My multiple personalities are all named Grace. I aspire to be like Grace Kelly the Princess of Monaco, regal and respected. But most days I am more like Gracie Allen, the comedienne wife of George Burns. Her greatest strength was playing the ditz, a role I relish. And days that I pull on my black leather chaps and wrap my arms 'round my husband to cruise on the Harley, I feel like Grace Slick, female rocker and all around bad-mamma-jamma.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

You Look Mahvelous.

Have you noticed that my blog page is pink?

I embrace my femininity. I like to get dressed up every day. I keep my "face" in a makeup bag on the front seat of my car... just so I can do emergency touch-ups before I go home. Sure Tom sees me without makeup every day, but I think he should come home from work to something prettier to gaze upon over dinner. My own version of the "Feminine Mystique," I suppose.

We usually want to look our best, put our best foot forward, make a good first impression, etc. Men, too. Of course, this taken to extreme is vanity, a trait which God warns us is contrary to where our focus should be, on Him.

But I have no moral or ethical objections to someone wanting to look better. It improves their sense of self-worth or confidence. Clothing, hairstyles, makeup, plastic surgery, I don't see much of a difference except for risk and cost. I had plastic surgery in college to correct a muscle defect in my lip. It was one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me. If I had the money and the time for recovery, I'd correct my crooked spine, a result of Scoliosis, and get rid of my Quasimodo hump for the rest of my natural life. That isn't exactly plastic surgery, but it is deemed "cosmetic" since being twisted like a pretzel doesn't severely impact my health, aside from occasional back pain.

This all said, I do have problems with doctors who agree to perform unnecessary and drastic procedures on people who are not emotionally stable. (ie Michael Jackson, the woman who wanted to look like a Barbie, etc.) I also have problems with exploiting the patients of plastic surgery for ratings... in offensive television shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan.

And I am steamed about something I just read in The Lutheran, a magazine for people of the denomination. It said CosmoGirl has hired a Columbia University college junior, Colleen Taylor, to be the magazine's first-ever political correspondent. Ms. Taylor is a member of a Lutheran church in PA, not far from my hometown, so I kept reading. Ms. Taylor said, "Feeling like I'm making even a little difference by kind of showing these girls that politics is as much their world as it is their parents' has been really gratifying." Aww. This is nice. A college student gets valuable journalism and political experience while 14-year-old readers get info.

Then the kicker: "Although she doesn't get paid, she received a makeover and a professional wardrobe."

Are you kidding? Is the job about her journalism skills and political saavy or about whether her jacket style is this season and how short they should crop her hair? Puhleeez. Yes, put your best face forward, but the reward for your Columbia University education is a make-up lesson? The pay-off for years of perfecting a journalistic voice is a perfectly matched lipstick?

OK. She also got help with interviewing techniques and political knowledge. And her airfare and hotels were paid for covering the campaigns. But still.... a makeover? Why should I be dumbfounded, it is CosmoGirl, after all.

Nia Vardalos, the screenwriter and star of the film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," talked about her shock when the reviews for the film came out. Reviewers wrote that the character got the man "after she had a makeover." Nia said the character, Toula, did NOT have a makeover. SHE MADE OVER her LIFE. She went to school. She became educated. She gained experience and as a result, self-esteem. These changes made her confident and open to a loving relationship. She didn't get a nose-job or perm and VOILA!, the cute guy likes her.

Looking our best is important in our culture, like it or not. But it is just that, looks. Superficial. Coverings. Masks. What counts is what is going on in the head, inside the heart. Unfortunately, our society doesn't look much deeper if it doesn't like what it sees at first glance.

For some people, the outside is all that matters, all there is. For others, changing the outside can help to repair what's troubling on the inside. And of course, it's what's inside that counts.

Yes, the three Graces are debating this issue.

Monday, September 27, 2004


We went for another bike ride yesterday after church. (And by "bike," I mean Harley, of course.) It was cloudy and overcast for most of the ride. Only during the last of the 4 hours did the sun warm our faces, which was a nice change to the sandblasting wind that had marked the day.

A car is a cocoon that travels, a capsule where you control the ambient temperature and the sounds from the radio. On a motorcycle, you abdicate that control to the world around you.

