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The Official Blog of The Reluctant Blogger

Welcome to the official website of both author Ryan Rapier, and his debut novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, a story about family, faith, relationships…and other things that can lead to therapy.

Author Carol Lynn Pearson calls THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, “A delightful gift from a skilled writer and insightful observer of life in Mormondom. THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER invites us to the high and holy calling of laughing at ourselves and loving ourselves pretty much at the same time. Highly Recommended!

Eric Samuelsen, playwrite and former president of the Association of Mormon Letters, exclaims, “Man, I liked this book. [It’s] Warm and human and real. I read it in one afternoon. I just couldn’t put it down.”

Get a copy today wherever LDS books are available or by clicking on the links to internet retailers located on the right hand side of this blog.

WARNING: While this blog is the official blog of author, Ryan Rapier, the postings located below do not necessarily focus entirely on his book nor on writing in general. Topics below can range from politics to sports to family life minutiae to…whatever random subject might be on the author’s mind. If you are looking for helpful hints on writing, reviews of other author’s works or anything else in between, there is a large potential for disappointment.

An Actually Useful Lesson Donald Trump Is Teaching Us

When I was a teenager, my parents tried to instill a truth upon my soul before they sent me out into the cold cruel world. They actually tried to instill many lessons, but for the point of this post, I’m going to focus on one. And that lesson was; you marry who you date.

Obviously the point was, don’t date girls that you wouldn’t want to end up spending the rest of your life with. It was a good lesson then, and it’s a good lesson now. It’s one I have spent many hours trying to get across to my teenage daughter.

You see, the problem with spending too much time with someone you wouldn’t actually want to make a lifetime commitment to is the message you send to all those folks you actually would like to make a lifetime commitment to. They see the company you keep and make a mental note to themselves that you are no longer legitimate dating material. It isn’t necessarily a fair judgment, but then…who said life was fair?

And that brings me to Donald Trump.

For the record, this post is the last time I personally am going to write that man’s name on this blog. I don’t want to date him and I sure as heck don’t want to contribute to his single-handed destruction of the GOP presidential chances. But I do think there is a lesson we Republicans can take away from this circus freak show going on right now. And it has very little to do with Trump himself.

The lesson is that maybe we shouldn’t trust the media.

Now, I know the immediate response is going to be, “Duh!!! We’ve known that for decades!”

True, but I’m talking all media. For instance, there was a time when I was an avid Rush Limbaugh listener. When I discovered him, I was thrilled that there was finally someone speaking for me and my views at a national level. And for Rush, one message was constant; the reason Republicans or conservatives don’t win elections is because they don’t get their message out. His belief has always been that too many Republicans wuss out and don’t go full conservative all day, every day-and if they did, we’d never lose another election again.

Over the last twenty years, Rush has become the spokesman for a lot of people who consider themselves conservative. And his message has been consistent. Be a fearless conservative because fearless conservatism wins every time it’s tried. So here’s a question:

Why is Rush being so complimentary of Trump, who is too busy spouting insults and platitudes to actually spout conservatism, instead of taking him to task on the lunacy of what he’s saying?

“Because, Rapier, Trump speaks conservatism without fear. He tells it like it is. He cuts through the crap.”

Those three statements are what I hear from Trump supporters more than anything else when they defend him. And yet each one of those statements is pure garbage.

He Tells It Like It Is

The Mexican Government is sending drug dealers and rapists across the border for us to deal with. – Had anyone been interested in true facts, Marco Rubio had some to share in the recent debate. Most of the illegal immigrants coming across our southern border no longer originate from Mexico. They come from Guatamala, Columbia and other South American countries. Meanwhile, the number of violent crimes committed in this country by illegal immigrants in comparison to US citizens is not statistically higher, but in most cases, statistically lower.

He Cuts Through The Crap

John McCain isn’t a war hero. Well he is a war hero, but only because he got caught. I like people who didn’t get caught. – On this blog, I have made no secret of how I feel about John McCain and his politics. But the man spent five years in a hellish prison camp and deserves our respect for that. He most certainly doesn’t get a free pass for everything he’s done since then, but again, he deserves our respect for that. And to suggest otherwise is the epitomy of “crap”!!!

He Speaks Conservatism Without Fear

“When you give, they do whatever the hell you want.” – Mr. Trump said these words in response to a question about giving money to Democratic politicians. None of those politicians ever advanced a conservative agenda at any point. So if Mr. Trump gave them money and then they did whatever the h— he wanted, one has to ask; What did he want?

My point with these examples is this: He is nothing like what he pretends to be. And not only that, he isn’t doing a very good job of hiding it. So why are the Rush Limbaughs and the Sean Hannitys out there not calling him out on this? Why are so many “informed conservatives” buying into this joke?

I think the answer is simple. The so-called conservative spokesmen/women are scared. I believe they don’t want to end up like Matt Walsh, the right-wing blogger who actually had the guts to point out the vast amounts of hypocrisy spewing forth from The Donald. After his post that called out Trump on many levels, Matt Walsh got KILLED. Not by Trump, but by right-wing nutjobs who called him everything from “RINO” to “subversive tool of the Democratic party”. MATT WALSH! If you’ve ever read that guy, you know full well, a RINO he is not.

