You Won’t Know Until You Try

You stare at it.

“Is it still moving?”

“What are those black spots?”

“Does this smell moldy or is it just me?”

You don’t even realize you’re making those faces that tell everyone around you that this situation is a little uncomfortable to you, but you know they know. You know they know and they’re just staring at you staring at the food in front you.

“Will I really like this or regret this?”

“Why do they have those giant grins on their faces?”

You admit to yourself that you’re a brave person. You like trying new things. If other people eat this, then it can’t be that bad. It just looks funny. Not funny “ha ha,” but funny “weird.” That’s ok though. You know too that looks can be deceiving.

Still you hesitate, but you don’t really have a choice at this point. You’re there. It’s there. They’re there.

You trust your friends. You really do. It’s the uncertainty. You don’t like just jumping into things. You’re the planner, the organizer, the calculator. While you don’t mind surprise gifts or parties, you have a deep appreciation for preparedness. “Always think two steps ahead” to quote your father.

Food, however, is a completely different element. You love food. Food is the one thing that you can prepare for all you want, but it could still turn out as something totally different. Food surprises are an unknown you don’t usually mind.

Finally, you take a bite…

——–*******——-

I recently lost my job and of course it was one of my dream jobs (I have several). Not many people get to experience that and I did for almost four years. I worked in a bookstore. Yep. I worked in the bookstore on my alma maters campus. I loved it. We were a great team and quickly became a family.

Shortly after I arrived, I felt a genuine sense of comfort. Have you ever been around a group of people and felt like you just fit? Has anyone ever made you feel like YOU were their missing puzzle piece? The teammate, shipmate, that final link in the chain…

I did. For almost four years.

Do you truly love your work? I did. I woke up every day loving it. I WANTED to go to work. I never minded staying late or going in on a weekend. My bookstore was the last independent bookstore on a college or university campus left in San Antonio. In February, we were sold to Barnes & Noble’s College division. We were told in March- the week of Easter- that it was over. **stunned silence**

I know. This sounds like a sappy song. And maybe I was the only one who felt that romantic about our team, but it doesn’t matter. We will all admit to feeling like a family not just like coworkers or colleagues. It was the best feeling to have when you have to spend more time with this group, then you do with your “at home” or “real” family.

We were even considered family for many of the students, most of whom are far away from home, some from other countries. That familiarity with someone in a strange surrounding brings a lot of comfort when times get stressful and believe me those students put themselves under a mountain of stress. We loved it though and always welcomed a chance to let the students know it. We loved being around them and each other- working and laughing and having fun every day. Not many people get to experience that. I did. Every day for almost four years.

I’m going to miss it.

———********——–

Soon I’ll be starting a new job with what I’m sure will be a great company, but it’s a little unnerving. Much like trying a new food, I want to do it, but I’m afraid I won’t like it. What if I don’t catch on? What if I’m not happy there? What if I hate it?

Like all new things I like to stand back and study it from afar first. It’s not that easy when it’s intangible and requires an immediate decision. I have bills to pay, you know.  This requires a lot of trust and a lot of nerve. I already miss my home away from home. Leaving wasn’t something I chose for myself. It’s not something I really wanted, nothing I was really ready for or had planned to do. I really had no choice. Now there’s nothing left, but to close my eyes and take a bite.

junequote

Spoiled Fruit

I think I’m ok assuming that most everyone has heard the staying, “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” Just in case I’m wrong, the saying quite literally means that if there is one rotten apple in your bunch, then it soon makes the rest of the bunch rotten. On a more scientific level, the fruit emits ethylene gas as it’s rotting that causes the rest of the fruit around it to begin to rot as well.

Simply, removing the rotten fruit alone doesn’t remove the remnants of the mold or the gas. The invisible leftover mold spores or ethylene gas molecules that remain have to be cleansed as well. A good scrubbing and some fresh baking soda usually does the trick. I’ve picked up the habit from my mother of doing a thorough cleaning every other month or so (let’s just say seasonally) and every day after doing dinner dishes, I wipe the fridge handles and doors. For a more reliable resource, here’s Martha Stewart’s suggestion for cleaning your fridge.

Lesson Learned: Clean out the rotten and old in your life in order to preserve and enjoy all of the good.

