As we approach the new year of 2011, I can’t help but remember my father’s observation as a pharmacist in the 1980s. He said, “We’ve had more changes in the last 50 years in medicine than in all the years prior.” Of course, the changes that transpired in those immediately previous 50 years emerged from the foundation of work by generations of scientists. After all, the first concocted antibiotic wasn’t developed until sulfanilamide and penicillin in the early part of the 20th century. As I contemplate the last 100 years, inspired by the recent loss of my great-uncle Gene at 103, I took a gander at what he had seen in his lifetime.
In the last 10 decades, we’ve seen the Nobel Prize for physics go to Madame Marie Curie (France) for the discovery of the elements, radium and polonium in 1911. 50 years later, in 1961, this same prize was awarded to Robert Hofstadtler (United States) for his determination of the shape and size of atomic nuclei. A mere 10 years ago, in 2001, the award went to Wolfgang Ketterle (Germany), Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman (United States), for discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate . Imagine! A new state of matter, theorized by Albert Einstein, but not proved until this group did so. This year, we will see new weights established for the periodic table. We have seen the extinction of animals and diseases and the rise of others.
As we enter 2011, diving into the year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar, 4708 in the Chinese calendar, 1432 in the Islamic calendar, or the Mayan long count of 220.127.116.11.0, our lives have been changed dramatically by many events. We have seen wars and conflicts in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, to name a few. The Berlin Wall has been built and destroyed. Cultural revolutions have fulmugated around the world. We have witnessed the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of an African-American president of the United States.
We have seen unfathomable growth and challenges in the last century including the change in perception between the First World War when little was thought about homosexuals at all to the current day when homosexuals will be allowed to openly serve in the military. We have moved from a time when a Black person couldn’t marry a White person to today when gays are marrying in some states in the U.S. The economy has seen boons and busts throughout the century including the Great Depression in the 1930s. Here are some other interesting tidbits:
Year Fed. Spending  Fed. Debt  Postage  UI Rate 
(In billions) (In billions)
1911 $ .69 $ 0.o $ .02 6.7%
1961 97.72 292.6 .04 5.5%
2001 1,864.00 5,807.o .34 4.8%
2011 3,833.90 1,266.7 .46 9.6%
I suppose with all this reminiscing about our past, the next logical step would be to imagine what will be in our future. I’d rather not. Not because I think things will be worse, but because it won’t serve any purpose. The real question is, where are we now?
On a personal level, I have lost my entire adopted family of origin, but I have found my family of birth. I have encountered family members from seven generations born between 1881 and 2003. I’ve changed careers from working in a pharmacy in the 1970s to being a music educator today. I’ve had the pleasure to see my husband, children, and grandchildren all working toward growing their successes. I have returned to school to complete my education. If my family is a microcosm of America, which it may be, then one can extrapolate that although things have been tough, we have our eyes on making things better. We are stepping back to get a good view of where we are, and taking steps to improve our situation.
January 1, 2011, is, I suspect, a preparatory time toward a major shift in our lives. We, as a family and as a country, are readying ourselves for a giant leap forward. What shape that will take, I don’t know. We are talking about our spirits. We are valuing our children in a more vibrant way. We are demanding a better education for them. We are begging for art and beauty. We are striving for unity. These are all good things that I believe will make us stronger, wiser, and more solid as a national and world community.
I welcome the coming new year with everything it has to bring. Gratitude permeates every fiber of my being as I look forward to the forthcoming 365 days. So, in that gratitude, I say in anticipation of the coming celebration, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!