So that’s why I believe conservative media personalities are scared. There’s no other explanation. Their numbers aren’t what they used to be and their influence is shrinking. So the last thing they want to do is offend the torch burning loonies who make up a big portion of their audience. You know, the ones who think that some moron who makes a “Megyn Kelly is on her period” joke (but then claims he didn’t, just like everything else he has ever said…wait no he didn’t say it, we just misunderstood) is some kind of conservative messiah. They need those loonies…and as a result, they show themselves to be just as fraudulent as every poltician or media reporter they have been lambasting for the last twenty years.

Donald Trump is not a conservative messiah. He isn’t even conservative. In fact, I don’t know what he is. Regardless, it’s time we Republicans started looking at the real candidates who have a real opportunity to win instead of giving time to a narcissistic freak who is more concerned about who is being nice to him and who isn’t. And it is time we started demanding the same of the media personalities who supposedly agree with us.

Am I Really Hanging Out With The Best Crowd?

I grew up in an extremely political home and from my earliest memories, I have identified as a Republican. To my point, I think I might have been the only second grader who watched with extreme interest the presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Interest in politics and identifying myself as Republican has always just seemed second nature.

However, as we gear up for the presidential election next year, I am looking around and wondering where the heck am I? I thought I belonged to a party that stood for lower taxes, not just for lower taxes sake, but for the improved environment it creates for entrepreneurship and capitalism. I thought I belonged to a party that didn’t look to welfare as a long-term solution, but rather as a short-term stepping stone to improving one’s self and becoming a positive force in society.

In short, I thought I belonged to the party that still believed in the American Dream.

As such, I would expect that the issues my party would be focusing on as we head toward 2016 would be say…I don’t know…restructuring or outright battling regulations that discourage rather than encourage economic growth. Another idea might be coming up with solutions to address the decaying infrastructure of our country by exploring partnerships between government and the private sector that would both lead to the improvement of our roads, bridges and national parks and provide jobs to thousands of people still struggling through a slow economic recovery. (I know some might equate this idea with the New Deal and liberalism, but frankly, both of these issues need addressing and coming at it from a conservative perspective rather than moaning about the solutions the liberals come up with seems so much more productive to me. I’m just sayin’.)

Lastly, since so many of us on the right view Obamacare with suspicion and disdain, shouldn’t we be crafting plans and policies of our own that would address the huge boondoggle that is healthcare in our country. Because, as we all remember, the issues regarding skyrocketing costs and insufficient affordable coverage did not begin with President Obama. They simply provided him a platform to present his own solution…which we hate…to the point that it was almost all we talked about for nigh unto four years. So shouldn’t having a plan of our own to present to the voters be our number one priority?

Apparently not.

Instead, the primary issues that seem to be driving the GOP conversation these days are as follows:

1. Defending a flag that represented a traitorous rebellion against our nation mostly in the name of keeping slavery alive and well.

2. Decrying a Supreme Court Ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

3. Donald Trump

Let me address each of these separately, may I? Thanks.

I find it interesting that so many people want to cloak the Confederate flag and its continued presence in our society in the argument of free speech. Especially since so many of the people making this argument are the same folks who twenty years ago were the ones apoplectic over the National Endowment for the Arts providing funding for art shows that presented, among other things, a crucific upside down in a glass of urine or the American flag in a toilet. Admittedly, I find both of those examples repulsive and agree that tax payer money should not be used to fund such “art”. However, I would also argue that a flag representing one of the most abhorrent practices in our history should not be flying over taxpayer funded buildings such as the South Carolina capitol building. To me, it’s the same thing. And I don’t want to hear ridiculous arguments such as, “It is a preservation of our culture and history.” Bull Crap!!! Let’s ask just about any African American citizen in South Carolina and see how they feel about that memorial to their culture and history being displayed atop a building they pay for with their tax dollars.

Bottom line, if somebody wants to have a Stars and Bars license plate on the front of their vehicle or a Stars and Bars blanket that they purchased from a booth in the parking lot of Walmart, so be it. That’s their right. But for any political movement that wants to be taken seriously to suggest that we need to defend the flying of the Confederate flag over a state capitol is ridiculous. And for this issue to be given any serious consideration within the party of Lincoln is irony at its most extreme.

As far as the Supreme Court ruling, I understand how vital to the Republican Party the religious right is. I can also relate to the fear and concern that this ruling creates regarding religious freedoms in America. I do believe this part of the debate is legitimate. However, there is a very fine line between debating the future of religious freedoms and dredging up old slurs and stereotypes in an effort to discredit your opponents. And frankly, in the political climate in which we exist, crossing that line could be fatal. Regardless of the beliefs of any group or individual, the truth is that the winds of change are upon us. Social acceptance of the LGBT community, and by extension same-sex marriage, has become the majority thought in this nation and those on the right would be wise to recognize this. Trying to scare voters against the “evils of the homosexual” might whip up a small minority of the base, but it will just as easily engender disgust and anger on the part of independent and moderate left. You know, the people Ronald Reagan wooed in order to win the presidency in 1980 and ’84.

