El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Mary York

Every January, I volunteer as a judge at a speech and debate tournament – the first one of the season, a national event and a real spectacle of oratorical talent. As an alumna myself of this organization (Stoa, a national homeschool speech and debate league), coming back the first weekend of every January to watch high schoolers argue about foreign policy in ill-fitting debate suits with shoulder pads too large and ties their fathers knotted for them is my favorite way to begin the new year.

A Gold Award is a big deal.

Helix Highlander Sarah Mauricio would know – she became one of only 58 girl scouts in San Diego to earn hers in 2018.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting with fewer than 10 percent of scouts attaining it nationally. It is given to Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership by addressing social issues through Take Action projects.

Politics do not take a break, especially not over the holidays when family comes to town.

Reconnecting with old college friends and relatives I do  not often see gave me the occasion to hear a disheartening story and the discussion that followed it about an immigrant grandfather who was unable to join his family in merry-making over the holiday because he never learned English.

The El Cajon Valley High School boys soccer team spent Saturday morning, Dec. 22, 2018, in a shootout with the El Cajon Police Officers’ Association (ECPOA) – it was a soccer shootout and part of a fundraiser for the team, and it did as much to prove that El Cajon is rising to meet changes in the community as it proved that the Braves will do anything to spend a little more time on the soccer pitch.

Head coach Antonio Lavenant said, despite the tough 2-1 defeat the Braves took from Santana the night before, the guys seemed excited to get back on the field.

I love New Year’s resolutions.

Maybe it is the gleaming opportunity of a very fresh start that I find so attractive, or perhaps it is simply that I adore making lists. In any case, I never go into Jan. 1 without a set of resolutions.

My brother-in-law, a newly minted member of our family, does not do New Year’s resolutions. Apparently, his family “just never did them.”

Everyone has their Christmas traditions – baking cookies, putting lights around their windows and doors, sharing family dinners, hanging stockings, watching “White Christmas” or “Die Hard,” setting up the tree so it blocks entrance through the front door (come to think of it, that might just be my family).

Easily, my family’s most hard-and-fast tradition is this: no Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

This year, I must confess, I broke with tradition.

“Pan de oja!” I call out from the kitchen window at the diner where I work part-time – nights and weekends mostly. Sure, I work full-time as a journalist and I go to school part-time, but San Diego is an expensive place to live. So I pull shifts at the diner.

Most of the kitchen staff is comprised of Spanish speakers, and nearly everyone on the floor can speak at least a little. I am a Spanish major and a linguistics minor at San Diego State University, so the restaurant really just feels like a language training ground and I love it.

Every year, from the earliest inklings of my childhood memory, my mom has sent out Christmas cards.

The first week of each December, I would watch her picking out stationary – she likes the ones with glittery snow and red cardinals – and penning a hand-written Christmas greeting onto each one before flipping through her address book for names and contacts. Then, with a stamp and a tender hand, she would drop them in the mailbox.

Two years ago, the El Cajon Valley Braves’ boys soccer team made school history by winning the San Diego Section Division V CIF championship and then going on to claim the state title.

For a team made up largely of underclassman, many of whom were immigrants and refugees, attending a high school not normally recognized for its sports prowess, the victory was a monumental one.

Now, six of the sophomores who played to bring home the state championship are playing as seniors and their goal remains unchanged: win state.

“How’s it looking?” I asked my oven as I peered through its tinted window to gaze at a pie sitting self-consciously on the baking rack. I know better than to experiment with pie crusts but my last apple pie had been such a disaster and Thanksgiving was only a day away, giving me time to try another practice pie – I had had no choice. Twelve people would be at our Thanksgiving dinner this year and I was in charge of pies. I was not going to subject them to another apple-filled trainwreck.