Alternate title: How It Only Took 9 Seconds For One Organization to Make Us All Look Bad

This post is a comment on the recent events on the OU and UVA campuses involving greek members and organizations. First of all, I AM greek. I’m an alumnae of of Iota Beta chapter of Alpha Phi Fraternity and as such, I was deeply saddened by the ugly comments and various accusations being passed about greek organizations in general. The behaviors of a few have become the “standard” for what the mainstream believes is all there is about being greek.

The truth is not all greek organizations behave in that manner or have (or had in the past) the same “traditions” that have become the basis for the greek stereotype. We aren’t all snobby elitists, intransigent racists, permanent drunks, or any other stereotypical word meant to represent being a member of a fraternity or sorority. We are more than what the mainstream has deemed us.  We are certainly more than the words and actions of the few that have decided to embarrass themselves and the greek system. There are thousands of greek organizations in America and the egregious actions of a few should not be used to generalize the many other greek organizations that were founded upon principles and values as a response to the predjudices and stereotypes of the time and, in most cases, the still very present, in order to find support and assistance in the face of adversity.

I’m not justifying or simplifying any actions regarding specific organizations or greek members that have been in the news and online recently. Those are indeed major and very serious accusations and offences. Nor am I saying that the traditions of greek organizations should be dissolved entirely. In fact, tradition should be an important part of any organzation simply because it’s their story, their founding, and the ideals that have become their organization’s foundation, however, not all that is traditional has to be maintained.

There are reasons why every other year or so greek organizations review and overhaul their so-called “tranditions” and organizational by-laws. In that same respect, there are many organizations that have discontinued certain “traditions” and practices in order to keep up with the changing times. Increased awareness and overall societal changes in policy and practice regarding race, sex, disability, etc. through the decades has also resulted in changes in the greek system’s rush practices, new member education, organized parties policies, and bidding procedures.

Just like many of our founders, all of us greeks joined the organization because we were searching for the support and comaraderie that is the backbone of the greek system. Not only that, but the majority of us greeks are so because we wanted to become a part of something bigger than ourselves. Many greek organizations were founded on service and focus solely on the needs of their community at all levels providing volunteers and assisting on projects and with fundraisers that give back or lend a hand up. Tens of thousands of dollars are raised and donated in fundraising efforts throughout the country by different greek organizations. Similarly, thousands of man hours are donated each year by members of greek organizations as individuals and also through organization sponsored events and projects. Greek members also tend to have higher GPAs than their fellow counterparts. There are many greek organizations that focus solely on scholarship and provide a means for those academic minded students to foster their interest and studies in their selected fields. 

Yes there’s friendly competition between organizations at certain times like during Greek Week activities and homecoming, but being greek isn’t about power and popularity as much as people seem to think. Don’t lump us all together through the eyes of sensationalized media and the thoughtless and hurtful actions of the few organizations whose members forgot that just because things USED to be done one way doesn’t mean that they are ok to continue the so-called “tradition.” Those members and organizations who believe they can continue with outdated derogatory songs and violent traditions and practices do so as individuals and against the grain and fabric that is the greek belief system as a whole. What both University Presidents did by acting swiftly and suspending the chapters was right and just even if nothing is founded after the investigation. Better to clean out what’s spoiled immediatly than allow it to permeate and possibly ruin everything else around it. 

No Good Donut Goes Unnoticed

There aren’t many people out there that don’t appreciate a good donut. To those that know me, it’s no secret that I love donuts. I prefer a donut over chocolate, cake, pie, candy, cookies, you name it. Give me a good old glazed or plain coffee dunker and I’m your best friend. At work, we’ve made it an unwritten rule that if you are come in late you’re excused as long as you bring donuts (or breakfast tacos, but donuts are cheaper!) *wink* It’s a fun rule- not really “required” for anyone. If you can’t pick some up, then you can’t. It’s understood, but fortunately for all of us we take it VERY seriously. Not really. *stone-cold stare, slowly nodding my head*

I love my job!

I should mention that San Antonio has an abundance of great bakeries and grocery stores that offer beautiful and delicious selections of goodies from which we can choose. Personally, I like the donuts from our local grocery store, HEB, or from any of the local Mexican panaderias (bakeries.) Made fresh every morning and perfectly glazed. Mmmmm! In all actuality, I’m not really picky as to where the donuts come from, but if you ask me where I prefer then HEB would be my choice. Even at the end of the day, the glaze just melts in your mouth.