Now I know that many will scream out that it is the moral obligation of all Christians everywhere to call attention to those who would “Call Evil Good and Good Evil,” but as I have expressed in a previous post, I think they are wrong. I think debating homosexuality itself is pointless and unbecoming of a people who profess to follow a God who loves everyone. Rarely do those debates remain civil and even more rarely do they accomplish anything. For Republicans, this debate has to stay focused on religious freedoms and protecting the constitutional rights of everyone on both sides of this issue.

And finally, how is it possible for one political party to be so incredibly tone deaf when it comes to single fastest growing voting block in this country. The fact that Donald Trump is being given any credibility at all is mind-boggling. Did people not hear him when he basically called everyone who is or has come here illegally a drug runner or a rapist???…or maybe some of them are good people…he’s not quite sure on that one. OH MY FREAK!!! What is wrong with us?

First of all, did no one notice that the GOP lost Nevada (a state they had carried with ease in the past) in 2012? Why do you think that is? Polling data was very clear. Republicans got slaughtered among Hispanic voters which could be traced back to the Republican primary and their nasty rhetoric regarding immigration. I know everyone wants to argue that it was only directed toward illegal immigration, but when you make it easy for your opponents to paint that rhetoric with a wider brush, it doesn’t help your cause.

But more importantly, as mentioned earlier, aren’t we supposed to be the party of Christian values? I’m sorry, but labeling an entire population as rapists and drug-runners doesn’t sound very Christian to me. I’m sure a criminal element exists within the illegal immigration population, but c’mon, saying what he said was absolutely stupid and frankly, in my eyes, makes him unfit to be considered a candidate for president.

However, the larger point is this: the GOP, and specifically the tea party, has got to take a more realistic view towards immigration from Mexico. To claim that illegals are stealing jobs is ridiculous. It is not even remotely that simple. One, most American citizens do not want to do many of the jobs illegal immigrants do nor would they even consider doing them for the wages offered. Two, Americans are not willing to pay the price of what things would cost if they were produced by fully compensated legal American workers. That’s why everything we buy is made somewhere else…including Donald Trump’s clothing line which is ironically made in Mexico. Republicans should be talking about ways to make manufacturing cheaper in this country so that American made goods could be more affordable. And if that includes guest worker programs made available to Mexican citizens, then…Awesome!!!

Don’t get me wrong. I understand there are issues with illegal immigration that need to be addressed. But denegrating an entire society (which, like it or not, has a spill over effect with the entire Mexican-American population) is not the way to go about it. In fact, I have yet to hear Donald Trump correctly address any issue as a candidate for president.

And yet, if you believe the polls, he is currently in second place. (Sigh!!!)

What makes this all so sad for me is that I used to believe that belonging to the Republican party made me someone who was interested in providing a solution rather than being part of the problem. However, as I look over the political landscape today, I can’t see how I can make that claim any longer. Today’s Republican party seems to be far more interested in debating innocuous issues that better the lives of no one. I hope that changes before November of next year, otherwise I will find myself preparing for four years of another Clinton presidency. And quite possibly looking for a new political home.

Now You’ve Done It! (One Mormon Guy’s Reluctant Response to THE Supreme Court Ruling)

Okay, now I’m offended. I was going to avoid this topic altogether because of the high emotions and opportunity for offense on both sides.

But then I made the mistake of checking my news feed on Facebook this morning and now I’m irritated.

So, I have several things to say about the recent ruling on gay marriage. And I realize that at some point, I am bound to offend everyone, but screw it. All the self-righteousness spewing from every corner is getting overwhelming and I just have to add my own to the mix. So here goes.