 Infoplease.com (2010) List of Nobel Prize winners for Physics. Retrieved from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0105785.html
 USGovernmentSpending.com (2010) [Data] Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year2011_0.html
 U.S. Postal Service (2010) News Release: New Rates Retrieved from http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_064.htm
 Forcasts.org (2010) Unemployment figures (Data) Retrieved from http://www.forecasts.org/unemploy.htm
(2010) “Happy New Year 2011” [Photograph] Retrieved from http://win7dl.com
(2010) “Human Arrow” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://ypg-prioryroad.com
(2010) “Marie Curie” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://reich-chemistry.wikispaces.com
As I reread my blog from yesterday, I realized just how happy I am to be back on WordPress.com after several months on another blogsite. Some things simple resonate better than others, I guess. This blog site is one of those for me. I felt like I had gone to Oz on the other site. I had the potential of making some money from ads, perhaps even additional readership, but it wasn’t what I thought it would be.
I once rearranged my living room furniture because I was tired of the old arrangement. I tried my best to enjoy it, but it simply didn’t feel right to me. No matter how I shifted the knick knacks around or adjusted the cushions, it never looked or, more importantly, felt right. Suddenly, I realized what the problem was. The furniture was in the previous configuration because that’s the way I liked it. It had the right feel for me, so I moved everything back. As I looked around the room at the new/old configuration, I breathed. I dawned on me that this was the first time I had fully breathed since I changed the room around. Isn’t that strange?
I suppose it’s a lot like Dorothy’s comment about what she had learned to Glinda in The Wizard of Oz, “…if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard, because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” Sometimes, we want change for change’s sake, and that’s o.k., really. We shouldn’t be afraid of our life adventures; however, it doesn’t mean that they will be satisfying. We simply must be free to also return to what made us happy in the first place if we want.
Children come home for the holidays. Furniture gets rearranged to the old way it was. Dorothy returns to Kansas; and I have come home to WordPress. I suppose that’s just the way it’s supposed to be.
God knows I tried! I thought it would be a good idea to move my blog to Blogspot.com so that I could attempt to earn a few bucks from my blog. How silly. Sure, I earned several dollars, but was it worth it? No. It wasn’t home like WordPress.com. So, here I am, where my blog is peaceful. So much has happened since last I blogged, but that is for another day.
I am home, and this makes me happy.
There comes a time when one must grow beyond what one has expected of themselves, when fear is dashed against a wall and creativity is expanded. This is such a time.
After 15 months of writing on WordPress.com, I have decided that I must pursue a more lucrative venue for my blogs. I am moving to a new site that I hope will provide some revenue from my writing.
Please visit my blogsite at http://powodzenias.blogspot.com/ I will continue to write on the topics that are important, personal, introspective, and global. I hope you will continue to follow me there.
Thank you all for your many visits over the last months and I look forward to seeing you at Powodzenia’s Eclectic Blog!
Best wishes always,
Oddly, I’ve been thinking recently that having someone else’s name is a strange thing to do. I write, “Oddly,” because I’ve had no fewer than six monikers in my life time. From earliest to most recent:
Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera (The name my mother would have bestowed upon me had she not given me up for adoption. Both names were after my paternal and maternal grandfathers.)
Herrera (The name on my very first birth certificate. This was Mom’s surname.)
Hal (The name given to me by Children’s Home Society before I got adopted. Look at my face to the right. Do I honestly look like a Hal to you?)
James Stanley Glica (My adoptive name, after my uncle who introduced my parents and my paternal grandfather.)
James Stanley Chávez-Glica (The name I chose to honor my mother and father.)
James Stanley Chávez Glica-Hernandez (My married name.)
Sometimes, I like to string them all together with my title and degree, just for effect:
Reverend James Stanley Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera Chávez Glica-Hernandez, D.Div.
Come on, say that five times fast. I dare you.
Anyhoo, after all these name changes, I’m starting to think that my name, which at its core has remained James Stanley Glica since 1959, was enough all along. I love my mother and the name Chávez for a million reasons, but Glica was the name she chose to use, as well. My children are all Glica. I didn’t take my ex-wife’s name when we got married. I have to admit that it’s because I might have become James Daw-Glica. Uh, no, thank you. Go ahead. Re-syllablize it yourself.
Did you have fun?
