Tag Archives: German

When Heinz 57 is a Good Thing

There was always one answer missing. No matter how hard I looked on those multiple choice forms, there was never a “Heinz 57” on the list. So I grew up filling out Iowa Tests of Basic Skills forms with resentment each year (as well as many other forms) with the plain old “white” or “Caucasian” because I don’t have enough of any one thing in me to be predominant. But then again, that’s a good thing. Like last night.

Last night was our church’s annual International Christmas Festival. We celebrate all of the cultures represented in our church as well as this special time of year. Folks are invited to dress in a way that reflects their heritage, if they so desire, and bring a food dish representative of their culture. Last year, Karl and the kids went as the Germans they are (I have a little in me) and I went as a Native American. Karl took Streusel Kuchen, and I took Native American Fry Bread. But because of our varied heritages, we were able to choose a different culture to represent at this year’s festival. Last night we went with the English-Welsh side of the family (Karl’s mother and who knows where it comes from in me).

We dressed in lady and knight costumes and served English scones with preserves and tea. Evidently English scones are hard to come by in East Texas. The leftovers were claimed, with quite a bit of demand, actually. Even the peach/apricot preserves were victims of kidnapping by the church media director. We also got to enjoy guacamole made by our Honduran friends and cassava cakes by our friends from the Philippines. What a night!

What culture will we represent next year? Well, since my DNA test came back 19% sub-Saharan African, it might be time to represent the soul side of me. This is what makes being a regular Heinz 57 of races and ethnicities so much fun. I want to proudly celebrate each and every part of my heritage. Why limit it to only one? Things have gotten better over the years on those dreaded forms demanding to know my race and ethnicity. They haven’t figured out “melting pot American” yet, so I click the best answer I can which is finally now available. “Prefer not to answer.” If I can’t claim every single part of my ethnicity then I’d rather not say anything at all.


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It’s All in the Name

I once had a coworker who admitted she named both of her children after characters from television shows. I can only imagine the conversations she must have had with them. Mom, what was your inspiration for choosing my name? Oh I loved spending time watching this one tv show and I wanted it to live forever in my mind, so I gave you the name of one of its characters. Um, thanks mom.

I would meet other people in my life’s journeys that would recall similar stories. Famous people, fact or fiction, served as the inspiration for naming their children. I suppose I have a different view on this subject, because of the connection. The truth is that if you tell a child something long enough, eventually they will meet your expectations. Perhaps I’m being a bit crass here, but if you tell your child (by the mere calling him by his name and he knows the origin of it) that he is nothing more than an inspiration from a short lived TV show, he doesn’t have very high expectations to shoot for.

I didn’t get to pick my oldest son’s name. Karl had planned out what his first son would be named before he even met me. I tried to get him to at least switch the order of the first and middle names, but he would not relent. I went into the marriage knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that if we ever had a boy, his name would be Michael Shawn. End of discussion. Karl chose this name because he liked it and because it had meaning to it, something he wanted for his son. Michael “Who is like God?” Shawn “God is gracious.” What a way to raise a child.

Matthew was a surprise. Due to the incompetence of my first OB doctor with this pregnancy, our only ultrasound was done too early to detect the baby’s gender. So we prepared a girl’s name and a boy’s name. Since we thought I wouldn’t have any more children, we considered him a gift. Matthew “Gift of God” Wesley “from the West” as we lived in the grand state of Arizona at the time.

Our daughter was a completely different matter. The boys would always carry their German heritage name with them, but we realized that should Greta marry and take her husband’s last name, she would have no reminder of her grandfather’s immigration as a young lad near the end of World War II and the trials he went through as a young German boy that couldn’t speak a word of English in a country that had no sympathy for any Germans. Her name was chosen to remind her of that part of her heritage. It took us a long time to look through German names for girls that weren’t about war or battle prowess. We finally settled on Greta (pearl) and Jolene “God will increase” in memory of her maternal grandpa that was dying of cancer as she was born. Her name meant something.

Many cultures name their children after the attributes they want them to have, Serenity, Faith or Grace. Some name their children before they are born and others wait until the child begins to show some personality before selecting a permanent name. Still others have had their name changed, to reveal a change in their status or character. Jacob “Deceiver” become Israel “God strives” to commemorate his night of wrestling with God.

What have you called yourself lately? Idiot, Stupid perhaps? Why not try some of the names God has for us, such as greatly beloved, chosen, dear friends, disciples, overcomers or forgiven. My husband changed the way I looked at myself, by starting to call me Gorgeous. He still calls me by my given name, but he also calls me Gorgeous, to remind me that even if I don’t like my 40 something old body that has taken a few beatings from Crohn’s Disease, that I am still special to him. That name says it all and it has encouraged me many times.

Like it or not, we have a connection to the names we are given, the names we give and the names we answer to. It’s all in the name.

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