Happy Heart Month!

Happy National Heart Month!

It’s National Heart Month! How am I going to celebrate? Maybe I’ll make the bed or take out the garbage.  

My guess is that you might think that I’m out of my mind to suggest that doing chores is any way to celebrate anything. Let’s face it, making the bed and taking out the garbage aren’t the most exciting things to do. I doubt that anyone is counting down the hours to do menial household work as a form of celebration. 

But . . .

Making the bed every morning and taking the garbage out every Tuesday are like Thanksgiving for me, just without the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. Fluffing up pillows and dragging bins to the curb are moments of pure appreciation. I still don’t enjoy doing these thankless tasks, but something special always happens when I do them. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. 

I think of the time during the depth of heart failure when it would take ten, sometimes fifteen, minutes to make the bed after Sandra left for work. She insisted I leave it for when she came home. I insisted on doing it, taking breaks and slumping onto the bed to catch my breath between smoothing out sheets and flipping over the comforter. Now it just takes a minute to do the same thing. Gratitude!

There was a time when taking out the garbage was a struggle. Rolling the garbage can and recycle bin down the driveway wasn’t so bad. Walking back up was another story. I had to stop a couple of times to lean against the fence to catch my breath before going into the garage that leads to the back door. I finally couldn’t do it at all. I now smile and thank God for his grace as I stroll down and walk up the driveway with bins in tow. Gratitude!

Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about making the bed and taking out the garbage. Laboring up the driveway during those tough times pops into my mind every once in a while when I’m out for a long walk. I smile, chuckle to myself in amazement, thank God, and keep chugging along. When I quickly and easily make the bed to start the day, I’m reminded of my damaged heart huffing and puffing. I smile, chuckle to myself in amazement, thank God, and keep chugging along.

Here’s the thing. Having a bad heart is no joke. We take it for granted when it’s working the way it’s supposed to work, kind of like we do with life partners. When things are good, it’s all laughs and love. When things are bad, it’s like, “how did we get to this dark place?” The key in both cases is to take care of what takes care of you before it doesn’t anymore.

Let me be more clear. Your heart runs the show. Bad heart, bad show. No heart, no show. Since my heart attack in 2010, I’ve lost a sister-in-law and friend to cardiac arrest, and my next door neighbor to a heart attack. Three friends suffered and survived heart attacks, another just had a pacemaker placed, and a cousin recently had bypass surgery. 

My relationship with heart and cardiovascular disease didn’t start that fateful summer in 2010. When I was ten years old, my maternal grandmother passed away from a heart attack. I can still see Mom’s anguish when she told us how doctors tried to revive Grandma with the electric paddles. Mom and Dad both had heart attacks in their 50s. Dad died of a massive stroke. My sister was 49 years old when she passed away because a virus attacked her heart. My oldest brother is currently recovering from a stroke. It’s not a pretty picture.

Cancer gets all the press. Who hasn’t seen or heard the phrase, “Cancer Sucks”? Well, heart disease sucks pretty bad too. In fact, it sucks even more. According to the American Heart Association, heart and cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in the world. Over 500,000 people die every year in the United States alone because of heart disease. Every year! Here’s the kicker: Unlike cancer, heart disease is largely preventable.

Losing family and friends to heart disease can get demoralizing. During the past thirteen years, I’ve learned a lot about the heart and the disease that ultimately catches up to many of us. As a volunteer for the American Heart Association, I’m passionate about prevention, and I plan to use my gift for writing and speaking to raise awareness about this pandemic.

To celebrate National Heart Month, I ask you to take a few minutes to become more aware of the causes of heart disease and ways you can prevent or slow it down. Here are two ideas to get started:

  • Know your family medical history. According to the American Heart Association, 50% of heart disease is caused by genetics. If you know that you could potentially be in trouble, making lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
  • Lifestyle choices like smoking, eating a high-fat diet, not managing stress, and not exercising accounts for the other 50%. Take a look at Life’s Essential 8 habits to protect your heart by clicking here to help you make good heart health choices. Start today!

As for me, I’m celebrating the kickoff to National Heart Month in a big way. I started the day with a bowl of oatmeal, walnuts, blueberries, a hard-boiled egg, and the first of three liters of water I drink daily. I read a little bit (another one of my passions) while sipping a cup of coffee. As I walked down the driveway for a four mile hike, I saw the garbage bins I had taken out the night before on the curb. I smiled, chuckled in amazement, thanked God, and kept chugging along.

Oh yeah . . . I made the bed and brought in the empty garbage bins.

It was a great way to celebrate.


My book, Summer in the in the Waiting Room, recounts my battle with and triumph over heart disease. Buy it by clicking here.

