Creativity

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.

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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.

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!

Blog-alogue

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.

Appreciation

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.

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.

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.