  1. The thing that set me off this morning was someone using the Jeffrey R. Holland quote—the one about the contest already being decided and the final score already being posted and now it just being about which side’s jersey we want to wear—as a gauntlet to any church member who might be sympathetic to the gay marriage ruling. HOW FREAKING DARE YOU!!! I know which jersey I’m wearing and I know which side I’m on. In fact, it is that belief and faith that demands that I approach this entire subject and debate with extreme caution and care. I CANNOT JUDGE WHAT I DO NOT EXPERIENCE NOR UNDERSTAND. In fact, assuming I have read the rule book accurately, it is not my job to do so. So to all those who would deem themselves worthy of speaking for God directly on how every Church member should feel on this issue, I kindly invite you to suck it not.
  2. I have seen and heard the argument repeatedly that this ruling is single-handedly the greatest assault on the family and all that is virtuous and right and that it marks the true beginning of the end. REALLY??? Allowing two people who happen to be of the same gender to enter into a marriage contract so that they may be recognized in society as a family unit—thereby receiving the same benefits, financial and otherwise, as a heterosexual married couple—is worse than a ruling that allowed the widespread annihilation of millions of unborn babies? Sorry, I don’t see it. And by the way, that ruling—otherwise referred to as Roe v. Wade—occurred in 1973, the year I was born. So apparently these rulings that “signify the end” take a while as here we are 42 years later and still going strong.
  3. Meanwhile, now that I’m up and going, let me vent on a couple of items on the other side that get my blood boiling. I absolutely despise the NO H8 campaign. As I have stated before, from a strictly biological point of view, you can see how an argument for marriage being between a man and a woman would make sense as opposed to same sex marriage. One furthers the species, one does not without help from an outside source. Furthermore, marriage between man and woman has been a religious institution for thousands of years. If one holds to the beliefs of the Bible, it is very clearly demonstrated that God instituted marriage when he created Adam and Eve for each other. A man and a woman. It is that Bible, by the way, that ultimately played a critical role in establishing this country which has allowed its citizens unprecedented freedoms—and which now grants the freedom of marriage to same-sex couples. So it seems incredibly mean-spirited and vicious to brand anyone who holds reservations about same sex marriage as a hater. At its very core, the message NO H8 is filled with intolerance. It is a message of you are either with us or against us, and that is not a message designed to engender good feelings and healing in the aftermath of what everyone has to admit was a controversial decision with far reaching affects we don’t yet fully realize.
  4. Speaking of far reaching effects, I do express my congratulations to those who have long awaited this day. It is a day of affirmation and one I wouldn’t begrudge anyone. And I further believe that for the majority of us both in the Christian and LGBT communities, the battle is over and the time for reconstruction has arrived. However, I understand that this is not true for everyone, and that makes me incredibly sad. There are going to be those on the side of Christianity who are going to only up their rhetoric and make healing all the harder. I also know that there are those within the LGBT community for whom this battle was never about “Love”. There is no denying that society has treated the LGBT community poorly in the past. And I am not naïve enough to believe that poorly even comes close to adequately describing the wrongs inflicted on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. But now, there are going to be those who want payback. It is a perfectly understandable human reaction. Unfortunately, in situations like this, the people truly responsible for the injustices are rarely the ones who pay the price. Instead it will often be individuals who want no part of this fight, but find themselves caught up in it none the less. It will be Christians, or maybe individuals of other faiths, that are struggling to find a balance between the new reality and their belief system. It is going to take time, but sadly, there will be those who aren’t given any time. They will be metaphorically drug out into the streets by the new social media mobs and be forced to watch as their livelihood is destroyed and their names ruined. It’s already happening. And the cold and cruel messages being delivered to these people carry no love in them whatsoever. Sadly, dark days are ahead for far too many innocents on both sides and love will have very little to do with it.

Finally, I have to comment on the questions this ruling raises within my own faith. It has never been lost on me that there is a disconnect in our advocacy for marriage between one man and one woman and the history of the LDS faith, as well as the still standing policy of marriage beyond this life through temple sealings. This ruling brings that disconnect directly into the forefront.

Polygamy and the Mormon faith go hand in hand. Get outside of the Mormon belt (Utah, Arizona and Idaho) and it is still a practice with which we are heavily associated. And it is also a practice for which many of us in the faith have very few answers and even less desire to find any.

Which is what makes this ruling so troubling.If one reads Official Declaration 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book considered scripture by those within the LDS faith, it states that polygamy was ended as a practice because the United States Congress declared it illegal and the Supreme Court had upheld that declaration. In short, the implication is that had the United States not made the practice illegal, it would have continued.

Which brings us to today and this question: is plural marriage truly a doctrine of God? And if it is, should the leaders of our faith be asking if He wants it reinstated on the earth?

Now back up Rapier. If God wants this practice reinstated, He will make His will known.

Except that when it came to blacks and priesthood, it took Spencer W. Kimball months and even years of asking before everyone got on board for reversing a practice that church leaders now admit wasn’t even a doctrine. So apparently, asking is part of the process. So I ask again, should they?

Furthermore, polygamy isn’t even a practice we have fully walked away from. Men can be sealed to more than one woman should their first wife pass away with the understanding that both sealings are in effect. The same is not the case for women. So are we truly advocates for marriage being between one man and one woman or not?

Now one argument I have heard in justification is that each marriage ceremony that occurs is between one man and one woman even though the man may already have additional spouses and that is how we have been consistently for traditional marriage throughout history. To that I would say, let’s run that argument by just about any woman (including our wives) and see if she thinks it passes the smell test.

Look, I am not bringing this issue up to cause problems (although I can easily see how it could be construed as exactly that.) My point in doing so is this. Maybe those of us within in the LDS faith should slow down on the anti-gay marriage rhetoric and go about our faith the best we know how. Because one, there is plenty about our own history with marriage that we don’t understand. To me, it would be nice to gain a little clarification and understand what is and what isn’t within my own house before I go condemning someone else’s.

But further, I bring this up because of my own experience. You see, I do personally believe that God’s divine plan for the family is for every child to have a mother and a father who cares for them in a loving and nurturing environment. I also believe that in a perfect world, that option would be available to every child born. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Furthermore, I have been blessed to see first-hand a child being raised in the loving home of two same sex partners. And frankly, he’s doing great. I can say without any equivocation that my brother and his husband are amazing fathers. In many ways, they are better than me. My nephew is loved, and he is cared for more than any child I have ever met. Which is so much more than can be said for hundreds of thousands of children who find themselves being raised in a more “traditional” setting.