Choose Life for Your Family

Trying to match wits with Tita and X – Christmastime 2015

People say all the time, I’d die for my children. Okay, but would you live for them? Actually live. Make better choices. Try practicing sobriety. Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Your kids don’t need you to die for them. They need you to LIVE. ~ Unknown


The phone rang at about 4:30 in the morning. I was sound asleep under warm covers. Sandra sat up and quickly answered the telephone in the dark of our bedroom. After saying hello, she turned and said, “It’s your mom,” and handed the phone to me. “Something is wrong with your dad,” mom desperately declared. “The ambulance is on the way.” I shot up immediately, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put on a pair of jeans, hoodie, and baseball cap.

When I got to Alexian Brothers Hospital in east San Jose, Mom was sitting alone in a tiny cold emergency department waiting room. She looked frail and scared. Dad had had a massive stroke. After a long embrace, we went into another small room where nurses cared for Dad. Mom held his hand and lovingly brushed back the few wispy hairs on his bald head when he began to convulse violently. Nurses rushed us out of the room as doctors started working on him.

It seemed like forever sitting in that little waiting room anticipating the doctor to come out any minute to give us a report. Mom quietly prayed while rubbing rosary beads through her fingers. I called my siblings one by one to let them know what was going on. I then sat and worriedly watched mom pray. Finally, a doctor walked into the room and informed us that Dad had died. It was September 6, 1995. Probably around 7:30 am. I was 31 years old.

I was devastated. He was my hero. He taught me what it meant to be a man. A year earlier, I had completed a comeback from the college failure that caused so much chaos in my life and started a professional career armed with a San Jose State University degree. I had goals, big dreams. I was ambitious and focused. I couldn’t wait to achieve my goals and make Dad proud. The dreams were sure to happen. Just without Dad.

After a series of strokes left his motor skills severely restricted, Dad was angry and resentful. He withered away rather than accept God’s will and fight for his life. It seemed like the man who taught me how to be a fierce competitor decided to give up when it mattered most. I was confused and sometimes angry at him for that. But it didn’t matter anymore. He was gone.

In the years that followed, I didn’t think much of it. Every now and then, I thought of how Dad threw in the towel after the first couple of strokes. It didn’t make me upset or resentful. I just wondered what would have caused such a proud man who struggled his entire life to call it quits. Maybe growing up during the Depression without a father, fighting in World War II, and raising a large family living check to check finally took their toll on him.

Or maybe, just maybe, his decline and death were the final lessons he taught. Fifteen years after Dad passed away, I was in a physical rehab center learning how to walk again after becoming paralyzed from a summer in a medically induced coma. I laid awake at night questioning God about my situation. Moments of hopelessness ventured in and out of my thoughts. Many times I considered giving up. I thought about Dad.

His story gave me the strength to surrender to God. As I wrote in my book, Summer in the Waiting Room (Available on Amazon. Click here), “I surrendered to the reality that a massive heart attack and its destructive side effects changed my life. I was determined not to dwell on what could have been. As the hours and days passed, my (rehab) workouts intensified. I made progress on a daily basis.” Two weeks later, I walked out of the hospital.

This brings me to the quote I used to start this post. Who knows who actually said it. I saw it while surfing on Facebook. It was just one of the million or so memes on Facebook that are mostly meaningless. The phrase, “I’d die for my children” is such a cliche. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rush in front of a speeding car to save their kid’s life. That’s a no brainer. That’s easy to do.

It’s the second part of that quote, “Your kids don’t need you to die for them. They need you to LIVE,” that caught my attention. My life as a man and a father was just beginning when Dad died. I could only imagine what it would be like to go to a Giants game. Just father and son. We never did that. Sitting at Dad’s kitchen counter debating politics with his sharp intellect while sipping whiskey would have been wonderful. Sharing my professional accomplishments with him would have been a dream come true.

As Marisa and Erica continue to blossom as young women, I get to share those moments I missed with Dad. We have conversations about art, politics, music, and careers building. When they reach out to me for career or life advice, my heart sings. When they’re home for the holidays, we play board games and sit together rooting for the Forty Niners and Warriors.

That’s why I fight to live. It’s not easy. I’ve had to give up lots of things I love. “No muthafucka, you can’t have a hotdog” is my rallying cry, but many other favorite foods are on my “No Eat” list too. Listening to a good Mexican heartbreak song now has to be done without beer or tequila to soothe the pain. Until this Covid thing gets under control for immunosuppressed people like me, going to Chase Center to watch the Warriors with 18,000 other people is out of the question.

