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, October 28, 2004


Tonight was Trick-or-Treat night in my neighborhood. (I had never heard the term "Beggar's Night" until I moved to Ohio.) I set out my once-a-year, terra cotta, jack-o-lantern luminaries in a semicircle around my chair and the scarecrow, and I set up the candy distribution center in my driveway.

Overall, this year's costumes weren't as impressive as last year's when one big-for-his-age kid came in a suit and tie, carrying a bouquet of helium balloons and a giant check proclaiming me the winner of the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

There were the too-cute-for-words babies... an alligator, a cowboy, a princess. As cute as they are, it burns me that the parents are really getting candy for themselves. Sure, dress up the 1 year old and take pictures, but do you really need to go door-to-door to get chocolate for the baby?

There were the pre-adolescent enthusiasts... Harry Potters, firemen and policemen, old ladies and 50s girls in poodle skirts. Their goal is to run to as many houses as they can in the 90 minutes. Which is why one particular pair had me in stitches. Two boys dressed up as "fat, bald, old men." They had wrapped themselves in foam padding and were wearing sweats. But they walked like the little brother in "A Christmas Story." There was no way they could get up if they fell. They couldn't bend knees or arms and could barely go house to house. And since speed is the purpose of pre-adolescent boys, I think they discovered quickly that a good idea had turned bad. After watching them painstakingly walk to two houses, I saw them later on skateboards. Problem solved!

And there were the teenagers without costumes. I was so tempted not to give them any candy since they were too old and obviously in it only for the loot, but I was aware that my home would be a target for egg bombs or T.P.-ing. Besides, Tom told me to be extra generous this year because we have a Bush/Cheney sign in our yard. "We want people to know that Republicans are generous with their candy."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A family of nicknames...

Chick, Chickie, Boodie, Cribbo, Slugger, Sluggo, Weezie, Butchie, Butchicat, Mimi, PC, Laurinski, Sissy, A, Big A, Rip, O, Lloyd, Chippy, Fing, Nana Luv, PupPup, Nana, Papa, Hobbes, Googs, Eggie, Dooders ... these are just a few of the nicknames in my immediate family. Yes, I'm still stuck on why we give them, what they mean, why some make it and others don't, why some people have multiples and others have none...

Friday, October 22, 2004

My Original Grace

There is a fourth "Grace" in the personality amalgam I'm creating. Actually, she is the first.

My mother, G. Marilyn (Bloom) O'Data, celebrated her birthday last week. She has gone by "Marilyn" her entire life. But her first name is actually "Grace," named after our home church, Grace Evangelical Lutheran.

Ironically, she began to loathe her first name when classmates in grade school teased her about Gracie Allen. They would repeat the closing line "Say goodnight, Gracie" and infer that my mother was as airheaded as the character Gracie Allen portrayed. (Read earlier blog for the real deal on Allen's intelligent portrayal and why I hold her in great esteem.) Of course, also ironically, "Marilyn" would later have its own meaning, wouldn't it?

My mother is the epitome of graciousness. She is sacrificial in her care for others. More than simply taking the steak that falls from the grill and onto the grass, she consisently puts others' needs first. There have been times that her good intentions and concern have been misunderstood as controlling; it cuts to the bone to feel her hurt as she is bewildered by those who misinterpret her actions.

In my early 20s, I was one of those who misunderstood her servant's heart. I am a strong combination of both of my parents, and the part of my father that is independent and self-reliant viewed her advice and concern as intrusive. I am overjoyed to say that now I understand her better and appreciate her more. I aspire to be as loving in service to Christ and family as she is.

We have taken several road trips together. What a laugh riot! I remember one particular trip to Chicago about 15 years ago. As we drove through the first toll booth in Ohio, I prepared to pay the toll and navigated the traffic and lanes. She began to cry. "I am so proud that I have a daughter who knows how to do this and isn't afraid," she said through tears. My mother has always been afraid to drive more than about a 15 mile radius around our house. It has been debilitating and restricting on her life. I have not taken my independence for granted since that talk.

I remember another of the conversations on that trip. We talked about a manner of her speech which was grating on me at that time (in my early 20s). She had a tendency to speak in plurals. "We don't like to garden"..."We put toilet paper rolls on with the paper going under"..."We like ceilings painted white." It seemed as though anytime she had an opinion she would use the plural to boost her argument. I felt that her assumption of my agreement was an assault on my indepenndence. "You don't speak for me!" I would scream inaudibly, inside my own head. She was a bit shocked to find that she talked in plurals. She had never noticed it, but she thought perhaps she picked it up from her mother as she began to think about it.

As I have matured and become more confident in my identity as being separate from my mother's, I stopped noticing whether or not she speaks in plurals. I have come full circle from being her clone, to rebelling against the assumption that we are the same, to embracing the part of me that is exactly like her. (Sounds like a "Cathy" cartoon.) Afterall, she embodies many of the qualities of the kind of woman I hope to become, so why not hold fast to that inheritance?

My original and best role model. My mother, Grace.

Friday, October 08, 2004


I've had a great week! I love my job! More than that, I love the relationships that have developed because of it. Wednesday I spent nearly 4 hours laughing and chatting with Audrey. This week I had a phone message from Bemis; blogged with Nate; talked with Kristy, Kat, Keegie, Kristin, Erin, Jen, Marie, Duenke, and Adam; went out to eat with Trena; worked with Ryan; made lunch plans for next week with Jeremy; got a surprise knock at my door from Josiah; laughed and cried (and danced in my heart) with Lonette. My life continues to be blessed by the students of Malone College. Thank you!


