clean clothes. Now Meghan will have to be trained to take over the mowing job, and hauling the trash cans to the end of the driveway on Sunday nights.

So --- as all the grandmas used to say to me, as I stood in the grocery store with five kids, at least one of which was having a meltdown because I wouldn't let him/her have m & m's at 9:00 in the morning, "Cherish this time...all too soon they will be grown...." And I used to think, as I hauled the kid off the floor to a standing position, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????"

They were right.


by Pat Antonopoulos

Emotional hibernation.
Wonder if three days without writing a blog constitutes emotional hibernation.
Actually does feel like a comfort cave blocks out what needs to be handled, giving time and distance.

Weeks ago, I absolutely knew that blogging would be a challenge. We began the blog as a way to extend the experience of our book, Four Ordinary Women. Through the blog, we would connect with you, Gentle Reader, and you would share with us.

Last evening, it was our privilege to meet a new group of women at House of Menuha. These women shared our twin loves of reading and writing. Many of them spoke as if blogging were both fun and relaxing. Who knew? Blog sites were rattled off as easily as I can name the best brands of peanut butter. Amazing.

Several women spoke about self censorship when writing a blog---the constant awareness of sharing with some depth yet being careful that no other person is harmed by the writing. This, of course, is a tribute to the sensitivity of those women.

And finally, to my point---which is totally anti-hibernation. Blogging can be good, even great for some. It can be our quick post card, but never our handwritten personal letter.

To find the depth and comfort of uncensored women to women communication, start a group. Gather on a regular basis. Build trust. Guard privacy. Open that women to women sharing to ease any difficulty.

If you have a group, treasure it as a lifeline that can sustain when other support fails. These women may never be luncheon friends, but you will be amazed at depth of beauty and enrichment exchanged.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Blind Side

by Pat Antonopoulos

Seven decades of dodging that elusive blind side, and THUD! It got me. Was it creeping just outside my awareness? Or was I turning my head in avoidance?
Maybe the 'how' of arrival isn't as important as the 'why'. Why did I let it happen?

My impending sort of instincts have always been a gift. Even when my children were young, answering the tug just outside my sensory awareness proved true.

At this moment, I am boxed and bundled into a situation that is basically outside my control. This is not a good place. Waiting has never been my first choice of response.

The tonnage of second guessing oneself is a low-to-the-ground heavy weight.
How does one deal with this? How have you, Gentle Readers, worked the maze?
Want to share? Surely, there is a way...not around, but straight through.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Family Birthdays

by Pat Antonopoulos

Millions of people share an August birth date and my hope is that each of those million persons is celebrated by someone.

In our family we celebrate Sam in January, Chris in February, Kaiya and Molly in March, Kristi in April, Dan is May, Bob and Mark in July, Ida in September and Cain in October--a year long roster of wonderful people. And August? August brims with birthdays...Paul, Elizabeth, Frank---and today we will meet the newest in our family. No name yet. His mother said she needs to meet him first, get acquainted a bit and then she will know his name. How nice is that!

Grandparenting is a bit like being reborn and each grandchild is a link in the chain of immortality. As we await this new baby, I am reminded of the joy of each birth, my children and my grandchildren.

How is my life? Better than I much better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What a difference a year makes....

First day of school for Meghan, my high school sophomore.

Looking back a year, she was leaving here for her first day of high school with a knot in her stomach, fear in her eyes and as close to tears as a kid could get. The whole can-I-find-my-locker, and then realizing once-I-find-it-can-I-open-it???? Couple that with the three day volleyball tryouts that was putting yourself way out there and I had a kid who was a train wreck. So much to go wrong, and any one of those things could make the wheels fall off the day. She survived, made the team, made the grade, made some friends, made some good decisions and made us proud.

Patti Dickinson

Today I sent a kid to school who is confident (the irony is that she got the exact same locker and combination that she had last year!!!) She is meeting her friends at her locker, who all have Honor's biology together. She knows her way around the building and knows a little bit better who she is, where she fits and what new leaps she's going to take this year.

This year the volleyball tryouts are less stressful than they were last year. Last year the dialogue was "if I make the team...." and this year it's "what team I make...." And closing in on six feet (she will only admit to 5'10") doesn't hurt in that middle hitter position!

