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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stone Soup

Do you remember the old folk story called “Stone Soup"? I was about four years old when I first heard this culinary classic read by Captain Kangaroo. I can still hear his voice giving life to each line.

The Youtube window below is the book Bob Keeshan read from but features a different storyteller. It's well done, but I would love to hear it again as I did as a child.The story has stayed with me all my life.

Some think it is about three clever soldiers and a naive village. Such a summation misses the greater lesson or "moral."  This story is about our natural tendency to put our own needs above others, to "play poor" in order to avoid being generous, to settle for surviving in isolation rather than thriving in community.  “Stone Soup” teaches us that when everyone puts “skin in the game” toward a goal that serves the interests of the whole group, it’s not just a better plan--it's the best plan and a much better way to reflect God the father, as illustrated in Matthew 7:9-11 (ESV)

"Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  … how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

I hope you enjoy this tale about a village that had “nothing to give,” but through the contagious power of joining others willing to put "skin in the game," they set a table fit for a king.


Friday, January 24, 2014

CCS Homecoming Blizzard of 2014

One of my favorite author-narrators is Earl Hamner Jr., best known for his television show, "The Waltons,"
which aired through the Seventies. By "author-narrator" I mean a writer whose own voice is inseparable from the tone and rhythm his words pull from the page. If you remember the show or have watched its re-runs, you've heard Earl's voice toward the end of the show as the exterior of the two-story clap-board house is show (just before all the "good-nights" and the soft chord played on a harmonica). You can also hear his voice at this link as Hamner's reads the opening of The Homecoming, which was the basis for The Waltons. The story is about a blizzard that almost kept the father of the family from getting home in time for Christmas.

CCS has its own story of a Homecoming blizzard.

Tonight we were scheduled to play our Homecoming Basketball Games, announce the king and queen, and proclaim the winners of this week's class competitions. Last night at the Pep Rally, we introduced the teams and the court, and Dr. Tom Watkins, our announcer, optimistically reminded everyone to come to Friday night's games, but had all heard the forecast for today was blizzard conditions with -30 below zero wind chills. By 5:30 AM nearly every school in a 100 mile stretch along the lake shore had already canceled, and we had no choice but to follow. Even as I type, I can hear the winds howling outside my living room window reportedly ranging from 30 to 40 MPH. We will announce the rescheduled Homecoming Games ASAP, and we'll keep our 80 participants for Saturday's Homecoming Banquet posted if that also needs to be rescheduled. At the moment, we are still hoping for the best.

It is not the first time that a blizzard has effected Homecoming events, but it is the first time that it has happened since we had a school website. So as you're sitting there at home safe and warm, enjoy these pictures of the place you know you would rather be today--good ol' Calvary Christian Schools!

These pictures were taken the morning after Wednesday, January 22, 2014, which set a record-breaking "lake effect" snowfall in a single day at CCS. Fifteen inches fell between daybreak and when the last car left the parking lot. (Actually, there were four cars left stranded in the parking lot as you can see in the second-to-the-last photo below.) The total snow depths and drifting will be much worse after today's high winds. Many thanks to our snow-removal team for keeping up with this fierce winter.

Monday, December 09, 2013

The True Meaning of Christmas

I try not to expose my family too much here at POI, but I could not resist sharing this clip of my three-year-old granddaughter telling the story of Christmas in her own words.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Snow 2013

I woke this morn to unexpected white
that somehow sifted through the night
without a sound. No wind had blown
as Winter’s work was softly sown
to flock each roof, downy and thick
and quiet as the quilt and feather tick
in some forgotten cottage in a wood.
And now throughout the neighborhood,
the scraping sounds of shovels call…
I would have rather watched it fall.

©11-28-13 Tom Kapanka

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Putting on the Ritz" and Other Eponyms

The Associative Meaning of Words

Studying the origin of a word adds to its usefulness in the same way that knowing the history of a place adds meaning to its vista. Before it was a hallowed cemetery, a famous speech, or an epic battlefield, the word Gettysburg referred only to a quiet Pennsylvania town, named for its first English settler, Samuel Gettys, and dating back well before the Revolutionary War. Likewise, most American school teachers know that Columbine is a high school in Littleton, Colorado. Fewer know that the school was named for a small flower in that region. The simpler meaning of the words Gettysburg and Columbine took on unforeseen complexity by events later associated with those words.