Now I haven’t done anything extreme such as travel the country in search of the perfect donut to truly call myself a donut super-fan, but I think I can definitely appreciate a fantastic fried pastry marvel. Now most people when they pick up a dozen donuts for home or for office, they get a nice mix of various kinds of donuts. Depending on their timing, they get to choose the kinds of donuts to include in their dozen- glazed, sugar, crème filled, strawberry glazed, chocolate covered, even gluten-free, OH MY!! Donuts can be simple or complex, traditional or unconventional, big or small, round or twisted, fried or baked, smooth or crinkled. I absolutely love that no matter what it’s still a donut. That means that it’s meant to enjoyed in the company of others and generally with the beverage of choice, (coffee over here please!) but never by itself. I’m not saying that you can’t, but if you pay attention, it’s a rarity to catch anyone in the act of eating a donut sans coffee, tea, milk, water, or company. You just can’t eat it alone in any fashion or I should say “shouldn’t.”

So here are the lessons…

1) Just like the saying, “you have to give respect in order to get it,” the same goes for anything else you could except from those around you i.e. love, understanding, compassion, etc. The donuts aren’t supposed to mean that you or anyone is trying to “buy” understanding or barter a blessing from anyone.Donuts bring us together as human beings not just coworkers. Something about the deliciousness of a donut is amplified when you know that the sugary treat is given with no conditions, no strings, just love and appreciation for the people around you who reciprocate an unconditional understanding when, for whatever reason, you just needed a little extra… time… patience… help… empathy…

The key word is reciprocate.

2) It’s the same of people. We may all be different kinds of “donuts” in our box, but we’re still “donuts.” We’re still just human beings despite our flaws and different personalities (our glazes and fillings.) We’re together and we’re meant to be surrounded by others. That’s why donuts shouldn’t be eaten alone. They’re meant to be in the company of others. Just like us.

Now I bet you want a donut. Hurry and go enjoy one before the donut bandit comes for you!

Nothing Like A Great Cuppa…

Sometimes it’s just best to sit down in your favorite bar stool, couch, or lawn chair and enjoy a cold one (or a steamy hot mug) all by your lonesome. Honestly, it just is. The quiet and peacefulness of your solitude is just what you need to unwind, to digress, to think.

Life happens so fast. It’s amazing and insane. I really mean that too. Sometimes things come at you so fast that you can’t stop to think about your decision. You just know that one needs to be made and fast resulting in a hasty decision that may or may not (mostly not for me) be the best. Sometimes you don’t even get to make a decision. Things just… happen; leaving you regretting your indecisiveness, saddened by your helplessness, confused by the suddenness, or sometimes, just sometimes, they leave you breathless.

It’s when I have decisions to make like the ones I mentioned that I just want a quiet place to think and an ice cold drink. Some decisions are difficult no matter how much time you have. That’s part of the reason why I like to get up early in the morning. It’s quieter at that time before the rest of the house or apartment starts to creak and moan from the start of the day; before the rest of the office arrives; before the store opens. Just a cup of the gods’ nectar (read coffee) and the quiet of the morning can be so healing.

These recent mornings, as I casually sip my breakfast blend, I’ve been thinking of relationships. Isn’t that the number one topic on people’s minds when they’re moping about? Some of the highlights of my reflections include divorce, love, friendship, and career. I just finished reading a book titled “Being Anti-Social” by Leigh K. Cunningham. I felt like it was telling my future. Not in a sad way though. This book is actually about the misinterpretation of the term introvert. This isn’t a teen angst story. Mace Evans is actually 38 years old and divorced and widowed and she likes her wine. Mace is a classic introvert by very definition, but she’s labeled as anti-social by her family and close friends. She even admits to it herself in the first three pages. The book is about a lot of things, but in the end it’s about understanding and reconciling with yourself about what makes you happy and who you are. It isn’t a book for everyone. There’s no action or suspense or big romantic love story. It’s just a story of relationships and the complications associated. I’ll leave it to you to read the book for yourself.