Or, if you would like me to put it more bluntly, I think in some respects, we are chasing a paper tiger. Gay marriage is not the problem when it comes to the deterioration of traditional families. The problem is selfishness and bad behavior on the part of adults who should know better. And that is the case regardless of sexual orientation.

Part 1 of Part 2: Simi Valley Hassan and the Raiders of the Lost Mercado

As previously stated in the post from a week ago, The Long Unwinding Road, I am documenting my family’s recent vacation to Magic Mountain and Newport Beach in a multi-blog post, running journal format. Today’s entry is day two of our trip. For day one, please click on the above title. For day two, please read on.

5:30 a.m. – Ding, Ding.  When we had checked into our rooms the night before, I had a faint premonition in the back of my brain that being placed in the two rooms closest to the elevator on our floor might be problematic. But I forgot about and chose to hope for the best. Until right at this moment. Though not overly loud, the chiming indicating the arrival of an elevator car was just loud enough to seep into my subconscious and rouse me from a surprisingly good night’s sleep. Oh well, how many people can possibly be staying at this crudhole of a hotel and how many of those people can actually be up at 5:30 in the morning?

5:32 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:34 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:37 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

5:40 a.m. – Ding, Ding.

Okay, now I’m really getting annoyed. Has someone let their four-year-old child loose on the floor or has some jackanus taken it upon himself to play the stupidest practical joke ever? I’m not sure, but my desire to pummel someone is rising quickly as any chance of going back to sleep has been lost in the early morning mists of Simi Valley.

5:54 a.m. – After about six more elevator runs, some bozo decides to stand outside the door to my room and start barking directions to some faceless peon, about when and where he needs the “female players.” I don’t know exactly what that means, but if we have accidently wandered into the middle of an all-girl soccer or softball tournament being played nearby I might as well get up now. I shift in my bed and reach for my phone to check my e-mails when both of my sons call over to me. It would seem I am not the only one suffering from insomnia at the hands of a satanic elevator.

7:20 a.m. – After showering and getting ready before my wife and oldest daughter (always a mistake I make on vacation) we decide the plan of attack should be for me to take the three middle children (Things 2-4) and go get some fruit and donuts from a grocery store. As we walk into the hallway outside our door, we see a piece of paper taped to the wall that says Miss Stevens, Make-up and Hair, Room 324 Underneath this bit of info is an arrow pointing beyond our doors to a location somewhere further on down the hall. Interesting. I have a growing suspicion that this might have something to do with the Grand Central Station feel of our hotel at 5:30. But what kind of soccer team needs hair and make-up? And who is this Miss Stevens that she needed that many people to do her hair and make-up? Staring at that sign, I was certain that these questions and more would haunt me for the rest of the day. We walk to the elevator and press the button. I grit my teeth when I hear the all too familiar Ding, Ding, but get on the elevator anyway. We reach the lobby and…

7:22 a.m. – …walk right into the middle of a movie set. There is equipment and lighting everywhere and I am suddenly very nervous that one of my children is going to be so distracted that they will walk into something that will have the potential of costing me thousands of dollars. I don’t know why the fact that someone shooting a movie in our hotel suddenly made our morning from Hades so much more palatable…but it did. I load Things 2-4 into the van (which still carries a hint of puke stench from the car seat) and we set off to look for a grocery store. Being from Arizona, we expect to find one without delay and soon be back at our hotel and then on about our business.

7:36 a.m. – Yeah right!!! What is it with California and their inability to place businesses in logical locations? We have passed just about every form of capitalistic commerce on this planet, but have yet to see even the remotest glimpse of a store selling, you know…food! I know everyone in California is obsessed with their appearance, but come on. People still gotta eat.

7:40 a.m. – I look at our gas gauge and decide we had better fill up. Besides, surely the gas station attendant will be able to point us in the right direction of a grocery store, or heck, even a farmer’s market. Right?

7:43 a.m. – I now quote directly from Hassan, the gas station attendant who appears to not understand any English word other than, “Gas.”

“Uhh…Groceree? No, no. No groceree here.” He gestures generally to express that it is his opinion that no grocery store exists for many miles in any direction.


7:49 a.m. – After starting down a different street that intersected with the one we were just on, we find…drum roll please…a GROCERY STORE! And by my calculation, it was possibly one hundred yards down, and across the road from the gas station where we just filled up. So in fact, Yes, yes. Yes groceree here.

Actually it might better be described as a Mercado, and maybe that was the problem preventing me and my new friend, Hassan, from communicating effectively. You see, it’s a grocery store, but it’s a Mexican grocery store. As in, everything is in Spanish, including all of the tabloid magazines at the checkout.  However, despite some obvious communication problems that might occur, I would totally shop here if they opened a store in Thatcher. They have what I can only describe as a salsa bar with multiple large plastic display canisters full of different kinds of salsa. Also, their bakery is going at full steam making fresh tortillas. This place is awesome!!!

7:53 a.m. – We find the fruit (it was located next to the pinatas) and get some very good looking bananas and a couple of apples.