Riding piques all your senses. Smells of hay, cut grass, manure (and skunk!) are more potent when you ride. There is no filter to clean the air or vents to shut off. The noises of barking dogs, lawn mowers, 18-wheelers and construction jackhammers are not muffled by glass and steel.

And the colors... the colors are truer than when viewed through a windshield. For instance, I've always thought that the "colors of autumn" were gold, orange, red, burgundy, maybe some lingering green. But there is purple out there! Deep, rich purple blooms along every roadside.

As we were riding, I began to form the idea for this blog. My mind was wandering about the metaphor of life being a journey... or maybe life as flying by... or life lived with risk as opposed to security...when, all of a sudden, there was a huge accident right in front of us. Two 18-wheelers, a mini-van, a pick-up truck and a car were all toppled into the grassy area between the lanes of I-76. The mini-van looked like an accordian. Broken glass and the back hatch of the truck were scattered on the road. It had just happened. The plumes of smoke from locked rubber tires and median dirt were still rising.

As we weaved through the wreckage, thankfully watching everyone emerge from their cocoons safely, I realized that we had been spared by just a couple of minutes. We had stopped to make a phone call to my stepson to tell him how far away we were from the restaurant where we'd meet. We wanted to time it so that we all arrived at the same time. But we got his voice mail. We stopped a few miles later to try the call again, this time successfully. So what originally seemed like an annoyance turned into a potentially lifesaving minute.

Right about then, the idea of a cocoon sounded really good. And within a few minutes, we were at Big Boy munching on burgers and strawberry pie, thanking God for His protection and His decision to leave us here a while longer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Grace Slick rides again!

I'm going on a Harley ride tonight!! Grace Kelly packed the Grace Slick leather in the car this morning. Vroom Vroom!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Mona Lisa irony

Sunday afternoon I settled into the couch with a blanket to watch mindless movies and nap. I was trying to recover from the 24 Hour Theater experiment, my lack of sleep and the crash of my adrenaline.

I began watching Mona Lisa Smile, a movie set in 1954 where Julia Roberts becomes an instructor at Wellesley College. She encounters brilliant young women whose only aspirations are to become wives and mothers. She challenges them to shun the conventions of their day, to eschew the culture of their time and to dream of more meaningful lives for themselves. She wants them to find more purpose in life than cooking, cleaning and caring for husband and children.

The movie is a women's liberation version of Dead Poets' Society. But one student challenged the instructor's "subversive" teachings by saying something like, "You wanted me to have a choice. I choose to be a wife and mother. " She accused Julia's character of demeaning the choice of women to stay home. The student said that not all stay-at-home wives and mothers are dumb, nor do they lose their intellect for making that choice, and she demanded respect for her choice.

The irony is this: I was only into the first 20 minutes of the film when Tom came home from work. He said he was starving. I immediately jumped up, made him a snack and started dinner. He sat on the couch and asked if he could change the channel to the football game. "Of course!" I replied. Afterall, he had worked all day and I had been resting.

Was I disappointed to miss the rest of the movie? Sure. But I knew I could watch it later that night. Could Tom make his own food? Sure. But I derive great pleasure from cooking for him, serving him, making his home a comforting refuge.

It was funny. Here I was... a working woman in 2004 readily giving up the illusion of power in favor of a 1954 spirit of servanthood that was being derided. The movie makes it clear that women should aspire to something more. And women have made great progress in the last 50 years. I wouldn't have had the career I enjoyed, otherwise. But in some ways, I agree with the student. Simply having a new choice doesn't make the former options less valid or worthy.

I have witnessed some in my generation who pursue career to the detriment of their marriages and families. Is it really "progress" of humankind to become increasingly self-centered? Is it admirable to be more concerned about personal fulfillment and less concerned about the needs of others? What is a more meaningful purpose to life, for a man or a woman, than demonstrating sacrificial and selfless love to those around you?

I've failed plenty of times. But I hope I made a step in the right direction on Sunday afternoon.

By the way... the movie was pretty good. Formulaic, but good.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Skunk... and other favorite smells

The smell of skunk is wafting through my house right now. It is coming from outside, of course. But since every window is open, the breeze is carrying it through to permeate every room. I don't mind. In fact, I love it.