I related to it a lot. Though, I am not divorced or widowed or 38 for that matter, I am a slight introvert. This makes dating difficult so relationships have been scarce. I haven’t been very lonely though. I love my job my friends, and my family. My friends are all a part of my family. Even my coworkers are like a second family. I’m surrounded all day every day by really great people and I enjoy their company immensely. I’ve been pretty blessed in that regard, but reading this book helped me recognize some things about myself and I’ve been reflecting on those realizations; marriage, family, kids, (Don’t get your hopes up mom) and the fact that I can be pretty selfish without realizing it.

On the flip side, I’ve also been thinking about a close family member who is going through a divorce. While so far the divorce itself isn’t messy, the reason behind it is. I think you could guess the reason without me having to give specifics. Whatever is the first reason that pops into your mind, you’re right. The news was a surprise at first. Then there was anger. It was crazy how fast it all happened and is still happening. As Eeyore says though, “The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually.”

When something life-changing like this happens, you always feel blind-sided. It takes a while to let the “realness” of it settle in. Sometimes it never really does. Those quiet moments are the hardest. You’re hurt, angry, and sad all over again. It’s so much emotion in just a few minutes. I like Bon Jovi’s These Days album- the entire album- for these kinds of quiet times. It’s great music and beautiful lyrics- some of the saddest I’ve ever heard. You can go through all 5 stages of grief listening to it. It’s sad and then soothing- Beautiful.

So in the quietness of your mornings or late nights, I ask you to stop and listen to the silence. Enjoy it for a little while. Then take some time to listen to yourself, your thoughts, and your heart. You never know what can happen in just a few minutes so when you get the chance to stop and think and reflect, then take it. I know that’s probably the opposite of everything you’ve heard before- “you only live once” and all that. I ask you then, what’s the point of doing all the things we do, of living with no regrets,  if we don’t take the time to remember them, to learn from them, and to appreciate them?

Recommended Reading: I Thought My Father Was God

Absolutely LOVE this book! Thanks to this author for the blog about it.

The Daily Post

In April 1946, Theodore Lustig was discharged after serving three years in the army in World War II. Heading home on a train to New Jersey, he had grand plans for his new life. First, he bought a white shirt: a symbol of his return to a normal routine. The next step? Finding the girl of his dreams: his high school crush.

In his very short piece — “What If?” — he writes:

We got on the same bus — hers — and sat together reminiscing about the past and talking about the future. I told her of my plans and showed her the shirt I had bought — my first step toward making my dream come true. I didn’t tell her that she was supposed to be step two.

What If?” is just one story among the 180 true stories in I Thought My Father Was God: And Other True Tales From…

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As American As Corndogs

4th of July, 2005-6? (The year is questionable.)

Every July 4th since we moved to our house in San Antonio, we’ve always seemed to be that family with the most and loudest fireworks on the block. We’re certainly not the only ones with fireworks in the neighborhood though. The whole neighborhood turns out whenever fireworks are involved and it’s quite a show! Most holidays it feels like one big prize-less fireworks competition in the neighborhood.

Our family just knows to come over for the holiday and everyone brings a little something whether it’s meats for grilling or a dessert for afterwards. We’ll all spend the day grilling and hanging out. The men are usually outside enjoying the summer sunshine and the ladies… we stay inside. Don’t get me wrong. Us ladies aren’t staying in because of some dumb gender stereotype. PUH-LEASE… Have you ever been in Texas during the summer? We’re not crazy. We’re inside because there’s air conditioning!

For my family, this separation is also a sort of unofficial tradition during holidays like a “rite of passage” for the younger men and women.

Here’s why:

For the guys, it’s like this. This Texas heat is killer. That’s just a fact, then adding to that, there is a charcoal grill going non-stop. There’s no way any inexperienced person could last very long with those two realities. The men in my family are out there though. All. Day. Even after the food is done and the flames of the grill are slowly flickering as they are extinguished. Grilling usually starts at noon or so. The normal temp about that time is about 90+ and the high reaches pretty close to 100+ around 4 o’clock. So if you can survive the heat and get along pretty well with the guys, then… you’re family. Not too difficult.