It was then that I spot something I have never seen before.As is becoming a trend in most stores, there are smaller stores located along the edges of the larger mercantile, much as you would expect to find in a Walmart. And just as you would expect, there is a hair dresser, a phone store and a…you guessed it, Immigration and Naturalization office. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not making fun or in any way trying to cast aspersions on anyone or anything. It’s just something that completely caught me off guard. But frankly, if being able to pick up some milk while extending a work visa works for this store’s core customer base, it works for me. And I say that with no malice or derisiveness intended.

8:04 a.m. – Since Mexican donuts are not quite the exploding sugar bombs my kids are expecting, we leave with the fruit, but head over to The Donut Café to get our pastries. With a name like Donut Café, I feel confident that the fried portions of early onset diabetes will be available here.  I am not disappointed.

8:16 a.m. – With fruit, donuts and three children in tow, I arrive back at the Grand Vista Hotel. On our way to the front entrance, we are stopped outside by someone associated with the movie that was setting up when we left. It seems we have been gone just long enough for them to actually start shooting.

8:17 a.m. – Surprisingly, the woman who stops us, suddenly waves us forward. Out of the side of my mouth, I tell my kids to not look at anything or anyone and to stay right next to me.

8:18 a.m. – We make it back to the elevator without tripping or breaking anything. Awesome!!! That’s when I hear the director say, “Okay, great. I think we got it. Just in case, can we get that family back? They were great.” I look over at the one person associated with the filming crew who is still visible to us and ask, “Were they shooting?” He nods and mouths, “You did great.”

Well, there you go. The Rapiers may soon be headed to a theater near you.

Shannon asked later and found out the film being shot is an indie film entitled, Miss Stevens, and is about a grade school teacher who begins suffering from a sort of mid-life crisis. Sounds like the perfect Lifetime movie to me, but according to the person Shannon talked to, distribution rights have not been picked up yet. So, we’ll have to wait and see if it ever sees the light of day.

9:10 a.m. – Time to start loading up the van. I take the first load by myself and head for the elevator. As I step onto the elevator car, I am bombarded…nay, brutally accosted by the smell of acrid human gas. Before my mind can fully absorb what I’ve walked into, the doors closed and I am ensconced in my own personal gas chamber. I mean it is horrid. I don’t know what the person who rode this slow-moving trap of death before me had for breakfast or dinner, but what I do know is that death poured out of this person’s backside in great abundance mere seconds before I had the great misfortune of happening upon the aftermath. Like most hotel elevators, this car had advertisements for the hotel restaurants on the walls. The pictures of the food mixed with the vile stench combine and almost cause me to vomit. Furthermore, included on the posters is a picture of the chef. By the time I finally reach the lobby floor, I have come to hold that man personally responsible for my dilemma. (Yes, I now recognize the pure irrationality of my thinking, but you weren’t there so don’t judge.) In that moment, I hate him, I hate his food, and more than anything, I hate the Grand Vista Hotel. It’s time to go.

9:30 a.m. – So we leave. Unfortunately, I had read the opening times wrong for Magic Mountain, so while my family’s success in meeting my directive of leaving the hotel by 9:30 is truly admirable, it is also pretty much in vain as we will be arriving at Magic Mountain probably about 40 minutes early. Oh well, at least we won’t be spending another moment at the Grand Vista. You’ve got to take life’s blessings as they come.

***As this post is now over 1,800 words and we haven’t even arrived at Magic Mountain yet, I have decided to break this post into two and finish the rest of our day in a separate post. For those who care, I promise it won’t be as long of a break as it was between part 1 and part 2.

Should Caitlyn Jenner Also Appear On The Cover Of ESPN’s Guide To Abject Stupidity

Oh, man. There is just so much to talk about this week. To those five of you out there who care, I promise that our day in Magic Mountain is coming, but I find I can’t contain myself. I have to spout of on one more subject before we get there.

Let me state unequivocally that I don’t give a rat’s behind about whether or not Bruce Jenner chooses to transition himself to Caitlyn Jenner. As a religious person, I understand that many might expect me to be outraged over this whole thing, but…I’m not. ISIS outrages me. A reality show star who was once a great athlete about the time I was being born? Not so much. It really has no effect on my life and so whatever he/she chooses to do, it makes no difference to me.

Having said that, ESPN’s decision to give the Arthur Ashe award (an award that recognizes an individual for showing great courage over the last year) to Jenner interests me very much—mainly because of the massive PR disaster it threatens to be.

And in my opinion, deserves to be. Here’s why:

Lauren Hill was a girl who seemed to have life by the tail as she graduated high school. As a senior, she was popular, intelligent, and a highly sought after as a college basketball player. She was recruited by several institutions and eventually decided to sign with Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati. However, before she could realize her dream of playing college basketball, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Now there are a lot of people who would take this diagnosis and retreat to live out their days feeling sorry for themselves. But not Lauren. She continued to work hard through her illness with the intent of making an appearance in at least one college basketball game. Her coach and teammates at Mount St. Joseph supported her in her efforts. She also used her story to raise money for cancer research. In other words, she did things that might be considered, I don’t know, courageous.