Like historic landmarks, many commonly-used words have stories behind them. The fact that such words typically carry their current meaning regardless of whether or not we know their stories is no different, I suppose, than a young school boy thinking Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is where he must have lived before moving to Washington DC.

After a few years with only patches of time for writing here at Patterns of Ink, I don’t mean to venture back with a professorial series on word association or the origin of words (etymology). In fact, the purpose of this post stems from the post which is to follow. I began writing a piece about my father-in-law who yesterday celebrated his 80th birthday, and something in that post triggered these thoughts as a preface of sorts.

The remainder of these thoughts about a tiny etymological category called eponyms, sometimes called “people words.” Eponyms are common words that  come from a person's name. True eponyms are not proper nouns like Gettysburg, even though that geographic name can be traced back to a man named Gettys; eponyms are names  no longer capitalized, like boycott which was once proper names (in this case, Charles Cunningham Boycott) but whose proper use shifted to mean something entirely else. (I realize that placing “entirely” before “else” sounds much more awkward than placing it afterwards and saying “something else entirely," but I will leave it as is for effect.) Because Charles Cunningham Boycott was once the victim of non-violent economic isolation,  more than a hundred years later, such actions are still called boycotts. The word is now used with no need for knowledge of its history and is therefore a true eponym according to the Alpha Dictionary's explanation of eponyms and non-eponyms.

Sometimes eponyms come from the royal title following a person’s name. This is true of the Earl of Sandwich, who fancied eating a slices of cold beef between two pieces of bread while playing cards, now such menu items are called sandwiches.
Likewise with cardigan sweaters, “ named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British Army Major General who led the "Charge of the Light Brigade," immortalized by Tennyson, during the Crimean War. It is modeled after the knitted wool waistcoat that British officers supposedly wore during the war.” This may explain why cardigan sweaters were the manly garments of choice for men’s fraternities and “varsity letter” clubs in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

There was once a man named César Ritz who became famous for his extravagantly decorated and furnished hotels designed to serve the upper echelon of world travelers. His last name soon became so associated with such finery that it became an adjective: ritzy. Much later when Nabisco (the NAtional BIScuit COmpany) patented a new kind of fancy cracker that could be used for hors d'oeuvres and the like, it is no wonder they chose the name Ritz. Whenever we have the desire to live like the rich if only for a night, we’re “Putting on the Ritz.”

That song, written by White Christmas creator Irving Berlin in 1929, has gained popularity through the years with the help of Hollywood’s finest, like Clark Gable and Fred Astaire. Decades later, it was given new life—literally—in Mel Brook’s  Young Frankenstein and its latest cover prompted a flash mob in Moscow, where it sounds like they may are really saying "Putin on the Ritz."

Something tells me that President Ronald Reagan would never have envisioned such a sight just two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At this Youtube link you can spend much time watching various covers of  "Putting on the Ritz.". After you've had your fill of this song at the screens and links above, come back to the subject at hand...

If a man named César Ritz had not had such fine taste in hotel interiors or if his name had been  Walter Lebowski, odds are that the hotel chain of that name would not have have become a fancy adjective nor inspired Irving Berlin's song (nor even the cracker).

To the scores of Walter Lebowskis out there who may come upon this post in a Google search, I mean no disrespect to your name. The same would be true of my own name, Tom Kapanka. Ritz sounds ritzy and inspires a song, Lebowski and Kapanka do not. It's that simple. Discussing it further is probably as pointless as saying, "It's a good thing Columbus sailed in 1492, because that year rhymes so nicely with "ocean blue," and how else would we ever remember the date.  Much of language transcends science--even art-- and some things are best left to the mystical realm of the unknown.