I love these teen years. They aren't for the faint of heart....but it is terrific to see a kid negotiating life with a primitive map. And the important part is that the moral compass is pointing due north.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Little Night Music

by Pat Antonopoulos

Darkness protects and shelters...obscures or covers...sometimes Hide and Seek for the soul.
Dark times. Dark places. Dark reactions.
Often 'dark' can be a comfort word. Sitting on a porch as dusk becomes the dark that is pleasant and refreshing. Resting in a dark bedroom going over the day's happenings can be revisiting the best of times. A forest at night is amazing.
The other 'dark' is a burden. That feeling of pulling the top down and hiding is unfriendly darkness. Knowing that a reaction is negative and need not be happening is an ugly form of darkness.
Reminds me of that idea that for each opening bud a corresponding flower fades and drops. Sunrise--sunset sort of thing.
This blog has no where to go, my friends and Gentle Readers. It is just something I need to say. I wish you the best of dark's comfort.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

College kids packing....


Patti Dickinson

The packing has begun in earnest. Translation: All the clothes on the floor of Mary Morgan's and Andrew's rooms are getting scooped up and put in boxes. Notice I said scooped up, not folded. Why go through an unnecessary step? Don't the clothes get wrinkled when you wear them, anyway?

So the floors of the rooms no longer require a GPS system to locate anything....but there is still work to do. Make that, the mom thinks that there is still work left to do. No fewer than 6 cereal bowls are upstairs, containing the shells of roasted peanuts from some long forgotten Royal's game, a bowl of Froot Loops....and oh, yes. Better put some ant bait up there while we're at it.

You see where this is going, right? The real work of cleaning, as in Pledging the furniture, making the bed, making the room look nice enough that you wouldwant to come back to visit, is left to me. Mary Morgan leaves Sunday. She hauled five boxes to the UPS store today to mail to her new apartment. But the room. A mess. She insists, while gesturing with her arm as in a frantic Vanna White posture, "What?? It's clean. I put all the stuff in boxes! What are you talking about? This will take me five minutes to straighten up...." as she wisks past me, with that smile, shampoo and a towel in hand, heading for the shower.

Andrew? The boy version. Stuff going to college piled all over the dining room table and floor. Some of it in boxes. Other stuff not. I am thinking a fourth floor dorm room...and how can we consolidate to maximize efficiency moving the stuff from car trunk to dorm dresser. I make a suggestion or two (okay, three) and he just keeps saying, "I know, mom. I'm not done yet. I am still bringing stuff down...."

The truth is, that as each kiddo walks out the kitchen door, I will be a bundle of tears....tears of pride first, then sadness. Sending an 18 and 20 year old to Denver and Lincoln, Nebraska, knowing that they can handle the challenges of getting along with a roommate, finding their classes, doing their homework, cooking a meal, brushing their teeth, not losing their room/car key, setting their alarm clocks and getting themselves out of bed. A lifetime of cumulative teaching.......

The porch light is always on.....

Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream

by Pat Antonopoulos

Ice Cream Socials have changed names, but the concept is the same; community, fun, food and home-made desserts. The secret ingredient is hours to days of volunteer work. Months before the event, the work begins and the intensity grows as the calendar shrinks.

Early in Saturday's set-up, the wind sent the tents across the schoolyard. Without a word of complaint, the fireman and the adult sons of some of the festival organizers started again. Bits and burst of rain, a Chief's game, and the aging population of workers didn't slow the evening.

Ethic food served in the school gym drew long lines of visitors who had walked hilly blocks from distant parking spots. Pre-teens sucked on candy pacifiers and baby bottles of sweet liquid. Younger kids had painted faces and jewelry of every description. Game wheels spun and provided prizes by the arm-load. The collective pulse was racing.

If each individual committee chair and volunteer were named, the blog would stagger. An unscientific poll determined that the majority of these women and men were well past retirement age, willingly giving time and precious energy to serve their community.

Maybe a few tempers barked now and again. Maybe old methods were challenged in favor of time savers. Maybe even a cross word raised an eyebrow or two. But the wonderful bottom line was a group of people working toward a common goal.