Noah Galloway is a United States Army veteran who served in Iraq. In 2005, he was injured by an IED and lost an arm just above the elbow and a leg just above the knee. However, since that time, Noah has not let his disabilities stop him. He has been fitted with prosthetic limbs and currently works as both a personal trainer and motivational speaker. He routinely competes in 5ks and 10ks as well as even more rigorous competitions that one might not expect from a double amputee. He has also started the No Excuses Charitable Fund which provides money to different charities that include Operation Enduring Warrior and children’s programs through the YMCA.

What is interesting is that I am aware of both of these individuals…BECAUSE OF ESPN!!! Well, okay, I am aware of Noah because of his involvement with the TV show Dancing With the Stars, which is on ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Corporation, which also owns ESPN…so I might be stretching it, but basically the people behind the ESPYs are the same people who have brought Noah to the attention of the American public at large.

Lauren, on the other hand, was featured prominently on ESPN many times. For even more irony, at least one of her segments (the one where I first heard about her story) was introduced by ESPN anchor, Stuart Scott. Both Lauren and Stuart lost their battles with cancer in recent months.

So maybe you can imagine my level of astonishment when I heard that ESPN had (in what I believe had to be a knee-jerk reaction to his/her appearance on Vanity Fair) named Caitlyn Jenner as their Arthur Ashe recipient for 2015. The choice is insane. I mean, let’s look at what these three individuals accomplished through their “acts of courage.”

Lauren Hill not only appeared in, not one, but two Mount St. Joseph basketball games. She also raised over $1.5 million for cancer research.

Noah Galloway has certainly profited from his fame, but the man lost two limbs—neither one by his own choosing (sorry, that will be the only somewhat snide comment I will make regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s transition)—in service to our country. Regardless of your feelings on the Iraq war, that kind of sacrifice is worthy of our praise.

Caitlyn Jenner, on the other hand, has been part of one of the ugliest three ring circuses ever foisted upon the American public. Keeping Up With The Kardashians is American entertainment at its most disgusting. And Bruce has been right there, front and center. Furthermore, has he/she used this transition in his/her life to further the cause of fellow transgender folks in our culture? Not so much. Instead he/she has used this whole experience to…you guessed it, get himself/herself a new reality series.


First of all, I believe if I were transgender, I would find Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner to be appalling. Many of these individuals struggle through this process (regardless of whether you believe it to be right or wrong) in the face of opposition from family, work and society at large. Bruce/Caitlyn on the other hand, benefits financially and faces none of those things. Heck, his family loves the additional attention it is bringing—with possibly the one exception being Kim Kardashian, but only because the spotlight might have drifted from her and Kanye for half a millisecond. Bruce/Caitlyn faces no financial hardship because of this decision and furthermore trivializes the entire transgender issue by dragging it through the muck of reality TV. (And yes, as an aside, I consider you part of that same cesspool Duggar family.)

But again, ESPN is the one with egg on their face over this one. This is bad. There is no way to justify this. They’ve tried by issuing some pathetic statement about how their choice was made to possibly help “…educate people on the challenges the transgender community faces.” But seriously, that’s a load of hog crap. Turning over the transgender issue to the Kardashians doesn’t do a spits worth of good for the transgender community.

Furthermore, ESPN is in essence a sports network. Which means its core audience is men who watch sports. (Pause for a moment.) Yeah, not exactly the demographic that is the most sympathetic to the plight of the transgender community. They are, however, the type of people who would very much get behind the story of say…I don’t know…Lauren Hill? Or Noah Galloway?

So to close, let me make two prediction. Somehow, ESPN will also find a way to honor Lauren Hill at the ESPYs. And secondly, the person who greenlit the idea to get the ESPYs into bed with the Kardashians will find out the hard way that getting screwed by that family isn’t nearly as fun as they make it appear on their vile excuse for a television show.

Get Right or Get Rand Over

Did you know that Republicans have won the popular vote in a presidential election exactly once in the last 23 years?


So whether you are one of those red state enthusiasts who aligns with the tea party or if you are moderate conservative who is somewhat concerned at the leftward leaning direction our country has been trending in as of late, this little nugget ought to concern you. And at the minimum make you ask why.

Now, over the years I have heard many arguments put forth as to what exactly the Republican problem is. I have heard that the liberal media is to blame, I have heard that we weren’t able to get our message out correctly and I have heard that our candidate wasn’t conservative enough. All of these points might have some validity, but at the core, they are (in my humble opinion) not the real issue.

The problem as I see it is that a number of Republicans, from the lowliest of the party, right up to the party leaders in Washington, are not at their core what they claim to be.

(I will now pause as I wait for the loud cacophony of protests to die down.)

Is everyone done defending their conservative honor so that I might continue? OK, good.

For those who think I’m crazy, may I present the following examples.

1. Republicans hate Obamacare because we, by definition, are against government intrusion into healthcare and believe in a free market system that would cure all of the ails in our country’s medical dispensing system. We are violently opposed to a government run single-payer system because we believe that it would destroy our nation’s healthcare as we know it.

One word blows this argument out of the water. And that word is: Medicare.