We could talk all about the sociological reasons why wives originally took their husband’s names. Yes, class, ownership is one reason. We could talk about the standardization of second class citizenship afforded women until relatively recently, even on a letter:
“Mrs. Herbert Smith”
Either this woman’s parents need a solid chastising, or this poor woman has lost her name. Thankfully, I, of course, would not be Mr. David Hernandez. That would be silly because my husband is Mr. David Hernandez. I’m Mr. James Glica-Hernandez. Yet, I digress.
Am I any less married if I were to use only Glica? No. Plenty of people are overwhelmed by their wedded bliss while still maintaining their names of birth or adoption. Look at my husband. It’s my guess that he thinks Glica is a strange name and not one he wants to carry around the rest of his life. Hernandez is simple. Sure it has three syllables, but everyone can spell it, knows where it’s from, and almost always knows someone else by that same name. I only know this because on some of my identifying information, I use, James C. Hernandez.
“Ooooooooohhh!,” the young, ebullient fellow behind the counter squeals, “I actually know two different James Hernandezes…ez…ezzzzzzzzzzz… [Author’s note: you must visualize here a young fellow with a face that I once heard comedian, Dov Davidov, describe as having smelled freshly-baked cookies]. Do you know either of them?”
For goodness sake. And, this coming from a boy named, Myke Johnson? (Do you see how that’s different? Kewl, huh?) Ugh!
What I’ve realized, though, is that these various incarnations of my name are like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs back into my gingerbread house of memory. As someone whose had two small strokes already and probably will have another one eventually, any tools that amplify my memory are good tools, indeed.
“Was that pre-Chavez or post-Chavez? When did we meet them, before- or after-Hernandez?” It’s worked a few times, quite honestly. The only thing is I’ve been a Chavez longer than I haven’t and I’ve wanted to be a Hernandez since nearly the time I first met my husband a dozen years ago. So, the muddiness continues.
After it’s all said and done, I guess I’m still Little Jimmy Glica from McCloud and Dunsmuir, California, no matter whose grandfather I’ve become in the last 50 years. I like it that way. I’m proud of my entire name of birth, adoption, and marriage, and the paths I’ve taken to receive these beautiful names; however, like at the core of my name, the core of my spirit remains the same: a happy, loving little boy who loves to see people smile, sing, and dance.
Some things, as it’s said, never change after all.
Like any good grandfather, when the day of my eldest granddaughter’s junior prom arrived, I called her to wish her a marvelous time, hoping the memories of her infancy were not too obvious in my voice. Of course there was bound to be some level of poignancy in this moment considering she almost died in the hospital from being born so prematurely. Mary is the infant in the photo to the right.
Her Grandma Barbara made her dress just as she had made her own dress in 1974 for our prom. Mary was attending the prom with someone she has know her whole life. In fact, their mothers were pregnant at the same time.
I live far away from Mary and I have been ill this week with complications of my chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, so I was not there to see her off. The interesting thing, however, is that reading my daughter, Ana’s words that she posted upon watching Mary drive off was, to my heart, just as wonderful.
Ana-Maria wrote, “Weeeeelllllllllll!!!!!!!! Wasn’t it just last week she was learning to walk? Today, I watched her walk down the stairs and get behind the wheel of the car with her boyfriend at her side! As they drove off to the prom, I realized just how much of a lady she has become!”
I smiled, because I knew that being recognized as a lady was the highest praise a young woman could receive in the Schaeffer clan, one branch of my ex-wife’s people. It was a familial tradition that, if not met, was considered a grave transgression, indeed.
Mary Elizabeth is indeed a very special young woman. She’s very smart, well spoken, acutely intuitive, can be very compassionate. Her talents in music, art, academics, and sports would make any grandfather beam. On top of everything else, she is beautiful, too. As you can plainly see, she does meet the definition of a lady.
What I love best about Mary is that she is learning to become her own person. She knows what she wants and speaks her mind to pursue it. She doesn’t take no for an answer… she simply suggests an alternative version that suits her.