This ends our brief lesson on eponyms, which is merely a preface to a single part of a future post
which pays tribute to my father-in-law on his 80th birthday. In the meantime, go put on a cardigan sweater, make a little ham sandwich on a Ritz cracker and watch that Moscow flash mob "Putin on the Ritz" again... unless you wish to boycott it because of Putin's recent controversies in the Snowden matter.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

A Kansas Rainbow...

A few months back, I wrote a piece called “Parched” based in part on the dry, feral land I’ve seen in Kansas where once fertile farms had been. Like all poems, the metaphor was meant to be taken beyond the obvious, and without saying much more…

I will say, however, that I was in Kansas yesterday, making a brief stop at my wife Julie’s folk’s house for the night. It is from this place near Waverly, that I have learned nearly all I know of Kansas and heat and horses and the struggles of farmers through the 20th Century. I have stood in the place where the picture below was taken for thirty-five summers in a row, since the summer of 1978 when I first flew from Michigan to Kansas to visit Julie.

It was in the summer of 1980 that we were married here, a summer that saw temperatures exceed 110o F for the entire month of June. On our wedding day, June 28, the temperature was 114o F. When we arrived at our reception, a large but not air-conditioned building, dozens of candles, not yet lit, were lying flat on the tables, wilted in the heat, holding their 12” tapered shape, their wide end still secure in the star-shaped glass candle holders, but otherwise limp and unable to be stand tall for lighting. We removed them from the tables. I wish the photographer had gotten a picture of that sad sight, soon forgotten as our guests arrived, fanning themselves with our wedding programs. It was hot …. But I digress…

 (You, Tom, digress? Never…)

The point I was making was that I had all of those dry, hot, and callused Kansas images in mind when I wrote “Parched,” and then yesterday, for the first time in my 35 years of visiting here in Kansas, a passing rain fell leaving behind only damp grass and this rainbow. It is only the second rainbow that I’ve seen in several years. The other one was last September at our school (seen here). I’m not a mystic, and I won’t attempt to add anything to the beauty of this rainbow, but I immediately thought of “Parched” and that Scripture itself tells us that the first rainbow was a promise from God, formed at the end of Noah’s epic struggle. I suppose that is why rainbows always inspire such hope… hope that the storm has passed and bright days lie ahead.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Thoughts about April First...

April 1st , 7:00PM,and no April Fools pranks pulled among the three of us at home—unless one calls four hours of cleaning the garage a joke. I suppose it’s because we’re on Spring Break. If this were a school day, all sorts of funny stories would be buzzing in the hallways.
Years ago, when I was teaching in Iowa, the bell rang to begin class, and a young man come up to me discreetly standing between me and 24 students. Jack was funny guy capable of pranks, so when he whispered, “Mr. K, your fly is down.” I said, “Yeah, right… ‘April Fools’ Ha Ha…”  His eyes widened, and he whispered it again so earnestly that I stepped into the hall and came back in with a wink and a nod in his direction. It was not a joke. He just nodded as if to say, “Gotcher six,” and kept the matter to himself, sparing me much embarrassment. That was almost twenty-eight years ago. The young man went off to college, graduated, got married, and became a chaplain in the Air Force (a position he still holds to this day). Thank you, Jack, for not taking advantage of a teacher on a day that would have excused it. 
Even with little anecdotes like that in my life, April 1st as a date was pretty much like any other day until 1995. It fell on a Saturday that year. I had been gone all day working a wedding (back when I had a videography business). I returned home about 11:00 PM and was putting away my equipment in my downstairs editing room. Julie was asleep in our room on the main floor, and Emily and Kim were asleep in their second-story bedroom when the phone rang. At that hour a phone call is never a good thing, I listened with surprising composure as my brother-in-law told me the sad news: a few hours before, my father had died suddenly of acute myocardial infarction—heart attack. My mother and sister were still busy at the hospital, and they had asked him to call the brothers. I sat on the couch for nearly an hour before waking Julie to tell her. She began sobbing immediately, something my mind had not yet allowed my heart to do. I don’t remember how we told the girls. The rest of that week is a blur, and no one wants to read about such things anyway….
I'm writing this only to say that on April 1st my siblings and I share an emotional connection. We go through the day with its jokes and smiles. We do our jobs and interact like any other day, but at some private moment … we share a twinge of heartache hidden deep inside--like a pair of folded white gloves tucked away in the corner of a drawer. [The funeral home issued white gloves for the pall bearers and told us to keep them.]