Eating right, taking medicine as directed by my heart transplant team, exercising regularly, and staying away from drama are going to give me a fighting chance to live longer. Will doing those things guarantee a longer life? Of course not. God is in charge of that department. For Marisa and Erica’s sake, I’m going to do my part. 

If people think it’s noble to say that they’ll die for their kids, so be it. I think that’s taking the easy way out. Try doing it the hard way for your family’s sake. Choose life. Start by trying to make a few lifestyle changes. Every little bit helps. Minimizing unhealthy and destructive behavior like smoking, drinking too much, and not sleeping enough is helpful too.

As Jesus said in Matthew 4:7, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” You just might live a little longer. Do it for your kids. They’re going to need you and your wisdom when it’s their turn to make choices for their families.

Almost Like Heaven

Wrapped in the cocoon at 48 Viewmont Avenue, 1966

After the rain took a break yesterday, I put on a pair of black sweatpants, long sleeve t-shirt, faded Warriors hoodie, black waterproof windbreaker, and laced up my hiking boots to get ready for my daily 4-mile walk. Once I put sunscreen on my face and filled a Hydro Flask with cold water, I topped off the ensemble with a new brimmer hat and securely placed Airpods into my not so small ears. 

As always, I thought about what I wanted to hear coming from those technological wonders. Every Monday, I listen to the George Lopez OMG Hi Podcast. I highly recommend it. The show is thoughtful, informative about the craft and business of comedy, and funnier than a motherfucker (excuse my French). Tuesday is reserved for any number of other podcasts that catch my fancy. The rest of the week is dedicated to music. 

Yeah, yeah. I know it sounds like the boring life of an old man. That lifestyle caught up to me sooner than expected. Countless surgeries, including a couple of open heart operations and scores of post heart transplant procedures have a way of slowing life down. Even though I feel fantastic and younger than ever, taking care of a transplanted heart requires lots of discipline. Routine keeps me in the game. 

Making a decision about the music selection is no easy task because my taste in music is all over the place. Inspired by a recent OMG HI Podcast episode, I paid homage to East LA with Tierra and Los Lobos. The playlist of the past month or so includes Eddie Money, GQ, The Intruders, Frank Sinatra, Dua Lipa, Los Tigres del Norte, Lakeside, Muddy Waters, Sarah Vaughn, Harry Styles, and Boni Mauricio y Los Maximos. You get the picture. The list goes on and on. 

A few weeks ago, I settled on “This is Little Joe” on Spotify. For those who don’t know about Little Joe, he’s the leader and front man of arguably the best and most famous Tex-Mex band of all time. One of the things I loved to do as a kid was sit next to dad’s stereo listening to his albums with big headphones covering half my little head. When I hear Qué Culpa Tengo, my favorite Little Joe song, I fondly think about my sister’s 1976 wedding. One of dad’s treasured Little Joe albums remains safe in my collection.

My favorite Little Joe album – Arriba! Little Joe and the Latinaires, recorded in 1968

I’m sure my daughters and nieces would argue that Selena and Los Dinos deserve the title of best Tex-Mex band of all time. Nice try, I say. But, that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that the King of the Brown Sound always takes me back to my boyhood and the secure confines of Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose.

I saw Little Joe for the first time in 1986. The dance was in the cavernous Expo Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. I stood close to the stage to take it all in. The funky horn section, rhythmic guitar lines, thumping drumbeat, and Little Joe’s soulful voice and signature grito was food for my soul. Since then, Sandra and I have danced the night away at many Little Joe concerts.

I truly believe that heaven is the next stop after God taps my shoulder to bring suffering in this world to an end. The thing is that I’m not too sure that heaven looks like what the King James Bible tells us in Revelation 21:9-14. Maybe, just maybe, heaven might look like 48 Viewmont Avenue, circa late 1960s to mid 1970s.

Fifty years ago on Viewmont Avenue there was no college failure, no subsequent drunken carousing, no election defeats, no heart attack, no acute respiratory distress syndrome, no medically induced coma, no scary ICU delirium dreams, no heart failure, no LVAD, no post heart transplant depression and anxiety, no starting over at fifty-six. That sounds like heaven to me.

Revelation 21 also tells us that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying pain” in heaven. Ok, so maybe I’m overselling 48 Viewmont. My grandma died in 1974. Our dog Tequila followed a couple of years later. Yeah, I cried my eyes out both times. So I guess that doesn’t make Viewmont a strong candidate for a blissful afterlife in heaven.

But there’s something about being in the cocoon at 48 Viewmont, riding bikes with friends in the summer, playing basketball on the driveway and two-hand touch football on the street, and watching my parents dancing to Little Joe in the living room that brings peace and serenity to my soul. Don’t get me wrong, many beautiful things have also happened to me since those carefree days. Sandra, Marisa, and Erica to name three. 