And so, a tribute to all those who gave so much to make the Festival a success.
Kudos, Ladies and Gentlemen. You ARE amazing.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Sports Page

by Pat Antonopoulos

Most of the sports pages go unread at our house. Skip and skim is the general rule. There was a time when I followed high school games, but kids grow up.

The exception to that light reading was a couple of local columnists. Though I might not know the player names, I did value the perspective of these writers who knew sports right down to the minutia. One writer dropped off my list when I simply could not reconcile his comments that seem to give notables a ' behavior pass' if they knew how to play the game--any game.

Mr. Joe Posnanski's talent is exceptional and his readers (fans) wish him well. After giving the Kansas City fans thirteen years of his writing, Mr. Posnanski has written a farewell letter. He has been hired by "Sports Illustrated". Guess that means I need a magazine subscription to give me the gourmet taste of sports that will be missing from our daily paper.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Missing those kids already

Patti Dickinson

It's that time of year.....the dwindling days of August segue into a life that is measured by semesters. Flip flops scattered throughout each room of the house are replaced by backpacks, volleyball knee pads and Strawberry Gatorade bottles. It's time for school to start. I am reminded of the lyrics to one of my favorite tunes, Closing Time, by Semisonic. "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

And so, the summer of 2009 is almost over. This summer Kathleen graduated from Knox and took up residence in Chicago, and is finding her way in the "real world". Mary got into Nursing School, and sat at the table this morning, ordering her stethoscope and scrubs for her clinicals. Andrew is loading up the dining room with boxes the way only a first-time-heading-off-to-college-kid can. Toaster and a dvd player. Toast and a movie....that should get a college kid through the worst of days... Meghan is ready for her sophomore year, anticipating volleyball tryouts. Margaret is on a different journey....finding her way through the maze of middle school.

I can sense the college kids pulling away a bit....making it easier for them, in a week or two to end their summer at home. Leaving boyfriends/girlfriends behind. A sadness that none of us are talking about. We know what's coming but we don't speak of it. I miss the small things....the chime of the door alarm as the teenagers come in, late at night, one at a time. I miss sitting in the kitchen with my kids, as they one at a time come downstairs in the morning, sleepy eyed, and sit at the table and talk to me. This is conversation that can only happen face-to-face.

How blessed I am that I dread the beginning of school....we trade those flip flops and the scent of suntan lotion and wet towels all over the house for backpacks, homework at the kitchen table, lost library books and a schedule with little flexibility. I'm sort of one of the last moms standing....fighting back tears as we take those oh-so-corny first day of school pictures in the driveway.

Are You Happy, Papa

by Pat Antonopoulos

Captive audience? Sort of...though you have the 'exit' option.
I do try to refrain from too many grandmother stories, but failure to refrain is part of my joy.

Two and half year old little boy, busy playing trains looks up from his tunnels and tracks. For a few seconds, he stares across the room. Papa, too, is staring and seems not to notice the quiet attention.

This beautiful child comes to his grandfather, leans in and look up into Papa's eyes.
"Are you happy, Papa?" 30 months old and concerned that Papa is happy!

And next, there is the story of "Oh, Crapahauna!"
At almost five years, this grandson has developed a secret language. He frequently asks me not listen to his songs lest I decode and understand. One song is his favorite and he has a beautiful melody with a refrain that is constantly inserted.
His Daddy, my son, has the scoop on this one.
Naughty words are a clear and certain no-no and Frank absolutely understand that he is not to say those very attractive words. So he sings and suddenly "Oh, Crapahauna gets past the censors.

Life is rich and good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twin Fauns

by Pat Antonopoulos

Four spindle legs and dozens of those baby spots...alert and alone near the huge Halloween tree. The doe is behind the shed feeding on whatever plant is left after a summer of deer munching.

Faun-watchers most certainly invented the word 'frolic'. From a standing start, those little legs can carry a faun over the fence landing in a full-tilt run. They are beautiful animals.

And so were my plantings...beautiful. Now they are reduced to chewed-off stubs. At times, the adult deer have stood with front hoofs on the deck, reaching around the honeysuckle, to finish a breakfast of beauty.