Mary Elizabeth will be 17 years old this September, a mere twelve months away from legal adulthood. I believe she will be ready for the responsibilities of adulthood. I just wonder if we will be ready for her as an adult?
Like I said, she is someone pretty special and definitely a force to be reckoned with!
My father’s favorite flowers were tulips. Every year he would dig up the three tiers of soil in our hillside front yard and plants hundreds of bulbs. His heart would never seem quite so full than when he was working toward that day when his tulip garden was resplendent in yellow and orange and red and white.
He did this into his sixties. He said he loved the colors and that each one reminded him of the warming season. I loved to see my father amonst his tulips. One of the hardest parts of his death was the untended yard the Spring after he was gone, overflowing with ivy and inattention.
I heard from a friend of my late brother’s recently. David and his friend, Zack, were really close growing up. Along with Brian and Nicky, and several others, David had a cadre of buddies with whom he hung out, got into trouble, and, I know, laughed constantly.
These young fellows would find their way around our mountain village in far-northern California on dirt bikes, skis, on foot, and by car, leaving their mark on every corner of this town of 2,400 people.
When David died in 2006, I thought these young people would be lost forever to me. I was saddened by that because it felt as though David’s memory would be diminished by the scattering to the wind of his friends.
Within the last year, I’ve heard from Brian, Nicky, and now Zack. They have sent photos and memories via electronic mail of their time together. They have each expressed a loving memory of my brother that has brought comfort and a sense of envelopment to me as the last remaining member of our four-person core family.
Today, I got a message from Zack informing me that he has a newborn baby. In the same way I felt upon the birth of my first grandchild in 1993, I felt a newness wash over me. It was intimate and poignant. With all the loss I’ve experienced in the last ten years, this moment brought me a sense of joyful future.
I sent my warmest wishes to Zack on his growing family. Part of those wishes, I think, were because he brought me some emotional tulips, like the ones my father grew. He showed me, once again, that Spring was here and new life was repeating its pattern.
It also reminded me of my recent visit to see my cousin, Joe, who was in the hospital with cancer. I had this amazing sense of healing and until today, I wasn’t sure why that was. Above his bed, on the top of his cabinet, was a vase full of white tulips… and hope.
Spring is all around me right now and I am, for the first time in many years, fully aware of its beauty and power. This has to be a good sign; a sign not unlike the first hint of excited green stalk poking through the recently cold soil over a tulip bulb.
Thirty years ago, I had never met my parents of birth. I didn’t know their names and I had no idea what their faces looked like.
The day I took the plunge and found my birth family in San Jose, California, in addition to meeting a huge number of family members on both my birth father’s and birth mother’s side, I got to meet my Grandmother Maria Secundina Gutierrez de Arroyo.
Grandma Arroyo, which is what I called her because I didn’t know others called her Mami, had to have my relationship to the family explained to her that day in November 1988. When she finally understood that I was her youngest son’s child, a fact she had not known for the entire twenty-nine years of my life, she looked at me with her amazing blue eyes. They were the color of seafoam blue-green at that moment. I wasn’t sure she would ever stop staring at me. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted her to break our connection. I had waited a lifetime to see features that actually looked like mine.
Finally, she must have seen something in my face, or eyes, or heard something in my voice that told her that I truly was her grandson, and she quietly wrapped me in her arms and whispered, “Welcome home.”
That’s all she said that day. To this day, it is enough for me.
Grandma Arroyo died nearly twenty years ago. After visiting her wherever she was living at the time, I still miss her terribly. I miss her smile and her stories that she would tell me in Spanish, since I was one of the few grandchildren who understood her native language. I miss her calling me Robert, my father’s name, every time she saw me.
Today, twenty-two years later, I opened my Herrera-Arroyo Family Tree on Ancestry.com. What I discovered there was as much a shock to me as my grandmother must have received the day I met her. Most of the children of my father’s brothers and sisters had been input into my tree. There are many, many, many cousins on Dad’s side.