Being with my three girls at 3211 Stimson Way listening to music, playing board games, and talking smack as the crazy world swirls around outside also brings peace and serenity to my soul. Maybe heaven includes all of life’s wonderful experiences with family and good friends mixed in a beautiful cocktail of faith, hope, and love. Shaken, not stirred, of course.

About six or seven years ago, Sandra and I were at History Park in San Jose watching the King of the Brown Sound live on stage. It was a warm and sunny day. We were having a blast with compadres and close friends.  I had a few Jack and Cokes dancing in my head when Little Joe’s band started playing Borrachera (no pun intended), his classic tune about drunken revelry. The music washed over my body as Sandra and I blissfully swayed together arm-in-arm. For those three minutes, I didn’t have a care in the world. It was almost like heaven.

None of us will really know what heaven looks like until we get there. Maybe it will look like the King James Bible description, “clear as crystal . . . with a wall great and high, and twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and their names written thereon.” Maybe it looks like 48 Viewmont Avenue in 1972. Maybe it’s Christmas 2022 at 3211 Stimson Way. 

Whatever it looks like, I’m pretty sure that Little Joe will be there belting out fun music. My family and dear friends will be there with me dancing and laughing. There’s no doubt in my mind that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying pain.”

Do You Need Anything Else Mr. García?

Toasting my friend Mark De Los Reyes (September 29, 2022)

Faith, hope, love. That’s how my mom looked at the world. “Si Dios quiere” (God willing), “gracias a Dios” (thank God), “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you). Anytime I hear these words, Mom’s gentle voice rings in my ears. My dad had a different worldview. Work hard, play by the rules, be good to people, don’t count on others. No nonsense words from a man who grew up in a shack with a dirt floor and fought in WWII when he was 17.

Growing up, Dad’s words carried the day. Mom’s unconditional faith was hard to grasp when I was a kid. While in class, playing sports, and working part-time, hustling made way more sense than waiting for God to figure it out for me. As a man, making a college comeback, working my way up the corporate ladder, and serving in public office required rolling up my sleeves, keeping my nose clean, and watching out for yours truly.

Dad’s take on the world was working like a charm. Then . . . June 7, 2010, a ventilator, paralytic medicine, and Coors Light changed everything.

When I awoke from a medically induced coma, my muscles were fast asleep. Talk about a wake up call. I had to re-learn how to swallow, move my arms and hands, and sit up. How would I overcome this seemingly hopeless situation? Mom’s way? Dad’s way? As it turned out, both ways with one exception. 

Part of my recovery was revitalizing my leg and hip muscles so I could stand and walk again. This was the most difficult part of the rehab daily regimen. Standing up required three movements: sitting up, hurling myself forward, and using my legs to rise tall. Of course, we all do this countless times throughout the day instinctively without giving a second thought to the mechanics. Learning how to do this seemingly simple act as an adult was quite an adventure.

Starting off in a reclining position, I had to slowly straighten up to a sitting position by using my forearm to push up from the bed. Once my body’s core was balanced and settled, it was time to take a break and a few breaths. From a sitting position, the physical rehab doctor, a stocky woman with a witty sense of humor, instructed me to lean forward until my torso and head were parallel to the floor. When the doctor first mentioned this to me, I sat for a moment and laughed. I managed to say, “You’re kidding, right?” in my weak and raspy voice.

The doctor chuckled back with a big smile and said, “Nope!”

My limited scientific mind was telling me that this was ridiculously dangerous. I responded with a chuckle of my own and a big smile, saying “Nope” right back to her.

After a momentary giggle at my half-serious comedic effort, the doctor urged me to trust her and try the maneuver. “Just throw yourself over my shoulder, and I’ll catch you if you lose balance,” she encouraged. In a leap of faith, I did what she told me and fell right onto her shoulder. This isn’t going very well, I thought as I lay face down on the doctor’s shoulder looking at the floor. “Great job!” she exclaimed.

From that position, the doctor told me to “explode upward” to an upright position. Easy enough, I thought. There were only a couple of problems. First, my legs were so weak that there was no explosive movement to be had. Second, as I slowly pushed myself up, my legs shook uncontrollably, and my knees locked up, preventing my body from standing straight.

The doctor offered more coaching. 

She told me that the therapist had mentioned that I had been an athlete. All I needed to do was bend my knees slightly like a baseball player getting ready in the batter’s box. From there, I could push myself upward. I was finally able to stand for a split second while holding on to the doctor. I quickly reversed the order of movements and fell onto the bed. I was exhausted.

