The Mind of Bluesleepy

Ethnicities 30 October 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — bluesleepy @ 11:59 pm


I’ve been stuck on watching HGTV for a while now. I’m not quite sure why; it’s not like I can apply many of the ideas here in my new house. Kurt says we can paint, and we don’t even have to paint the walls back to neutral because property management will come in and paint them back for us.

No kidding, folks. You should see how many layers of paint we have to go through when we nail something up or drill a hole. There is so much paint on the walls that the screw just forces it up and around the hole, so if you have to take the screw back out again, you’ve got a lip of paint all around the hole. Plus the people who do the painting aren’t terribly careful with their brushes. All of our closet doors, which are made of that lovely 1980s-era oak veneer, have at least one big paint splotch on them.

I guess it’s a good thing that the ceiling is painted the same color as the walls, else we’d have ceiling paint on the walls and vice versa.

Aside: Is it a normal thing to paint ceilings the same color as the walls? My whole life, I was under the impression that colored walls always had a neutral (white or cream) ceiling. Then I moved to Washington, and my good friend J had her entire house painted pale blue. Including the ceilings. She says that’s normal. What do you people think?

I saw the awesomest paint color today on HGTV, Design on a Dime, I think it was. The designer chose this gorgeous metallic blue-green color that looked amazing in that particular living room. I don’t think I could pull it off because I’m not a designer, but it did look awfully rad in there.

Another reason I’m hesitant about paint is most of what I would want to paint, being the living and dining rooms, are open to one another. I’d have to paint them the same color, and I’m not sure if I would want to do that.

It’s all complicated. I have design dilemmas.

But as I watched HGTV today, I realized something. I have no real sense of my ethnicity.

Maybe that sounds kind of odd. I mean, everyone has an ethnicity, right? Most of the American populace is from somewhere else; very few of us have families that have been here for more than 100 years, and it’s only the Native Americans that are actually native to our country, not to point out the obvious.

Me, I’m half mutt (basically Western European with some Norwegian thrown in), and then half Lithuanian Jew.

Why the qualifier of being “Lithuanian Jew”? I’ve been told my whole life by my relatives that when they were forced to leave their home country of Lithuania, they were not considered to be “Lithuanian.” Instead they were branded as Jews. Apparently back then, if you were Jewish, you had no other nationality.

So am I really Lithuanian, even though all of my father’s ancestors were from Lithuania? Or does their religion trump their ethnicity?

Why the hell am I thinking about these sorts of things while watching HGTV anyhow? Well, one of the shows today was talking about remodeling a kitchen for a couple that are Italian-American. And they feel their heritage in everything they do. They really wanted a kitchen to reflect that, so the designers came up with an Old World Italian kitchen with a modern flair.

I was raised simply as an American. I’m not anything else. Just American, that’s me. And I know that’s the goal (or was) of many Americans, to blend in and become simply “American.”

But I feel that lately we’ve been trying to be hyphenated Americans. Black Americans are no longer black — they’re African-Americans. We have Korean-Americans and Chinese-Americans and Italian-Americans and Spanish-Americans and Russian-Americans… the list goes on and on.

I wasn’t raised with any funky food that my classmates would make fun of. I wasn’t raised with any weird words that no one else knew the meaning of. I wasn’t raised to attribute my body characteristics to my ethnicity (no, I do not have a Jewish nose, for which I am eternally grateful).

I wasn’t even raised to be Jewish. My father had been raised in a children’s home (sort of like an orphanage, but for kids who weren’t orphans), and my grandfather never taught him to be Jewish. My uncle is, though, and when I was a kid we would go visit various relatives for various Jewish holidays. But my father was never comfortable because he didn’t always understand what was going on, and it was hard for him to explain it to his kids. Instead my stepmom got us all going to church. The last Jewish ceremony I attended was my cousin’s bat mitzvah two years ago. The rabbi officiating was really cool — he made sure all of us non-Jews knew exactly what was going on and why it was important.