There is a limit to the amount of netting we are willing to drape. The odor of the invisible fence spray goes from smell to stench in 50 seconds.

Of course, there are more drastic measures. Local parks have tried. But this morning, watching the twins return our quiet interest, it feels like a fair trade.
Wonder what our reaction will be in the spring as we begin the cycle again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ego and Greed

by Pat Antonopoulos

What a strange morning. First I am hinting at the importance of Women's Studies in the high schools, colleges and universities and now I want to take a run at ego and greed. I didn't actually mention Women's' Studies, but I should have done that when writing about Sacajawea.

Lost Horizons was suppose to be the absence of ego and greed, a place of contentment brought about by the absence of ego and greed. Scene after scene of opulent living for the leaders, while the happy workers tended the fields and herded the animals.

So where do I go with this, Gentle Reader?
Where does ego cross a line from healthy self awareness to the ugly place of needing to be Number have the spotlight, no matter the consequence? Where does satisfying true needs become lost in the greed for more? Where does knowledge switch from the beauty of learning to the arrogance of knowing-more-than?

We all taste this. We know the struggle. We win and we loose, but sometimes the line is blurred between what exactly we have won and what is so sadly lost.

Lost Horizons Meets The Bird Woman

by Pat Antonopoulos

History has never been my forte, though some of my children and grandchildren have an amazing sense of the importance of historical perspective and events. At times, it seems as if Bob has memorized parts of the journals of Lewis and Clark.

Last evening, we watched the first part of a documentary focused on Lewis and Clark as they followed Thomas Jefferson's commands to open and chart new territories. Napoleon's willingness to sell the French holdings greatly increased the unmapped area.

Undaunted Courage is the title of Stephen Ambrose's book on the journey. Perfect title.

Charbonneau, a French trader, was hired because his young wife, Sacajawea had knowledge, talents and courage to aid and inspire. The documentary is very clear, detailing the importance of Sacajawea's contributions to the success of the mission.

Earlier in the week, we found an old tape called Lost Horizons. The movie was made in 1937 and remarkable for scope, scenery, quality and budget. A plane crashed and a group of English people found themselves in a Himalayan village where ego and greed had given way to a gentle life free from want of any kind. Generosity and kindness were the order of every day.

Incredulous, 'George' was questioning the village leader. George asked, "And what about women?" The leader is stunned that the question would come up. "If a man sees a women he wants, she is his."
George follows with, "But what if she belongs to another man?"
"It would be impolite of the other man to refuse."
The woman would be given.

Now, I will grant that my mind does take leaps that raise eyebrows and can earn dismissive head shakes. I will grant that I don't always follow the logical and reasonable when I sort my thoughts.

However, in the early 1800's, a 16 year old pregnant Shoshone woman travels with the frontiersmen of Lewis and Clark. She shares the hardships in every detail, matching step for step along the journey. At one point, Sacajawea saves precious cargo as Charbonneau panics and flounders his boat. Lewis and Clark write that she has the courage of any man among them.

A 1937 movie continues the societal belief that women are possessions, to be handed off if a man likes what he sees.

How very slowly we have moved along the journey of equality.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What Now?

by Pat Antonopoulos

Stillness. Sunday morning 4:30 AM, moonlight washed stillness.

On July 12, family arrived and our house has buzzed full-tilt since then. Additional family members arrived and added new life, moving through July and into August.

As we drove from the airport, I looked back to see my 40-something son moving toward the check-in and was reminded of the children's book, Love You Forever. He is an extremely capable person who handles life with assurance and care. Yet, I wanted to be with him to make certain he was safe. My next realization was that, if he and I were traveling together, I would depend on him to keep me safe.

Empty-nest revisited.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Thank you, Dave Ramsey

by Pat Antonopoulos

Radio personality, Dave Ramsey, has an expression, "Better than I deserve."
Me, too, Mr. Ramsey.

It took three phone calls. Karol not only gave directions, but identified land marks to insure that we were taking the right highways. She has a remarkable mind for detail and a memory that files every detail in the right mental folder. If I believed in reincarnation, I would say that she was Sherlock Holmes in the once-upon-a-time.

