Names, Identity and Change: Why Norma Schafer

Perhaps you have noticed, or not, that my name on the masthead of this blog has changed to Schafer. I thought I might offer an explanation. If you don’t care, just stop reading, delete this post and Move On. This is not about Oaxaca or Mexico or my recent trip to Spain. This is personal. In my creative writing and the work I have published on Minerva Rising, I have learned to write from the depths.

When I married in 2002, I took my husband’s surname. This is something neither of his first two wives had done. In doing so, I believed it would honor him and signal a strong commitment to this union.

Many years earlier, I had taken another man’s name when it was conventional custom and after the dissolving of this first marriage, I kept that name for a very long time because it also belonged to my son.

The man I married in 2002 became my recent ex-husband.  He was Husband Number Two. I was Wife Number Three. Soon, friends told me, there will be a Wife Number Four. I realized it is time for me to put that identity completely behind. Some said, it’s a nice name, you can keep it. But names are symbolic of something else.


As a woman, I have always carried a man’s name, starting with the name of my father. I never liked my father’s name although I loved him very much. It is awkward to say, lengthy, unusual and must be spelled at each introduction. For me, it never fit.

My mother’s family name has resonance. I experimented with spelling (just like they did at Ellis Island) first selecting Shafer. I tacked it on to the married name to ease into a public transition to change. How long does it take? Maybe a year? Do readers even notice? I wasn’t sure. Now, easing into another name is not an option.

What I also know is that I also want to reclaim my identity through my last name. The spelling Schafer makes sense. It means scribe, an ancient Jewish record-keeper, then later a theologian or jurist. I am a contemporary record-keeper of Oaxaca art, culture, history, etc. I document what I experience through photographs and words.

I researched various spellings of my  mother’s family name that has both German and Ashkenazi Jewish origins, and made a choice. Please join me in celebration of Norma Schafer and new beginnings.

Please let me know if you have any questions:

Today, I am leaving North Carolina, returning to Northern California to visit my 99-year old mother and sister, and then will get back to Mexico in early June. It’s been quite a journey.

Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat: Lifting Your Creative Voice 2016




16 responses to “Names, Identity and Change: Why Norma Schafer

  1. Norma, You go, girl! (Who wants to be an EX- (one of three) Mrs. Hawthorns!!!?) I think it is appropriate for you to choose the name that honors your identity, both in terms of your history and in describing who you are now. You are a woman of spirit! Good for you! XO, Kaola

  2. GOOD JOB, NORMA SCHAFER! IMUA (hawaiian for go forward)
    aloha, carolyn

  3. What a lovely post, Norma. Congratulations on your new name!

  4. Hi,

    Congratulations. A new beginning.

    Jo Ann

  5. May I recommend the grilled Mahi-Mahi sandwich at Zelda’s? Oh, and don’t forget the seagull repellant. Bruce A.

  6. Scribe! How perfect. And how brave, to take a name that is both yours and a chosen one. I eternally admire you.
    I also wonder what numerology/astrology would say about the name change? For me, if I include my middle initial in my name, i am “Worker”. If I leave it out, I am “Writer”! I say, leave it out…. 🙂

    • Ah, you are such a lovely and steadfast friend. I say leave it out, except that you could blend it and be a worker-writer, which implies a dedication to the writing life, which you have and suits YOU perfectly. Sending hugs. Where can I find out about the numerology/astrology meaning? I’m not versed in this facet of spirituality. Numerology, actually, is a part of Kabbalah, which was developed in southern France in the 8th century and moved to northern Spain where it became embedded in high religious practice. Learned this on my recent trip 🙂 Besos.

  7. Thank you for sharing – it is a wonderful name and so fitting to you and your creative and deeply lived life! And connecting you to some very strong women, one of which is you!

  8. Norma — You continue to touch my heart with your depth of feelings and discoveries. This very special story explains your fascinating article about Girona and the Sephardic Jews. I, and I’m sure many others, would love to explore other areas of Jewish culture and identity with you through travel.
    Thank you for sharing this.


    • Susan, you are a dear for writing and sharing your heartfelt wishes for my “recovery” from love and then disappointment. Now, I am focusing on my writing and a future filled with even more contentment and peace. I haven’t planned any public travel/education programs that focus on Jewish history and culture. Though, I guess it’s something to think about. I’ve seen that many congregations and organizations offer this. I am thinking of returning to Spain and Morocco next year with a focus on textiles in Morocco, and perhaps explore more of the Jewish experience in Southern Spain. I’d be happy to talk to you in a private message about what you have in mind and if it’s possible for me to organize a small group to do this together. Send me an email:

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