The doctor cheered me on and said, “Let’s do this a few more times.” “You’re kidding, right?” I replied again with a hopeful grin. The doctor snickered with a big smile and said, “Nope!” I knew that was going to be a long day.

Throughout the next several weeks, physical therapists intensified leg exercises with the help of an assistant named Mark. We worked hard on standing mechanics. Mark was a quiet and burly young man with a sunny outlook and an infectious smile. He kept my body balanced as I did repetitions of standing exercises. Several physical therapists worked with me during that time while Mark was a consistent presence.

As each day passed, I felt more hopeful and faithful. I kept thinking about a doctor’s comment that something more powerful than any doctor was in control of my destiny. Of course, my mom’s voice echoed in my mind. Feeling more like myself, I began to joke with doctors, rehab teams, nurses, and visitors from the waiting room. Before leaving my room, Mark always asked if I needed anything else. Everyday, I responded by telling him that an ice cold Coors Light on tap would be great. He laughed every time at my corny joke.

Fast forward to 2022. A couple of months ago, I hosted an event to talk about my book, Summer in the Waiting Room. It was a great turnout. After a short program, people lined up for me to autograph their copies. As I sat signing books and chatting with each person, I thought about Mom. The evening was an affirmation of the power of faith, hope, and love.

As if on divine cue, Mark suddenly appeared in front of me. His infectious smile took me back a dozen years to that room at the Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center where we worked so hard to get me back on my feet. Before I could get the words, “hey Mark,” out of my mouth, he firmly planted two tall cans of Coors Light on the table! “Here you go, Mr. García.” With a lump in my throat, I quickly leapt to my feet, went around the table, and gave Mark a bear hug.

Faith, hope, love? Absolutely! Work hard, play by the rules, be good to people? You better believe it! Don’t count on others? That’s a hard no for me. Absolutely not. Not my thing. Thanks to Mark and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, I learned that counting on others for help was a form of divine love. It got me through the darkest time of my life.

Thank you, God. 


Read about Mark and the amazing rehab team at Kaiser Santa Clara in Chapter 30 of my book, Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love. You can find the book on Amazon (it’s a great idea for a stocking stuffer!)

It’s Gonna Be OK

Kaiser Santa Clara Medical Center ICU Waiting Room ~ June 7, 2022

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every matter under heaven. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news first: I woke up this morning to the following message from Amazon:

Your title may experience a temporary delay in publishing. Our teams are working to review and publish your book as quickly as possible.

Instantly, the failure demons that have hounded me for most of my adult life rejoiced. My meticulously planned rollout for the paperback version of Summer in the Waiting Room fell flat. “We knew it”, the demons gleefully told me. Anxious adrenaline pulsated through my body as my mind frantically searched for a solution. My first instinct was to communicate with Amazon to either sweet-talk or browbeat them into fixing the problem IMMEDIATELY!

The good news: My spiritual journey has taught me that it’s gonna be OK. After taking a deep breath, I prayed and reflected on Ecclesiastes 3:1. It inspired me to write this post and share my thoughts on accepting what is. It took a while, but faith ultimately overwhelmed the failure demons. 

Let me tell a little story . . .

During the early 1990s, I became mesmerized with politics. I wanted to be an elected official to make a positive impact on the community. I wanted to do that really bad. When I was thirty-two years old, I ran for a seat on the elementary school board. I didn’t have much experience, but I worked very hard. I lost to longtime incumbents by a slim margin. I tried two more times over the course of the next four years with the same result.

Failure demons had haunted me for most of my adult life. A self-imposed pressure cooker of stress caused sleepless nights, headaches, and a never ending supply of fight-or-flight adrenaline flowing through my body. I hadn’t yet learned that anxiety and worry were barriers to inner peace. Nor did I realize that such mental suffering also caused stress on my heart (more on that later). 

Ten years after my first attempt at public office, a twist of fate gave me an opportunity to serve as an appointed official for the East Side Union High School District. Was it a twist of fate or was it God’s “appointed time” as described in Ecclesiastes 3:1? I had an extra decade of life under my belt. I had more leadership experience as a corporate vice president and chairperson of a non-profit board. 

I served for four years, including one year as board president in 2010. Schools were reeling from massive budget cuts caused by the Great Recession. In four years, we had to cut over $20 million from the East Side budget. Despite the financial constraints, I led the successful effort to save sports programs and established a policy that gave every student a chance to be eligible for college after graduation.

Both policies have had a lasting impact on students. It all worked out according to God’s plan. Personally, it came with a huge cost. A genetic predisposition to heart disease and years of angst, stress, and needless worry brought my life to a screaming halt. Just like that. 