One of my cousins, with whom I’ve recently become aquainted on Facebook, must have input that information, because I certainly didn’t, and no one told me they were doing so. I am so thrilled, I cannot find the words to express by deep gratitude to this anonymous person who shares genetic history with me.
I know that this information is for all of us to share. I know I was not the sole reason he or she took the time to add to our tree, but, our connection was strong enough to inspire him or her to do this very loving act.
It genuinely feels like I am hearing Grandma Arroyo say, “Welcome home,” one more time.
It matters. It matters a lot. Before we know it, everything has the light of alcohol cast upon it.
It is easy for us to ignore the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug use in our families. We excuse it in a thousand different ways. We ignore the increasing impact on the lives of our loved ones and us as the consumption of these substances increases. It’s too hard for us, sometimes, to acknowledge that addiction is a snowball rolling down a hill that eventually will be so huge, there will be no stopping it until it reaches the bottom, crashes against something, and bursts apart. Often, that crash is permanent, as it was for my brother, David.
David was forty-five-years-old when he died. He was a father of two and grandfather of two beautiful little girls.
David had been drinking since his teens. The first time I ever saw him drunk was in 1974 when he was thirteen-years-old. He had stayed at a friend’s house and they had gone to a party in the forest surrounding our small, mountain hometown. There was ample alcohol there. He came home the next morning and passed out.
After he had become an adult, his drinking didn’t prevent him from going to work, graduating from trade school, and eventually achieving a great deal of success in his work as an electrician. No one spoke about his alcoholism in any significant way until his wife left him and took his children. They lost the house, his job, their boat, and everything else he had worked so hard for. He now had several DUI’s he’d collected along the way, as well. Most importantly, he lost his family.
It’s not as though he didn’t love his family. He did very much. It was that his addiction was too great.
He had come to Dunsmuir to stay at our mother’s house as she was dying from pancreatic cancer. David hadn’t been drinking to excess during that time. He was drinking enough to keep the withdrawl symptoms at bay, but the closer Mom got to her death, the more he drank.
After she died in November 2005, my daughters and I left, after having spent two months caring for Mom. David had inherited the house and chose to stay there. He didn’t pay the bills, though. He wouldn’t answer the phone, while it was on. It was winter and eventually, the house got very cold after he didn’t pay the gas bill. He developed frostbite. Between the alcohol and the freezing weather, he was growing more ill.
In the early morning of March 9, 2006, he was walking to the gas station at the corner to get some beer. He collapsed and had a seizure. After a very messy rescue, he was transported to the hospital where they were warming him up from the frostbite. He was doing very well. As his veins began expanding, however, a blood clot was released, it went into his lungs, stopped the blood flow to his heart, and he died instantly.
This deeply loved father, grandfather, brother, and friend, was gone. We had lost my mother on November 23, 2005 and David on March 9, 2006. One was unavoidable. The other was not.
There was a political battle being waged in the newspaper over my brother’s death regarding the response by the police and fire and rescue departments. His death was dragged through the newspapers for months afterward. It was very painful.
All this start with just a few beers. It was those few beers… times thousands… that killed my brother.
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There are a thousand reasons to be grateful that I can think of right off the top of my head. I’m grateful for the little things like figuring out what clothes to wear to Thanksgiving dinner at our niece’s and nephew’s house. I’m grateful for the big things like the laughter of family and knowing my children are well.
I am most grateful for the love and abundant gifts of God. I’m blessed to have lifelong friends who love me, no matter what I’ve done or who I’ve been throughout my
journey. I’m blessed to have a husband who loves me, even though our road has been long and rigorous. I’m blessed to have had my parents in my life for as long as I did, even though most of them are gone now. I’m blessed to remember all the amazing parts of my life.
So, I am grateful for all my blessings. Thank you one and all.