Skunk reminds me of when I was a kid. During hot summers, we'd often take rides on Sundays after church to escape the heat of the day. (Oh, the joys of growing up without whole-house air conditioning!) We'd roll the windows down to get the breezes or we'd turn the car's air conditioner on. Our rides usually took us out of town and into "the country" where we'd invariably encounter skunk smell. Mom and Dad would wrinkle their noses and make funny "pyew, pyew" noises. We'd giggle with glee. (OK. I giggled. My brother most likely ha-ha'd.) Those rides are such happy memories that whenever I smell skunk I am transported to my childhood and the feeling of family.

Smells can trigger vivid memories, good and bad. Most of us will probably agree that freshly mown grass means Summer and sugar cookies are Christmas. In our great, capitalistic :) society, an entire industry has sprung up to help us evoke the good memories without having to mow or bake or travel to the ocean. Yankee Candles and its knock-offs capitalize on our need for "good" smells. I admit that I'm hooked on Yankee's Ocean Water, Green Grass and Clean Cotton.

Some of my other smelly memories:

Since I was a "walker" and didn't ride the bus to/from school, diesel fumes only remind me of riding the bus to the amusement park every year on the last day of school - GOOD.

Niagara Falls has a peculiar water odor, but it is - GOOD.

Colonial Williamsburg has a strong aroma of the southern Boxwood shrub - VERY GOOD. (Sometimes I have to drive there just to get an intoxicating whiff - I don't have to stay for tours, but I do need a fix every year or so.)

Because I have never, ever tanned and I suffer awfully from sun poisoning, coconut-y or suntan-lotion-y smells are - VERY BAD.

And again, skunk is - VERY GOOD.

For small periods of time.

Seconds maybe.

Like the amount of time you pass by it in a car.

But I may be altering my opinion if the breeze doesn't shift directions soon.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


I have wanderlust.

I have Gypsy blood.

I want to pack up a few precious belongings and hit the road.

I want to live for a year to feel each season in New York City. In Savannah. In Coeur d'Alene. In London. In Edinburgh. Outside Rome. In Jerusalem. My life is too short to live everywhere I want to.

This weekend I went home to PA for my brother's birthday. As I whizzed by at 75 mph on the Ohio Turnpike, I noticed two Amish men working their farm. How do they do it? How do people live their whole lives in one place? How do they work daily beside a highway and never take it wherever it goes? Do they ever have the urge to cross the field and flag down a car and just go to.... to ANYwhere? I haven't traveled much, but I can't for the life of me imagine not having the option... or more accurately, not having the desire for the option.

One of my first nicknames was "Gypsy." Our neighbor and my dad's best friend was Sam. When I was about 4 or 5... back when neighborhoods seemed smaller and safer... he was cutting the grass out front and saw me skipping by. When he went to the backyard, I was traipsing down the alley. When he returned to the front to water plants, I walked by again with a great sense of purpose. Where I was going or what I was doing, no one could tell. He told my folks that they had a real Gypsy on their hands. I have been gallivanting... or wanting to gallivant... ever since.

When I read Huckleberry Finn, I immediately wanted to cut down trees and rope a raft together. From the end of my street you could see the Beaver River. I knew it flowed into the Ohio. I got a map and figured I could float down the Beaver to the Ohio to the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. My mother said it wouldn't work. There were locks on the rivers and they wouldn't let a lashed-log boat through. That didn't stop me from daydreaming about it every day for an entire summer.

When I read Little House on the Prairie, I wanted to cross the country in a Conestoga wagon. A few years later, during our country's Bicentennial celebration, a group of reenactors did exactly that. When they came through our town I nearly ran away... not to join the circus, but a traveling group of covered wagon riders.

My dream came true in 2001 when Tom and I took our RV to Alaska and back. We christened it the Gypsy Chateau (Chateau being the oh-so-fab name of the manufacturer). I was Laura Ingalls Wilder in a modern Conestoga!

God knew what he was doing having me born in this era. I never could have hacked it without my own, private toity.