Karol's directions got us to the Sugar Creek Park where we made another viewing stop, watching the kayaks move with remarkable speed. She handed me a shopping bag with multiple copies of Four Ordinary Women to be personalized.

Later in the day, Melinda called. Melinda is a multi-talented teacher with the determination to make things happened for students and curriculum. Our friendship is years old and gets better with time. Her encouragement is a constant.

Dr. S. is a remarkable educator, former head of a department and currently writing a very important book. While undergoing tests at Mayo Clinic, she sent a congratulatory email about Four Ordinary Women.

Wini wrote an terrific review of our book. She is a gentle soul and a wonderful teacher with whom I shared years at Westwood View.

Cynthia is my mentor (though I am the older) and friend. Together, we have solved most of the world's problems. Her notes of encouragement mean so much.

Copies of the Kansas City Star interview continue to arrive in the mail...Barbara and Pat include notes of friendship and support.

And those Carolina roses are as fresh and beautiful as the Tim and Sally support team.

A few hours in the quiet life of a very fortunate woman. I am grateful.

A Purse Full of Pennies

by Pat Antonopoulos

I just lifted that, "A Purse Full of Pennies", from an email...stole it from my friend.
Our friendship is built on lots of 2-cents-worth-sharing, daily emails, some phone calls and too few actual in-person contacts. Often the pennies are exactly the coin of the current realm, and less often they are an agree-to-disagree penny toss.

But we each own a purse that is full to overflowing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Unexpected Friendship

Patti Dickinson

It doesn't happen very often. Usually unexpectedly. Usually not in the ordinary make-a-friend venue.

Her name is Terri. She is a critical care nurse at the VA Hospital here in Kansas City. She is a transplant from New Orleans ("Naw-lins"). This woman exudes energy, kindness, compassion. This is the woman a close friend would go to when the wheels fell off his/her life. This is the woman that you would trust with your biggest secrets. Maybe even what you weigh.

We have never shared a meal. We have never even had a cup of coffee together. She and I have exchanged dozens of emails b/c she is the chairperson of Warrior Welcome at our kids' middle school. This is a day when the whole school population comes to get id pictures taken, get schedules, locker numbers and combinations, PE uniforms, School Supplies and Spirit Wear. She has a son who is an incoming seventh grader. Terri has never even participated in Warrior Welcome but she said "YES" when I asked her to chair this committee. Not "yes" or "Yes" but "YES". Get my point?

She and I have had the full range of conversations in the three times we have been together. We have laughed, talked of middle school struggles, her move from New Orleans to Kansas City. Our mutual admiration for the elementary school principal where our kids both attended school, but not at the same time. We very quickly moved from the polite, canned conversations usually referred to as chit chat. Nice to bypass that stage completely and dive right into the stuff that matters, without even feeling like we've skipped a step.

Terri lights up a room, reassures everyone that has signed up to help that they are so appreciated. She is gracious, looks you right in the eye as she speaks. It is easy to see how her job working with veteran soldiers, returning home with serious injuries would thrive under her care.

She drives a bright yellow VB Bug. How ironic is that?

"Here comes the sun....."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


by Pat Antonopoulos

This is hard. Two rights searching for a way to avoid a wrong, to find the correct solution without breaching strongly held opinions.

We need you, Gentle Readers. We need your bits of history and wisdom earned by sorting your decisions that deeply affected self and others.

Together, back and forth, we have traded thoughts, being careful to manage the emotion and continue to express nearly opposite opinions. We have acknowledged that there is spillage from other life situations causing some added stress and coloring this disagreement.

But it is there---that gorillaphant in the room. Over? Under? Through? Around? This IS hard.

We need you, Gentle Readers. We need your earned bits of history and wisdom. How do you insure that two rights don't create a wrong?

The Toothpaste Tube

by Pat Antonopoulos

Boulders roll right over without leaving a scratch. Even an avalanche fails to register on the Antonopoulos-Rumble scale. But that single grain irritates to a Richter 10.

This has been the summer of the revolving door as friends and family have made our days brighter with their visits. We have smiled and laughed our way through long days and short nights.