Looking back, that heart attack twelve years ago is the second best thing that ever happened to me, behind meeting Sandra and the birth of our girls. It taught me that everything happens in God’s appointed time. It taught me that worry, impatience, anxiety, and stress over things outside of my control is a worthless activity. It taught me about the true meaning of faith, hope, and love. It taught me that everything is gonna be OK.

What the heck does this have to do with the paperback version of Sumer in the Waiting Room not being published on June 7, 2022 as promised?  Everything!

Today is the 12th anniversary of the heart attack that kicked off the summer in the waiting room. For nine out of the last eleven years (Covid precautions prevented visits in 2020-2021), I’ve gone on a one-man pilgrimage to the ICU waiting room at Kaiser Santa Clara to pray, reflect, and seek inspiration. I went today after the morning crisis. I said a prayer of thanksgiving, reflected on my journey, and found inspiration.

I’ve inflicted enough damage to my mind and body over things I can’t control. I’m finally good with the fact that shit happens. The sun will still peek over the east foothills tomorrow morning at 5:46 am. It’s all in God’s hands. There is an appointed time for everything. I decided to leave it to God and Amazon to work out.

By the time I got home, God had spoken. He had good news. The appointed time had come. 

God gave me peaceful hope and Amazon resolved the delay in time to meet the June 7, 2022, release date. You can buy your copy of “Summer in the Waiting Room” today after all!

Thank you, God.

June 7, 2010

Summer in the Waiting Room ~ Chapter 13

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 13: June 7, 2010

Sandra drove as fast as she could. The discomfort in my shoulders and upper chest increased as every minute went by. She dropped me off at the entrance to the clinic and quickly drove away to find a parking space. I labored into the building, took the elevator to the second floor, made my way to the doctor’s office, and checked in at 7:26 p.m. The doctor reviewed the vital signs, asked me a few questions about how I felt, and immediately ordered an electrocardiogram (EKG) to determine if there were any irregularities in my heart function.

The nurse attached electrodes to my chest, turned on the EKG machine. We watched the machine whiz and purr as the needle on the printout page rapidly moved in a zigzag motion, drawing tiny peaks and valleys on computer paper. As soon as the machine stopped whirring, the nurse ripped out the computer printout and quickly disappeared into the hallway. The doctor came back seconds later to tell us the EKG reading was abnormal, and I should proceed to the emergency room for more tests.

By the time the doctor finished her diagnosis, the nurse was in the hallway, standing behind the wheelchair that was to take me to the emergency room on the other side of the large complex. Walking briskly, she pushed the wheelchair out of the clinic hallway, into the clinic lobby, and out to the main hallway that led to the hospital, about half a city block away. The nurse moved swiftly as she fumbled with her cell phone. Sandra offered to push the wheelchair so the nurse could use her phone. Suddenly the nurse’s brisk walk turned into a trot and, ultimately, a jog to the emergency room. Tall floor-to-ceiling windows formed a breezeway that connected the clinic to the hospital. I could see out to the cafeteria and the parking lot beyond. Life outside was moving at its usual pace, and I was heading toward a crisis.

My mind swirled with random thoughts that ranged from doom to confusion to relief. Could I be having a heart attack? Why didn’t the doctor say that? Was she just taking precautions by sending me to the emergency room? Why was Sandra pushing the wheelchair at a jog? Why was the nurse excitedly talking on the phone and to whom? I couldn’t hear what she was saying because of the noise that was filling my head with questions.

We got to the elevator in the hospital and went down one floor. When the elevator doors opened, we raced across the lobby straight into the emergency room, where I arrived at 7:41 p.m. Three doctors wearing white smocks waited for us. Within seconds, I got my answer. One of the doctors said, in a calm and matter-of-fact voice, “Mr. García, you’re having a heart attack.”


To be continued . . . at Amazon.com!

Order your copy of Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love on Tuesday, June 7, 2022!

Ready for a Fight

García Family ~ May 29, 2010

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 12: Ready for a Fight

With personal, professional, and political madness swirling around me, the last Saturday in May provided much needed relief. Sandra’s parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a beautiful mass and an elegant reception on May 29, 2010. Sandra, the girls, and I took a family photo that day. That photo perfectly describes how I felt about my place in the world. Looking at it, one could see a successful man surrounded by his beautiful family at the pinnacle of his life.

I felt fatigued and anxious for most of the week following the anniversary party. Sandra commented that I looked especially tired and lethargic. I kept pushing myself to the limit, bolstered by double lattes and daily workouts. Sandra and I had been exercising together regularly for about eight months with a personal trainer. Both of us felt great losing weight, toning our muscles, and exercising away the stress of our jobs. During the week, the trainer commented to me that he had “never seen someone under so much pressure as you were that week.” I remember feeling extreme stress and anxiety during the morning workout. 

