Monthly Archives: May 2022

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. 

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

Settling Down

Eddie, Sandra, and Mickey @ Disneyland ~ late 1980s

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 8: Settling Down

With Sandra’s support and the foundation created by this tightly knit family environment, I slowly began to emerge from the abyss of failure. The fall we began dating, I applied for and accepted a position to coach the frosh-soph boys’ basketball team at the high school across the street from Most Holy Trinity Church. I worked well with the student athletes and the school administration, further evidence that college and a career in education were my path to redemption.

The next year, in a sudden twist of fate, the head basketball coach at my alma mater resigned just weeks before the season began. My return to college would have to wait because James Lick High School hired me to run its basketball program, which included a full-time job as an instructional aide. The values I learned at 48 Viewmont Avenue served me well as I worked hard to rebuild a program that had won only two games the year before. By the end of my second season, we had won half our games in the regular season and recorded a 12-2 record at the San Jose City College summer league. We lost the championship game to a county powerhouse. That same summer, James Lick High School rewarded me with the school’s coach-of-the-year award.

On Valentine’s Day in 1989, while still coaching at James Lick High School, I made the first decision I had ever made toward true adult responsibility. I finally found the nerve and wisdom to propose to Sandra. I settled on a one-quarter-karat solitaire marquise diamond. Placing it in the black velvet box provided by the store, I went to basketball practice as usual. After the workout, I called Sandra from the coach’s office and asked her if she wanted to get something to eat. I didn’t tell her where we were going. When we rolled up to the drive-in service at Mark’s Hot Dogs, Sandra mentioned how she was surprised because we hadn’t been there since that first awkward date almost four years before.

We ordered a couple of hot dogs with everything on them, chips, and two Cokes. When the server left the food on the tray that hung from the driver’s side window, I slipped the velvet box next to our order. I passed some napkins to Sandra, and she carefully spread them on her lap. Next came the tray with the hot dog, chips, and soda. As she took a sip of the Coke, I slipped the velvet box onto the tray in one swift motion.

She took a small bite of the dog, paused, turned her head toward me with a puzzled look on her face, and asked, “What’s this?” I opened the box and asked her to marry me. She sat speechless for what seemed like forever. Her big brown eyes lovingly penetrated deep into my soul. A warm, giddy feeling engulfed me and caused my stomach to swirl with exhilaration. When she actually uttered the word yes, we kissed and held each other in an affectionate and tearful embrace. Soon we were on our way to Santiago Avenue so I could formally and properly ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter.

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Kindle users can pre-order Summer in the Waiting Room now by clicking here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZFC5HFX?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420