Grocery and paper product runs have been constant. The stove and refrigerator actually seem to sigh at the approach of yet another meal. Our rural water company is probably planning an event to honor their increased revenue. Sleeping arrangements ebb and flow as our tiny house shifts air mattresses from porch to deck when the extra beds are filled. Cleaning supplies and laundry products are moving from store shelf to our recycle with amazing speed.

Granted there are times when momentary differences need a bit of time and space. But over-all, we have had a terrific summer enjoying every moment with family and friends.

And now to that grain...the toothpaste tube and the Incredible Hulk grip that molds the tube to a five fingered mess. What's with that? A lithe and gentle 15 year old girl re-mangles the tube no matter the number of times I rearrange it to our normal.
OK...we laugh about it. Of course, by now, she probably does it just to get another bit of granny-action. Wonder how I got so toothpaste tube staid when little else seems to get a rise?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kansas City to St. Charles

by Pat Antonopoulos

The MR 340 Race starts at 8:00 AM tomorrow, August 4. Kaw Point will see the launch of about 279 boats, kayaks, canoes, singles and teams. Mark's goal is to finish in 50 hours to match the number of candles on his July birthday cake. Brother, Dan, is a one man crew driving from check-point to check-point with water, food supplements and plenty of Advil. Dan is in for the duration, handling every stage of support. The preparations have been hours of meticulous check and recheck.

Last month, we watched the Gritty Fitty from Lawrence to Kaw Point, marveling at the stamina and determination of the paddlers. Tomorrow's race will be in grueling August weather. Many paddlers continue day and night, taking only mandatory stops to check in.

Life passions are a must. They keep us 'ahead' of ourselves, giving goals and a special measures for success. I marvel at the passion of these women and men as they push their limits, emotional and physical.

Bon Voyage to each participant and most especially to Mark as he continues to test himself in yet another rigorous sport. The team of Mark and Dan will triumph, no matter the official race results.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marketing 101

Patti Dickinson

When I got my English degree from UT Austin, I didn't know then that I would need a minor in Marketing. With Four Ordinary Women in the bookstores, we knew that we would have to do "shameless self-promotion". We have had two signings. Both of them have been wonderful...seeing familiar faces of people that so want us to succeed in this endeavor. We are still looking for that connection to Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah or Dr. Phil. So if they are going to be houseguests of yours any time soon, would you give us a call?

So I am asking a favor today. Click on the word Border's that will take you to their website. There you can write a review. So if you read the book and liked it, would you consider writing a review? If you didn't like it, we would prefer that you just pour another cup of coffee and throw a load of clothes in the washing machine, and go on about your day!!!

Your support of our book is humbling. Thank you all so very much.

Day After The Night Before

by Pat Antonopoulos

Four Ordinary Women is on my desk. Next to it, a vase of beautiful 'Tim & Sally' roses. Reminders.

Rainy Day hosted an author event. Books were sold. Autographs were written. Gentle smiles and supportive words exchanged. Vivien, Roger and staff were there to offer experience and expertise.

Much more happened.
Family came. Bob and Barbara, Kristi and Sally, Susan and Erin, Terri and Amy, Janelle, Dan and are so appreciated.
Family closing ranks to support and validate.

Friendships with amazing women were renewed. Rita, Peggy, Joanne, Jane, Connie, Marilyn and Cynthia...colleagues from whom I learned and who are such an important part of my life. Sharon, a friend from elementary school and high school was another wonderful surprise. And Nancy came. She walked the miles with us, sharing her wit and grace.

Rachel, who wrote our story for the Kansas City Star, left a long day of work to offer her support and that beautiful smile.

A Fairway Road 'family', Bob, Melanie, Erin and her beautiful young daughter...past and cherished memories revisited.
Dena with her ageless beauty and talk of Daniel...deep and lasting connections from so many years ago.
Tory found the time to purchase our book for Lindsay who lives states away and still remembers.
Caitlin, with her darling face, reminding me of her diligence in mastering so many of those first grade spelling lists.
And Jimmy, grown to competent and caring young man, sharing stories of his life and of his mother, Linda.

So many other women and men came. Family. neighbors and friends of Patti, Shawna and Jo Ann, shared the evening as did new friends, Gentle Readers, who knew our book was to be a part of their permanent collection.

Four Ordinary Women had a most extra ordinary experience.