The symptoms that dogged me were similar to those I had six years earlier when my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety disorder after my mom and sister Patty died. After the diagnosis in 2004, I had participated in several one-on-one therapy and group sessions and classes that provided anxiety sufferers with the tools to manage symptoms. What I learned was that anxiety symptoms were the same as those of a heart attack, just less severe.

On Sunday, June 6, the family gathered at Dave & Buster’s restaurant to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. At the arcade, I was at the basketball machine shooting as many free throws as possible in a short time span. When time ran out, I had a hard time catching my breath. The pressure in my throat was more intense, and my shoulders were so heavy that I sat on a stool next to a pinball machine, hunched over, trying to regain composure. I worked on the breathing and relaxation exercises I had learned to manage stress and anxiety. 

While I believed that the symptoms causing my discomfort were from an impending anxiety attack, something entirely different was happening inside my body. At forty-six, my arteries surely were hardening because of genetics and years of a high-fat diet. For decades, researchers have studied the correlation between stress and heart disease. According to these studies, the chemical reaction in the body that produces the fight-or-flight sensation causes the blood to thicken and clot in preparation for a blow to the body.

In other words, in a constant state of high stress and anxiety, the body is getting ready for a fight and protects itself from potential excessive bleeding. Since my return to college and entrance into the world of career building and redemption, my body had been in a perpetual state of alertness. During the first six months of 2010, the high level of stress my body had endured for more than two decades had intensified many times over. By June 6, 2010, blood flowing through my arteries and veins was thickening and clotting with every crisis.


Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

360 Days

President, Board of Trustees, East Side Union High School District ~ 2010

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 11: 360 Days

June 10, 2009, was graduation day for my high school alma mater. That morning kicked of a dizzying 360 days of tireless work and ambition. With my day job coming to an end, I rushed to the elevator to go ten floors down to the lobby of the County Administration Building. I hustled across a breezeway to my car. My next engagement was at James Lick High School, where I was to preside over the graduation ceremonies on behalf of the board of trustees. The formalities had all of the excitement and anticipation fitting a high school graduation. 

At the ceremony, the sound of a recorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” started blaring over the stadium speakers. Wearing a black suit with a white shirt and dark green tie, I walked proudly onto the field next to the principal and found my seat on the stage. The faculty followed us to find their seats on the field. Graduates then filed into the stadium with their green and white gowns and tassels flowing in the wind to the cheers of family and friends. Standing up to watch the spectacle, I couldn’t help but think of my rocky road to this stage and how proud I was to preside over the very ceremony that my brothers, sisters, and I participated in so many years before.

Several months after my triumphant return to James Lick High School’s graduation, the school board elected me president for 2010. Once again, drive and ambition dominated my life. The new year started at full throttle. In my role as school board president, I could set the district’s agenda for the year. A student group, Californians for Justice, had been lobbying the board for over five years to institute a policy to make graduation requirements the same as college entrance requirements. Their effort was called the A-G Initiative. As president of the board, I had the ability to lead that effort. If successful, I could further solidify my chances to win the election in November.

The A-G Initiative became the centerpiece of my State of the District Address in January 2010, which I delivered to an overflow crowd at James Lick High School. In spite of the teachers union’s aggressive behind-the-scenes fight against the initiative, I enlisted the support of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation to educate the community on the merits of the initiative and put together a coalition of students, parents, and public officials to campaign for its passage. Adding to my workload, the inaugural class of a non-profit leadership academy I co-founded was scheduled to start soon. In response to my leadership on A-G, the teachers union had recruited a disgruntled former district superintendent to challenge me in the general election scheduled for November. 

The pressure and stress were almost unbearable, but this is exactly what I had sought since returning to college. To top it off, I was having fun. Sandra continued to express concern about how the pace was taking a toll on me. But I didn’t listen. I had failures to overcome. Ambition and energy drove me harder and harder. Sandra was right though, I was exhausted. Adrenaline fueled by my drive to succeed, and a steady infusion of Starbucks double vanilla lattes kept me working at a feverish pace.


Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

Rocky Road to Redemption

Professional Business Card ~ 2006

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 10: Rocky Road to Redemption

I committed to putting all that energy into spending time with my family and building a career as a corporate executive. As it turned out, I spent more time chasing the elusive concept of success than I did enjoying my family. I wanted to be a good husband and father, and I loved being with Sandra and the girls. I made sure that I was home for dinner every night I was in town and available for as many school and family events as possible.