For the women, well… women in my family are… well… WOMEN. In the midst of all the chopping and slicing and peeling, no one can stay quiet for too long. There’s chatter happening from all sides. Plus the TV is usually blasting in the living room right across the kitchen. Imagine all the racket! Now imagine it in Spanish! Craziness! Hahaha!!! For the ladies it’s a different kind of heat. It goes back to the old saying, “if you can’t stand the heat, get the hell out of the kitchen.”

Despite all of that or more like because of all that, our family gatherings are always pretty lively. Food, drinks, laughter, LOTS of laughter, more laughter, and the occasional tear, pretty much sum up most of my family gatherings.

This particular year, there was no extra family or friends over or food on the grill. My sister was out of town for a conference or maybe spending the holiday with her friends (I can’t really recall which.) It was one of those odd years where the 4th fell on a week day so it was only going to be me and my parents. It seemed a little lonesome, but my dad and I could make do. It helps that we can stand each other for more than an hour so I brought home a 12 pack and my dad made a simple dinner for us- hot dogs.

Once it got dark, we went outside and sat the bed of my dad’s red Ford Ranger. Staring down the street, we waited while drinking our beer. We waited and talked… about that one year when my Tio (Uncle) grabbed a string of Blackcat firecrackers, lit them, and started spinning them around  in the middle of the street! How we had so many fireworks that we got too tired to finished lighting them so we saved them for the next holiday. That one New Year’s Eve when a bottle rocket flew right into my dad’s back! Thank goodness it was cold and he had his jacket on! That one year we went over to one of my sister’s friend’s house for New Year’s Eve and they had a really nice fire pit going for everyone outside. We roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate while watching the other kids pop fireworks.

That’s when we heard it.

The sounds of the fireworks flying up…

                                                                          up…

                                                                                             up…

                                                                                                                into the sky.

 

We heard the whistles they made as they shot up… then suddenly…

 

BOOM!!!

 

It was a clear night too. Perfect for fireworks and we had had the best seats in the house that night. Staring down our street and up into the sky we could see all the fireworks that went off for the entire neighborhood and it’s a pretty big neighborhood. There were all sorts of flowers and sprays and colors and blossoms and whistles and BOOMS!!! Red, gold, blue, green, red and blue, green and gold, purple and white, small crackles, deafening booms, whistle after whistle, glittery tail after glittery tail- it seemed to go on for hours. Even on TV, I hadn’t seen such a spectacular fireworks show.

I thought of my grandmother who despite my never being able to understand a word she said, never let it stop her from caring for me in her own way. We still understood each other somehow. I thought of my grandfather who I’d hardly known, but who had always treated me with such warmth and welcome. I thought of my mother and sister and how we’ve always been together- The Garcia Girls. The three of us against the world, head first. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Fireworks make me happy; genuinely happy as in the dopey smile, teary eyed, and going around hugging everyone kind of happy. That doesn’t happen often from me. I don’t know how to explain it, but fireworks make me feel grateful to be alive and have such wonderful people around me. I honestly don’t remember when the show was finally over. I know my dad and I had finished most of the beer.

To this day, that July 4th had been, hands down, the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen. Thinking back on it now, I hope I never forget it. It was a small span of time, but it seemed like forever. I had been allowed the honor of an exclusive and unbridled view of something wonderfully beautiful and momentous, designed specifically for me and my family by our creator and only to be seen at that moment. It was (and still is when I think about it) absolutely overwhelming.

“You’re over-romanticizing the moment.”

I can see why you’d think that.

“It’s just fireworks,” you might say.

True. I have no other excuse, but that deep down in my heart of hearts I’m a romantic person.

The truth is moments like this help me to remember how small we are as humans and how much smaller our problems are in comparison to the wonderful and joyous moments we have sometimes.  These kind of rare moments help me to remember that even though we may not all be together, we are never apart. As an Army brat, you thinks about things like this. Honestly, I hope I get to tell this story every year our family gets together for a holiday when fireworks are involved for a very long time.

Thanks for letting me share it with you.

NOTE: I updated this post a bit from when I first published it because 1) it was 1 in the morning and my memory wasn’t a great as I thought was regarding some small, but important facts such as where my mother was that night and 2) I removed the picture I had originally used because I didn’t have permission yet from my family members included in it. Manners are a must. THANKS!