With that as a backdrop, let me tell you about something from yesterday that prompted this post....

Yesterday, my whole family was together for Easter Dinner: our three daughters, two sons-in-law, two grand-children, Julie and me. It was nice.

 Julie being from Kansas with plenty of KU fans in her family and me being a big U of M fan, the afternoon NCAA conference game was an event we’d been looking forward to. During half-time, my daughter Emily was looking through some old pictures. She and her mother are gathering photos for Natalie’s graduation Open House)  While I was getting ready for the second half to start, Emily handed me these old photo-booth pictures.
I had not seen them in years. The one frame where Dad is looking right at us (right at the lens) is hauntingly serene. My note on the back of the picture says it was August 31, 1978.  But some other part of my brain remembers details I didn’t jot down on the back: I can hear Grandma laughing, and ten-year-old  Jimmy warning that the pictures were about to start, and Mom concerned that she is not in the frame (and she barely was). Only half of me was in the booth. The closed curtain was draped over my back.

And there in all the hub-bub,
Dad is just sitting there in disbelief that we talked him into that curtained booth in the penny arcade at Cedar Point. Grandma rode the Blue Streak roller coaster that day (It says so on the back of the photos. She lived to the age of 99, and was adventurous right up to the end.) In the last frame, Mom is trying to give Dad a kiss. The whole trip to Sandusky was a lark. We hitched up the old Apache pop-up camper and spent the night at the campground on the point. We left in such a hurry that we forgot to bring a camera, but this strip of photo-booth pictures captures the spontaneity and laughter that  a regular camera would have missed. There is not one corner of a frame that tells anyone this was a Cedar Point in 1978, but they are four wonderful blinks in time. 

 A few days after packing into that photo booth, I was packing my '65 Delta 88 and driving to South Carolina for my senior year of college.  I was not sad about returning to school because I couldn't wait to see Julie. Four months later, I would propose to her on New Year’s Eve. My other three siblings were not with us that day at Cedar Point because they were married and not with us that day. As our new families and households began in the years ahead, they were all still very connected to the home we shared with Mom and Dad. If you are new to Patterns of Ink, there are many chapters about these people and the life we shared.
This past Saturday, I heard the coach or Wichita State tell his team that to beat Ohio State they did not have to play a perfect game--it did not even have to be their most excellent game... all they had to do was play well. (And they did.) I found it interesting that he told them that, and I think it is true of life's demands in general. 
The home and people I sometimes write about here are far from perfect and often fell/fall short of excellent... we were and are people doing our best with the time and temperaments and tools granted us. Thank, God, we are not called to perfection, a standard we would soon resent. We are called to follow as best we can the example and teachings of Christ.... knowing we will fall short again and again....we are called to press on toward the mark. Complete (i.e."perfect") attainment is not required but apathy is forbidden, for in the end, simply put.... we are called to care
I was truly blessed to come from such a home.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Mom Used to Sing This Song to us When We Were Kids...

I know it has nothing to do with the reasons we celebrate Easter, but my mother knew fun songs for all the holidays, and it was never an issue in our home to sing seasonal favorites that were incongruous with the sacred themes of Christmas and Easter. She had a good voice and loved singing at the piano (as I have written here before), but I suppose her truest gift was the abandon to break out in song a cappella whenever one came to mind. She used to sing this as we died hard-boiled eggs at the kitchen table.

The tradition of hiding Easter baskets in our house was equally welcome, a tradition that my siblings and I continued in our homes with our own children. It occurred to Julie and I yesterday, that it was the first Easter in 28 years that we did not make baskets. It's been an unusual year, but perhaps the tradition will pick up again.

A few years ago, I found this "Eggbert" record in an antique store--not the 45 RPM version in this video, but another version on a small-hole 78 RPM red record. Now all I need is a record player that plays 78 RPM. Haven't had a record player for years (and one with that speed for decades).

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