In one tangent of the conversation with Audrey, we discussed nicknames. I was never really aware that I had so many until I got married and Tom became confused at family gatherings. "Who's Biz? Your dad was looking at you when he said it." Yes, I'm Biz. (see a previous blog) Have you ever read the children's magazine Highlights in the doctor's office? When I was a child it contained a cartoon about a family of bears. The children were named Poozy and Woozy. Yup, that one stuck, too. My mother would call me Pooz and Tom would look over with a silent, inquisitive expression and tilt his head, much like a dog who's heard a high-pitched screech. Yes, I'm Biz, Gypsy, and Pooz.

My nephew Aaron started calling me EE when he was just learning to talk. Our best guess is that it comes from the "sack of potatoes" game I played with him when I would carry him around the house singing The Wizard of Oz flying monkey song, "E, Oh. Oh, E, Oh." When his sister Lauren was born, she simply continued it. Yes, EE is one of my favorite nicknames.

I had an aunt named Anastasia. No one ever called her that. She was always Aunt Ann. So, to keep it straight on that side of the family, my mother began referring to me as Little Ann... which is better, I suppose, than my aunt getting the moniker "Big Ann." But mother would say it so fast that it sort of sounded like Li'l Ann ... or Lillian. Lucky for me, that one didn't stick. If only I was as lucky with Pooz.

My complete name at birth was Ann Jenifer O'Data. All the relatives on my dad's side, for some reason I have yet to discover, insist on calling me "Annjenifer" as if it was a single name. Go ahead, say it out loud. It doesn't flow off the tongue particularly well, does it? But every reunion I am bombarded all day with "Annjenifer, Annjenifer." They must all think that I want to be called by the whole name... because surely in nearly 40 years someone would have shortened it.

Tom doesn't have a nickname for me. No real pet name. Nor do I have one for him. I don't call him Honey or Sweety, and I'm not Cupcake or Darlin' or any such thing. I wonder why that is?

You can't force a nickname on to someone else. I can't say, "Tom, I'm now going to start calling you Stretch cuz you're tall." And you can't really make up your own nickname. If I could, I wonder what I'd want it to be? Some stick and some don't, and you don't have much say in why.

What do our nicknames say about us? What do they say about the people who gave them to us? About a month ago, my nephew called me Aunt Ann for what I think was the first time. Since he turns 15 next month, he figures he's too old to still call me EE and he wants to use a more grown-up name. I got all choked up. I didn't choose the name, I'm still not sure of the derivation, but I want him to call me EE forever! What does the loss of that name mean? Does our self-concept change because of what we are called? How much do our names contribute to who we are and how we see ourselves?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Style vs Substance

I'm still thinking about this concept since my last blog. And then I watched the media pundits after the Presidential Debates. Many of them were saying Kerry won, not for what he said but how he said it.

Kerry is a more polished speaker than Bush, who had a few too many "umms" while he was thinking. Kerry stood straight and tall, Bush not quite so much. Kerry looked at his own podium while Bush talked, Bush pursed his lips and sighed (though not anywhere near as badly as Gore did last time.) Kerry wins in the Style department, I will acquiesce.

But Kerry REPEATEDLY started sentences with "I believe..." until I was ready to smack him for his lack of creativity. He also said repeatedly, "I have a plan..." But he never really outlined what the plan was except to say his was better. And, in my completely biased view, the substance of Bush's speech had more merit and was more (rightly) straightforward. :)

Funny thing is, I bet Americans with opinions about the debate didn't even watch it. They waited to be told how it went and who won. Then they base their opinions on soundbites and commentaries. What the commentators say afterward is really what sways the public more than what the candidates say. And pundits are saying Kerry won. Style over substance.

A couple of years ago Greta Van Susterern left CNN to host her own show on FNC. They wooed her because of her credibility, legal knowledge, etc. But before she started her new gig, she took time off for eye lift, collagen injections, new hairdo, etc. She said it was something she wanted to do for herself. Her substance got her the job, but she chose a new style for her new digs. Substance over style... barely.

There's a new reporter in Iraq for MSNBC or FNC, I'm not sure which. I was shocked to see him on air the last couple of days because he has a goatee-like-thing on his face and long hair. He's handsome and looks cool, but he doesn't look like an on-air reporter. Maybe a print journalist, but certainly not on-camera talent without the requisite helmet-hair. Substance over style... or just a different style we aren't used to? YET!?

Can substance ever really win on its own over style? Do we always need some sense of style to get the audience's attention, to get others to listen? Please, someone give me an example of substance roundly defeating the challenger of superficiality and appearance...

And all this reminds me of a poem my neighbor taught me when I was 5 years old. Mrs. Swager, a little white haired waif of a woman, gave me rootbeer barrel candies every time I visited her. Being a very chubby and sugar-motivated child, I naturally visited daily. One Spring, she taught me a poem to recite for my mother for Mother's Day. Not the best poetry, but I remember it still...

I found a rosebud in the street,
All faded crushed and brown.
The leaves were gone from off its stem.
Its little head hung down.
Tenderly, I took the flower,
Cast off each withered part.
Beneath, I found it warmly pink
Around a golden heart.
It spoke a message to me,
As old as the world is old.
Judge not by outside wrappings,
For within may be purest gold.