For several years, I coached Erica’s Little League teams. It wasn’t unusual to hear the kids shout, “Coach García is wearing a suit again.” Those were days when I ran out right after practice to be on time for an evening event or business dinner. Despite efforts to be a fully engaged father, my professional ambitions took the lion’s share of my time.

I began working for a major American corporation with countless opportunities for those who wanted to get ahead. During a tour of Comcast facilities in San Jose, the new senior vice president for the California region stepped into my sparse office and asked about my background, family, and plans for the future. I filled him in with the basics about Sandra and the girls and boldly proclaimed that I wanted to be a vice president someday soon. I became familiar to executives at corporate headquarters as a valued representative of the company, especially with Latino political organizations. Before long, I was in Los Angeles; Washington, DC; Dallas; Santa Fe; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, representing Comcast at national meetings of Latino public policy makers.

In March 2003, my sister Patty, just forty-nine years old, suddenly died from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by an infection from a virus. My mind swirled, trying to find answers in the confusion. Patty had been in great shape; she ate well, rarely stressed about anything, yet she died of a bad heart. A few days later, I was given the honor of speaking at her memorial service.

At just thirty-nine years old, I intensified my self-imposed urgency to achieve redemption. Upon returning to the office, I immediately put all my energy into working harder than ever before. A few months later, the senior VP in California informed me that I had been selected, at his recommendation, to participate in the exclusive Comcast Executive Leadership Forum. The Executive Leadership Forum was by invitation only. Word on the Comcast street was that those who completed the program were soon sitting in executive chairs. I was excited about starting the program and moving forward after the stunning death of my sister.

Just as my professional prospects were looking up, my personal life took another downturn. In December, Mom suddenly died of sepsis, a blood infection related to her years-long battle with kidney failure. Once again, I found myself at a podium delivering a eulogy. I was devastated. Patty’s sudden death was startling and compelled me to think about my health. Mom’s passing was crippling and forced me to think about life without my first love and emotional anchor. She had been the glue that kept everything together. Her unconditional love kept me afloat during the darkest of times. I was sad, scared, and not sure how I would get through the tough times that were sure to come.


Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

The Comeback

The author, the book cover, and the artist in her studio ~ 2022

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 9: The Comeback

After completing college, I threw the original plan of earning a teaching credential, which would have taken another three semesters, to the wayside. My dream of becoming a teacher was subservient to my need to begin a career. Not sure what a twenty-nine-year-old college graduate with a history degree could do other than teach high school history, I wondered what direction to pursue and where the opportunities might be.

 I applied for jobs with the city of Santa Clara, the high school district, a state assemblyman’s office, and secured a job interview as a legislative assistant to an acclaimed San Jose councilwoman who was an icon in the neighborhood of my youth. After two more months of anxious job hunting, the councilwoman offered, and I accepted, a three-quarter-time position in her office. She also had recently been named vice mayor of San Jose.

The next three and a half years were an exciting time for me. After several months, I earned a full-time position as a legislative aide, working on community development and controversial public art projects. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to learn about the public policymaking process and the rough and tumble world of local politics. I worked tirelessly, never turning down an assignment or a night out at a political event. When her tenure ended because of term limits, she asked me to manage her campaign for the county board of supervisors. I was flattered, excited, and apprehensive as I had never even worked on a campaign, much less managed one.

I learned invaluable skills and lifelong political lessons during the intense six-month campaign. The race wasn’t decided until the wee hours of the morning after Election Day. I had taken myself to the limits physically, emotionally, and mentally. After the early morning victory, I spent the next thirteen months in her office as a senior policy aide on the county board of supervisors. Within months of assuming my new position, I was itching to do more.

I was thirty-one years old working as an aide to a local politician. While it was a job I couldn’t have imagined as a kid, it wasn’t good enough to erase the years I had lost in my personal wilderness or dispose of the demons that continued to haunt me from that time. Research professor and author Brené Brown refers to the phenomenon as a Culture of Scarcity. She writes that we get stuck in a cycle: “We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough.” A strategy many people use to overcome the pattern of “never enough” is to work harder, achieve more, and broaden ambition. These tactics usually lead to a deeper sense of scarcity that intensifies the desire to succeed, which perpetuates the cycle of never enough. It was just a couple of years post college graduation, and I was rushing headlong toward a hurricane of insatiable aspirations.

One Sunday morning, I stumbled onto a rare job announcement for a government affairs manager at the local cable company. I dazzled the hiring manager at the interview and was invited to meet executives at the division office in Walnut Creek a few days later. I was nervous and excited to meet corporate executives, something I never would have thought was possible just a few years earlier. The meetings went well, and I got the job. My life would never be the same. 


Kindle users can pre-order Summer in the Waiting Room today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX