Happy Holidays 2018

2018 Memories
2018 Memories

2018 Memories

Happy Holidays 2018

Family, Friends, and online strangers passing by,

Happy Holidays. I think I’ve said this before about previous years, but 2018 has been a hell of a year, both good and not so good. Hard to believe that it’s been 10-years since I first left Long Beach and now I’ve bought a place in Las Vegas. Also second year in a row my robotics team is going to compete in the championships. There’s been more music, more adventures, more conversations, more goodbyes and more time wondering what’s next. Thank you for being there. I am hopeful that this next year is going to give us more opportunities to enjoy each other’s company and journey. All my love, jbb

images used in the montage:

In Good Faith/In Bad Faith – Easter 2018

selfie-papercamera-haystacks

In Good Faith is about the promises we make and the promises that are made to us. And “In Bad Faith” is the reality that it’s always more complicated than promised. How far off things are from the promises matters, and this needs to be addressed (thus this blog). For example, mom wants me to be in church this Easter Sunday. Being back in Las Vegas after a short SoCal visit this past week, she’s not really in a place to see that I’m in church. I told her that I would be spending Sunday morning with friends. I didn’t tell her that it was my non-believer friends at Sunday Assembly. Either way, she worries that I’m not going to do “the right thing,” which begins with going to church and probably ends with me marrying a nice Latina Catholic (who has never married and is very traditional).

Yeah, I’m spending Easter Sunday with my tribe, my community, so I won’t be alone, but I’m afraid I won’t be fulfilling my mother’s other wishes any time soon. This isn’t some hopelessly delayed teenage-rebellion but an attempt at carefully respecting my mom’s traditions and being my own person (which was also part of what she taught me). At the same time, I have to be honest that for whatever reason this time of year has always been important to me.

I have memories from my teenage years during this time of year reading Michener’s “The Source” and some modern Catholic version of Genesis and being entirely confused from the experience. My “conversion” from traditional Catholic to Jesus-freak happened when I was 15 around this time of year. Over the next 15-years I took my faith to Loyola Marymount as a Religious Studies major and studied with the Jesuits than got my Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies at Biola University and then started a Master’s program in Theology at Fuller Seminary. All of which got derailed when I got divorced (around Easter time) in 1987. Everything I believed in got derailed.

I spent the next 15-years making my way in the world without my Christian heritage. I didn’t do the angry-with-god thing because I’d already spent that energy when I converted from Catholicism and saw a lot of that from former-Catholics at Biola University. But I was in uncharted territory for me. At the time there weren’t any “unbeliever” groups and I noted that something was missing in my life. I don’t doubt that I would have stayed on that unbelieving trajectory if I hadn’t fallen passionately in love in 2001 with a married college sweetheart and some how that affair translated into renewed devotion to my Christian roots. Yeah, I don’t do anything normal.

During that extended period of insanity, I fully plugged into my Biblical roots and was absolutely amazed at all of the computer tools that had emerged in the years when I’d walked away from my faith. Sadly, all these years later after that madness ended the only thing that remains from those years of self-torture (being in love with someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t return the favor), is that I still get emails from the Bible-study software vendors with whom I’ve invested hundreds of dollars. And I’m tempted to update said Biblical studies software because there’s a part of me that still loves the study for meaning and for that part of our shared human history.

So, this time of year means a lot to me. For the things I’ve gained, for the things I’ve lost and for trying to balance the good with the bad and trying to maintain my sanity in the midst of my loneliness and recognition of the importance of community, I endeavor to renew my move into a better future. As I said a few years ago, to my Christian friends, Happy Easter and to the rest of us, enjoy all the chocolate.

Sometimes You Just Need to Wear Your Cowboy Hat

No Bored Mexican Kids

I was very disappointed that I couldn’t get mom’s Echo Show to work and surprised to discover that I couldn’t call her using the Alexa app on my iPad. That it only works from my iPhone. Damn. Very disappointed. After several attempts we resorted to just talking over the phone. Damn.

But in the rambling conversation she said something about how when she babysat the Eggers kids when they were really young, that she had no patience for the “we’re bored” whining. And that reminded me of this meme of why Mexican kids never complain that they’re bored… Then she relayed a story that I don’t think I’d ever heard, about when we were little that they were always celebrating whose ever birthday was around the corner, just an excuse to get everyone together, get the kids and friends together to celebrate. And apparently as a two-year old I developed the habit of wear someone’s cowboy hat, an adult sized cowboy hat. And according to mom, dad always defended my wearing the hat when someone made a comment about this little kid wearing an adult cowboy hat saying that I was the smart one because the hat would protect me from the sun… wow, who knew… I still think the meme is pretty fun.

“Congress,” in Theory…

image

DailyRandomShit for 2016-06-24

This one is embarrassing. First is the racist comment made by my relative, as if my working class relative is going to school our constitutional law professor president, alluding to the only job the president is qualified for requires a shoe-shine box. Obviously, I do not come from an evenly educated family tree.

The second is that Speaker Ryan should have put the word “Congress” in quotes because this specific Congress has been more renown for its lack of bringing up bills to vote into law, beginning with failure to vote on our engagement in Syria to any response to the series of gun-related tragedies we’ve experienced this past year. And given their penchant for vacations and bills not voted on the President has used executive order to get things done, not unlike all presidents beginning with George Washington (by the way 43/Junior used executive order 291 times versus President Obama’s “outrageous” 235…). Executive Orders, what all Presidents have done when Congress can’t get off their asses because their heads are too far up the asses of three-letter organizations that begin with the letter “N” and end with “A” and have a “R” shoved up the middle.

Resources:

Blog Action Day: Inequity and The Opportunity to Learn

dad and mom - post-WWII dreamers

dad and mom – post-WWII dreamers


My mom and dad grew up in the post-World War II boon when they really believed that you could achieve anything that you worked hard at. They grew up in San Gabriel, CA, where the joke was that everyone was related to one another and it was understood which side of the railroad tracks, which ran directly behind my grandparents’ houses, one should stay on. But my dad was a dreamer and moved us away from San Gabriel, and briefly away from Southern California. When we returned to Southern California we ended up in very white Orange County, in a place called Mission Viejo and the year was 1965.

The community may have had a Spanish name, but we were the only Mexican-American family in our neighborhood that I remember. Dad and mom became fast friends with the Olivareses, but they were way on the other side of town. All of the kids I remember growing up with were various shades of white. That said, except for the occasional random name-calling, I don’t remember many cases where I was treated any differently than any other dorky kid. Mom said much later that she thought that my younger brother and next older sister had it more difficult than I did because they were darker than I was. I didn’t see it, but then I was just a kid and all I cared about was football, my G.I. Joe and the Apollo space program.

I grew up believing and then acting on the belief that you can be anything you want to be, if you just work really hard at it. It was a different time and I was able to just be a kid with no concerns about food or whether someone might take our home from us or keep my dad from doing his job. I never worried that someone might say that I couldn’t take any class, sport or school organization that I would want to participate in. I knew that I was lucky to grow up in this place, at this particular time in history, but I never really thought about how life for others wasn’t anything like what I had experienced.

Somehow it was understood that, even though my grandparents only had a grammar school education and my folks got as far as high school graduation, Education was going to be the key to having a better life. It was just a given in my mind that after high school I was going to go to college. It never dawned on me that some people had to choose between making a living or getting an education. And the idea that someone wouldn’t be allowed to continue their education because of their gender, their ethnic heritage or because of which religion they were raised with was even more foreign to me. I knew that school wasn’t some kind of better-job-factory, as much as it enabled one to reach beyond ones upbringing, ones native village and participate in the much larger world. Ones native language, country of origin or what ones father did for a living was immaterial to the task at hand. What was more important was ones willingness and energy to learn and the diversity of experiences one brought to the learning.

So, I’ve never really known inequity in my career or social life because I was one of the lucky ones who had access to Education and I was able to jump in with both feet and have never stopped learning. And now as an educator, going into my 20th year working with students, I see that my job isn’t to be someone’s judge or inquisitor. Life is hard enough and will do that job well enough. I’m the coach meant to push and motivate the students to do more and be more than they ever imagined that they would accomplish. My job is to bring as many along as are willing to do the work and surpass anything that I might have accomplished.

There will always be places in the world where small-minded people will inflict others with their own self-doubt and fear and backwater mythologies. But as my life has enjoyed great freedoms from restriction, so others will overcome and move beyond the inequities that they might have grown up with if they have access to Education and the opportunities presented having endured the process.

Mentoring and Learning the Wrong Lessons

2002-07-31-Post-5k-boys

From my Masters studies at Pepperdine University, comes this tidbit of my own mentor-deficient journey. Spring. 2002

I can’t believe how my brother betrayed me. There he was, just rambling on, completely oblivious to the betrayal. I can’t believe he’d forgotten the vows we’d made during those numberless sweaty Saturdays out in the backyard under the heartless afternoon sun as our father rained down on us tree branches to be cut and dissatisfaction at our efforts.

I thought that it was understood that once we’d successfully escaped our father’s unsatisfiable tutelage that we’d never ever again spend another day toiling under the sun, pruning trees, or doing anything beyond the minimum necessary to keep the lawn from over-growing and swallowing up the patio furniture. But there he was proudly displaying his garden and the huge ears of corn he was expecting in a few weeks. Damn. I guess new homeownership does that to a person.

Okay, so not everyone takes the vows of teenage-boys seriously (brother!), and it wasn’t exactly the “Grapes of Wrath.” But it was negative enough to leave the above “not-so-fond” memory. Let’s just say, when I began to read our mentoring text by Gordon Shea and recalled the nurturing/supportive characteristics we all agreed a mentor should have, my father silently slipped off the list . . . at first.

Based on Shea’s list of twenty characteristics about “What Mentors Do” (p.14) my father exhibited eight of the twenty characteristics (usually having to do with doing the job right, and his quotable quote was, “Can’t you guys do anything right?!” so I wasn’t sure whether I should count that one). Of the twenty-two characteristics that we cooked up at our Colorado conference, his numbers dropped to just two. Actually, this whole business of going back and mining my memory for mentoring moments and/or relationships was getting pretty depressing for me. As I worked my way through my list there was an obvious pattern of learning from a distance so as not to get too close to whichever leader (and suffer from his/her potential wrath). It’s pretty clear where that pattern came from.

It was many years later in the middle of one of my child-development classes, when we were discussing the Characteristics of Play, that it suddenly dawned on me that my father’s endless weekends of yard work was his form of leisure. It was his form of play. Of course, none of this had made sense to my brother and I as kids because this was anything but fun to us. But to my father the “work” meant a great deal to him and having us there to “share” it with him also meant a great deal (even though we were anything but receptive to any message at the time). And even odder still was that he worked in landscaping and spent his whole week doing pretty much the same things for a living. The only difference, on the surface, between his work-a-day world and what he did on the weekends he was working on his yard with his boys. But at the time we never saw it.

In one of last term’s readings, Frank Smith made it clear that learning happens whether we want it to or not, more from the people we’re around than from the words of teachers.

“We learn from the people around us with whom we identify. We can’t help learning from them, and we learn without knowing that we are learning.” Frank Smith

So when I look at the person I’ve become and look at the long hours that I put in and the high expectation that I have for myself and the work that I do, I now know where those values came from. Those were values that were important to him, values that saw him through the early years of his own life when he didn’t have a father to lead him. And just as he never looked at the difficulties of his own upbringing for an apology for not having had a “perfect childhood,” I don’t expect or want an apology from him for the often vitriolic relationship that we had as father and son. I understand that he was just being a man, a man true to his core values and those values didn’t always translate well to squirrely seven- and ten-year-old boys.

17. 1970s - dad up a ladder on balcony above garage.

17. 1970s – dad up a ladder on balcony above garage.

Dear ol’ dad, whatever his conscious intentions may have been (prune trees, cut branches down small enough to fit into trash cans), he taught my brother and I a great deal more than the “joys” of working with small hand tools on mountains of orange and olive tree branches. I love him for instilling those values in me. But I’m still not going to pick up any pruning shears anytime soon. I’ll leave that to my silly younger brother. JBB

Resources:

June 30th

Today would have been my older sister, Kathie’s, 60… something birthday. The number isn’t important, except that the number stopped last December. I thought about her this morning when I was getting in my walking. We were on a parallel course the last few years with a similar illness robbing both of us the use of our legs. I got treatment within the first few months of the illness taking root, she didn’t. The reasons she didn’t get treatment are pretty complicated, but I know one thing for certain. I had medical advocates who pushed for me when my condition went from being something possibly pinched-nerve-related to can’t-support-his-weight and that didn’t seem to be the case for her.

She should still be here. She was looking forward to the birth of her second grand-baby and we would have had to endure an endless stream of photos and stories about the newest little one had she lived to see the beginning of precious little Belle’s life. She was pretty much impossible with just one grand-baby, she would have been even crazier with two. Being on the East Coast and apart from the rest of the family, I get to imagine these things without having the others argue with me about this or that detail… We’re all pretty stubborn when it comes to our opinions. And Kats was the leader of the band who’s force of personality kept us all in check (even Matt).

It’s going to take me a good long time to deal with this. I’m not going to button it up with some passing notion about “Better Places” or the like. This is the tragedy that shouldn’t have happened, but did. We had a hell-of-a-lot more Bill Murray movies that we were supposed to watch together that I’m now going to have experience without her (she would have loved “The Grand Budapest Hotel”). Damn. I wish that I could wish her “happy birthday” and it not be just in my head.

1960s - bustillos brood from youngest to oldest (I don't know what I'm doing with my hands...).

1960s – bustillos brood from youngest to oldest (I don’t know what I’m doing with my hands…).

Trying to Remember What’s My Mission?

I’ve been back from California for a few weeks, dove right back into work, getting out of the house and keeping tabs on my health. Today actually marked the first time since my illness that I did what I said I would do when I began treatment in September of 2012, that in a year’s time I’d do a 5K. I’m a few month overdue with the original plan but it marked a new beginning nonetheless. That’s a good thing, but I really don’t feel like I’m anywhere near firing on all cylinders. It’s like I’m almost up to full capacity as far as doing the job and keeping busy, but there’s still something missing.

A lot has happened in the last year. Around this time last year I was beginning to get around a lot better with the aid of the new 4-wheel walker that I bought myself that Christmas. I moved back to my townhouse and had to re-acquaint myself with being independent. It was nice to be able to fend for myself, but bittersweet in that it also marked the departure of Tricia and her family from my life. My department at work got a new boss and then they began to change some of the focus of the program for a less K-12-centric audience and most recently I was moved to an earlier course. Since its inception the degree program has generally had major changes each year, except for the last couple years, so we were overdue. I’m still adjusting. Then, most recently my very-talented eldest sister, Kathie, died.

One of the things that I wanted to do when I first moved out to Florida in 2008 was get back into playing my music and going out and sharing it, like in real public venues. Over the course of the first four years I plugged into some really great live jam sessions, but only once really participated. So, newly independent last Spring, I decided that I really needed to just do it. That took more than a few month and the one venue where I did participate in their open mic night, I never quite seemed to fit in. Granted I probably spent a hell of a lot more time at the dive down the street from me, Holly and Dolly’s, where I never did get up the courage to bring my guitar, but it felt a lot more comfortable than the place where I finally trudged out my Beatles covers, etc. In a word, it didn’t go as planned. But I’ve made enough connections to realize that I’m not quite done yet.

It’s weird. I guess I’m going through the adjustments after everything that’s happened, and it’s really not enough just to go through the motions. I’ve nearly recovered my strength, but that’s not enough. Back before I got sick, back when I was firing on all cylinders, I was busy, working nearly around the clock and only in the year or so before the illness, I did slow down just a little to enjoy the company and companionship of my best-friend and lover. Then that all went away and one-year later I’m left trying to remember what was most important to me, what my mission is in this life.

A tune by my friend, Neva, popped up on my playlist the other day and a friend asked who that was. I don’t know if I adequately answered her question, but over the past day I’ve been finding myself thinking about the music. And even though I’m way overdue finishing my grades, I’ve spent this evening re-editing the following video and writing these words. Neva posted the first part of the video as a demo of a song in progress and much later posted the official music video. I put the two together because I like how the first one showed her personality and the second highlights her amazing talent. Grades still need to get done, but I’m probably a bit closer to remembering why I’m here and what should be the priorities in my life.