Showered in His grace,

Friday, September 10, 2004

Starting my blog

Reading others' blogs has been fascinating, edifying, humbling and hilarious. After months of absorbing from them, I thought perhaps it was time that I contributed to the mix. Besides, what better way to feed my fault of "inappropriate disclosure" than through blogging?

I get my talkative nature from both of my parents. My brother says that my childhood vaccination was with a phonograph needle (a reference lost on those who don't know about real record players). But my storytelling penchant is from my dad. I remember as a child listening from my upstairs bedroom as Dad would spin tales with friends around the dining room table. The joy of making others laugh and guffaw was infectious, and I wanted to be able to make my friends smile in the same way.

It seems I have a story for everything. On each Forensics/Debate trip after talking incessantly about something or other, I would tell students that I was all out of stories. Sure enough, five minutes later something reminded me of another story I could share. When it comes to work, I'm most productive at home alone because once I'm in the office, talking with anyone and everyone in the hallway occupies my time.

As I've matured (?), I've tried to pay more attention to the reactions that my stories (and my mere presence, for that matter) elicit from others. I've tried to be careful not to enter the game of one-ups-man-ship, vying for the spotlight, or the perception of both. However, since every story reminds me of one I could tell in turn, this is difficult. I'm still struggling with reading people to know when to talk and when they've had enough of my blather.

Therefore, one problem for me with the idea of blogging is not being able to see the immediate response from those who are hearing the story. How can I gauge the reaction? When is enough enough? And if I thrive on the immediate and tangible responses of others' laughter or tears, what is the payoff for a blog?

I was just speaking with friend Kristy O. who shared her thoughts on this subject: "Sure, we theatrical and communication types thrive with an audience. But the fact that Christians claim the cross means that the purpose of our storytelling should not be merely the enjoyment of the audience reaction, it should be something bigger than that. Even if only one person is entertained, you meet them where they are from where you are."

My conclusion is that this blog has to be for my own purposes. I write so I may explore, contemplate, document, and put into writing the things that matter or that simply pop into my head today. Hopefully, writing will provide some entertainment as well as illumination for my growth. And just possibly it will do the same for a reader or two.

Grace to you.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Grace Slick

"Grace Slick, to the public mind, is synonymous with Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship in the way that Mick Jagger is synonymous with the Rolling Stones. Ironically, Grace was not an original member of the band, nor was she with Starship at the very end. But Grace's importance to every phase of the band cannot be underestimated. White Rabbit, which she wrote, helped define not only Jefferson Airplane but also the acid rock era. Her unconventional vocals on Somebody to Love gave the Airplane its biggest hit. As one of the first female rock stars (as opposed to pop singers), Grace helped redefine women's role in modern music as more than just a sex symbol backed by a band."

Grace Kelly

"Grace Kelly was one of the most admired women in the world. Even today, she is upheld as a standard of classic beauty, grace, style. Her talent and persona influenced the great motion picture director Alfred Hitchcock so strongly that he attempted to make other actresses into her image. The Academy Award and Golden Globe winner starred in 11 films during her brief Hollywood career. She left acting when she married Prince Rainier Grimaldi of Monaco, becoming Princess Grace."

Gracie Allen

"Gracie Allen transferred her popular fictional persona from vaudeville, film, and radio, to American television in the 1950s. Allen had performed with her husband and partner, George Burns, for nearly 30 years when the pair debuted in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show on CBS in October 1950. The Burns and Allen act, a classic vaudeville routine involving a "Dumb Dora" and a male straight-man, proved infinitely malleable.

The impetus to comedy within the program was the character portrayed by Allen. Her humor was almost entirely linguistic. Often an entire episode hinged on her confusion of antecedents in a sentence, as when the couple's announcer (who also took part in the program's narrative) informed her that Burns had worked with another performer until he (meaning the other performer) had married, moved to San Diego, and had two sons--at which point she concluded that her husband was a bigamist.

Allen's character challenged the rational order of things without ever actually threatening it.
The character's success on the program, and popularity with the viewing public, depended in large part on her total unawareness of the comic effects of her "zaniness." The onscreen Gracie was a sweet soul who on the surface embodied many of the feminine norms of the day--domesticity, reliance on her man, gentleness--even as she took symbolic pot shots at the gender order by subverting her husband's logical, masculine world. "