In a way, I feel like I missed out. I hear KitchenLogic and Lena discuss their Norwegian heritage, and how cool it is to be Norwegian. I read about The Purple Chai’s grandparents teaching her Yiddish and how much her heritage has permeated her life. Even Art’s first language wasn’t English — he spoke French until he moved to the States! And my best friend Caroline, being half-Korean, can speak and read her mother’s native tongue, and she used to visit her in Korea every year when she was a kid.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI’ve got nothing to compare. Sure, my family are all immigrants — they came to the States back around the turn of the last century from Lithuania when things got a wee bit problematic for them there. They came to Rochester and Watertown, NY, and started new lives. My grandfather was of the first generation to be born here, just a few years after the family arrived. He would have been 100 this year. My uncle tells me that Grandpa had an accent and sometimes would sprinkle his speech with Yiddish. But I don’t remember; Grandpa died in 1984, when I was only 5. At the time I was living with my real mother, and since my parents were already divorced by then, if we had gone back to New York for a visit, there wasn’t a huge chance we’d see my father’s side of the family.

That photo you see is of my father’s father with my sister Michele and me. I’m guessing this was the summer of 1979, which means I was less than six months old. My sister would have been four going on five. Grandpa would have been 72 by this time. He was married late in life, and my father was born when Grandpa was already 39 years old.

I suppose most people don’t really think about their heritage and where they come from. For me, it’s just something I really notice. I love to learn about new things and new people and new foods and new traditions. Caroline taught me how to make Korean bbq beef (aka, bulgogi) the last time she came to visit, and it’s now one of our favorite meals to make, although I have to minimize the hot bean paste or else Grace won’t eat it.

I guess I sort of feel I don’t have anything interesting to offer in return. We’re just Americans, and that’s all that we are.


13 Responses to “Ethnicities”

  1. hissandtell Says:

    Well, personally, I don’t think any room’s complete until it’s painted either red or purple and has mirrors on the ceiling. But perhaps that’s just me. Love, R xxx

  2. hissandtell Says:

    Oh, and that photo of you and your schwesterkin and your grandad is just lovely. What a beautiful memory to be able to keep. x

  3. acaldwell Says:

    this is the only country in the world where we brand folks something-american. what helium filled brain thought of this? only the stuck up negros want to be called ‘african-american’, most i see want to be called ‘black’ cause thats what they are!! they wernt born in africa! sheesh!!

  4. Shear Madnez Says:

    I am just an American too. Our lot is such a melting pot that the hyphenated word to describe our heritage would become a hyphenated paragraph.

  5. purple chai Says:

    I agree that the hyphenated-American thing is strange. When I fill out a form, I want to check “European American” instead of white or other, along with all the other –American choices. But indeed, far back enough, we did all come from somewhere, I just don’t think it matters except to us personally. And you’re right about the Lithuanian Jew thing. Jews weren’t citizens of any country they lived in over there, except, ironically, Germany. Our ancestors would have been described as Jews from Lithuania, or Latvia, or wherever, never as Lithuanians or Latvians. Those are distinct ethnic groups as well.

  6. michele Says:

    no no no no! ceilings should never be painted the same color as the walls. didn’t these people take Interior Design 101?!?

    i suppose that if the walls were a light to medium blue, for example, that it might be okay to paint the ceiling an-oh-so-pale-with-just-a-hint-of-blue. otherwise, the ceilings should be white or cream. or, if you’re frisky: linen, ecru, eggshell, etc. 😉

    i get ya with the ethnicity thing. it’s challenging to explain sometimes how Dad’s side is Jewish/Lithuanian and then there’s Mom and then Marty and add to the mix our poor brother—being hispanic with a Jewish last name right next to his Spanish middle name… ¡Aye de mí!

    and just for the record, i don’t *always* dip my fries into mayo. usually i use ketchup but if I’m at a restaurant and my meal comes with mayo and the side dish is a bunch of steak fries… yeah buddy! i’m gonna dip ’em in the mayo. actually, don’t you also like the sweet & sour sauce from McDonald’s for your fries?

    love you!

  7. The Other Half Says:

    I need more votes for painting! I cant get my hands dirty at work anymore so I have to do it at home. I even found brushes in the garage yesterday. There is a Home Depot near by, when can we start? 🙂


  8. oleandlena Says:

    In response to Michelle about the mayo or ketchup dipping thing – have you ever tried dipping your fries in the horseradish sauce at Arby’s? MMmm Good! Ceilings: I always thought the idea was to keep the ceilings white was so you would have a feeling of airyness (is that a word?) So it would not feel like you were in a cave and the ceiling was crashing down on you. I guess I don’t care what the rest of the world does – my ceilings are all white. And ya – I do enjoy my ScandiHOOvian heritage. I really became interested in it at the point in time when my mother died and I got deeply into genealogy. I also think that living in one area for my entire life has helped ingrain it. I’m half Swedish, half Norwegian; Ole is a Finlander, so it gets pretty thick at our house.

  9. Poolie Says:

    I’m a mutt too. Something European. One of my co-workers is also a Lithuanian Jew. Her parents fled to Mexico City after they escaped from the camps. So….she speaks Yiddish with a Mexican accent. Her stories are amazing.

  10. whatdayisit Says:

    I was always under the impression that most ceilings are a light color to make the room look larger/more spacious but I think it is really up to the individual. We have painted rooms both ways..husband says it is easier to paint the ceiling the same color.
    As for adjoining rooms, if you stay in the same color palette, you could paint one a darker shade and they are not the same. Or use an accent color in one and carry it into the next room. I love HGTV too.
    Re: family background. I think the xxxx-american is a bit overdone. Who really cares? Most of us are a blend of many nationalities and are better for it. If you can use learn family recipes or words…so much the better. For you, learning recipes from different cultures is what make you happy and unique so….enjoy the experiences. I am sure the various nationalities you meet are thrilled to share their culture with you and you are reaping all those benefits of special connections with your friends.

  11. david Says:

    re: painting
    Only time I’ve seen ceiling and walls the same color was all white. Maybe it’s a regional thing? /shrug

    You’ve got lots of options for adjoining rooms.
    shades of the same hue, complimentary colors blending into each other (if you want to give the impression they’re the same room) or (my personal favorite) bold contrasting colors with a stark demarcation line of where one room ends and the other begins [but then you really need to arrange the furniture to agree, having a couch stretch across that border line will just look weird and bad] — but then I’ve been living 20yrs in a house that has two adjoining rooms whose walls are painted the same.

  12. yankeechick Says:

    Ceiling must be different color! I agree that all one color might tend to have a ‘cave effect’. BUT! My living room and dining room and kitchen walls all meet at some point and I have a soft green living room, blending into a very soft yellow kitchen and just recently added a mushroomy taupe color for the dining and entry way…foyer…whatever. It blends in nicely. It was ALL white when we bought the house..GAG!! My sewing/computer room, which has huge double doors off the dining area is also the soft green of the living room, with sheer burgandy lace curtains. I love ‘My Room’. I think it was supposed to be a formal dining room or something. It’s huge and in the front of the house with a HUGE bay window. Okay, so I do like my house!

    And as for ethnicities, I have always been pretty proud to be half Irish and half English. And I never had a problem learning my ancestors language! Hahahaha!! I envy those that can trace their heritage and genealogy, like Lena does. Not so easy for an Irish family who’s 1st ancestor to arrive in America was James O’Neill. Sadly, there were 100’s of them! And as for my Dad’s ancestors coming from England, I had too little info and apparently my maiden name is pretty popular back there. I love stuff like that and I don’t stand a chance!

    And, OMG!! WTF!! Is the longest comment in history or what?? I know, I know…next time write a letter! Sorry, Sweetie! XXX

  13. Angela Says:

    I highly recommend “Divine Design” with Candace Olsen – she is a design goddess, I even love the rooms she does that aren’t my style/taste because I can tell they’re done WELL. And I’m with the folks who say a ceiling has to be a different color (unless it’s light/neutral shades all around) – I think monochrome in any non-neutral tone would close off a room.

    Psst Kurt, break out the paint cans!! Go for it!

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