Let me define Medicare for you. Medicare is a government run, single-payer system that provides healthcare coverage to a vast majority of our senior citizens over 65. So by the definition above, Republicans should be doing everything in their power to get rid of Medicare.

But we’re not. In fact, when the push to stop Obamacare was being made, the most common Republicans tactic was to point out that Obamacare would cut Medicare by $700 million.

So if the above statement were true, wouldn’t we be all for anything that would cut Medicare? Or at least wouldn’t we avoid using Medicare cuts as a scare tactic to defeat the bill? The answer seems clear to me, but then maybe I’m crazy. Let’s try another one, but we’ll stick with the Obamacare debate.

2. Republicans also opposed Obamacare because, as Sarah Palin pointed out, the bill paved the way for “death panels” and that flies in the face of our core belief that life is sacred and we should do all we can to protect life.

Then why would we be against a government run system that would pay for every treatment available as opposed to putting those decisions in the hands of private insurance companies whose purpose for existing is to make profit and not necessarily save people. The answer is simple, it would cost too much and would lead to much higher taxes. Which is the whole problem with healthcare to begin with. It’s too expensive. And the reason it’s too expensive is because we spend millions upon millions of dollars trying to save people in the last six months of their lives without thought to cost or quality of life for the people we are saving. That is the conversation conservatives should be starting because free-spending liberals never will. If you want healthcare costs (and by extension, your taxes) to go down, grown-up decisions have to be made regarding what is good money and what is bad money to spend with regard to healthcare. Or in other words, death panels.

Let’s try one more.

3. Republicans pushed for basic standards in education because we as a nation were scoring so low in comparison to other countries when it came to math and science.

Which led to No Child Left Behind, which in turn led to Common Core, which in a further turn led to a barrage of standardized testing which is choking the life out of education. Now to be fair, I believe I, and Republicans in general, have come around to the correct side of this issue. Unfortunately, I believe that is because the name Obama is attached so closely to the words Common Core. The bottom line is that freedom by its very nature includes the freedom to fail, which sadly, a lot of free people are going to choose every time. But if we as a nation truly believe in freedom as a right as opposed to a slogan, then we are obliged to let them instead of trying to test each and every student into oblivion.

Which brings me to my ultimate point. Republicans are setting themselves up for another disaster in 2016 if they don’t figure out how to be what they say they are.

For decades, Republicans (and more recently the tea party) have claimed to be the sole bastion of support for the Constitution. If you listen to a political speech during a campaign or pay attention to any number of conservative media outlets, it won’t take long before you hear the cry go out that liberals are destroying the Constitution and we as conservatives are the only chance this sacred document has for survival.

However, if that’s the case, how do we as Republicans justify our representatives this last week during the debate over extending the Patriot Act?

Now before I get into this, let me digress. For two presidential elections cycles, Ron Paul has been viewed by most as the side-show circus act meant to entertain us while we try desperately to slog our way through a primary contest that borders on torture (which we also apparently support by the way). Very few have taken him seriously as a real candidate except his small group of avid supporters who would probably storm the Federal Reserve and burn it down if he directed them to do so.

But here’s the problem. His ravings were only bat-crap crazy about twenty percent of the time. The rest of what he had to say often made sense, regardless of whether you agreed with him or not. Unfortunately for Mr. Paul, he always seemed to undo himself by going off in his shrill, high-pitched voice on some lunatic ranting that would undercut his previously presented twenty minutes of solid logical thinking. In short, despite making many excellent points over the course of a thousand and one debates, he made himself easy to dismiss.

Such is not the case with his son, Rand.

Rand Paul holds many of the same beliefs as his father. But the son is a much more skillful politician. He leaves the 20% of tin-foil hat stuff at home while articulating the other 80% incredibly well. And in so doing, has developed quite the talent for highlighting hypocrisy in the Republican leadership, and by extension, the Republican Party at large.

The latest example of this phenomenon came last week when Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and others took to the Senate floor demanding that the National Security Agency be allowed to continue the practice of collecting every Americans’ cell phone data in the fight to keep America safe from the threats of terrorism. Never mind that a major Republican pillar is that we despise the encroachment of a large federal government. You would also have to dismiss the awkward reality that this program flies directly in the face of the Constitution (which again, we claim to be the sole protectors of). According to the Republican leadership in the Senate, taking away this tool from the NSA would cripple our attempts to keep this country safe.

Well, just to be clear, I for one am all for safety. I love my family and want nothing more than to keep them safe. So sign me up for an opportunity to give away my freedoms if it means protecting my children from terrorists. And by the way, just how many terrorist acts have been prevented by the government snatching and storing my personal cell phone data?


Are you kidding me? The NSA can’t point to one single time that this practice has thwarted a terrorist attack?

Sadly, the data suggests that the answer is no, they can’t.

So then, why do they need to encroach on my constitutional rights? And furthermore, why are my “conservative” representatives leading the fight to keep this encroachment in place?

Well, these are the exact questions Rand Paul and his libertarian flavor of Republicanism kept asking throughout the debate.

So, that leads me to believe that those of us who consider ourselves Republican had better start asking ourselves one very important question. Does the party I belong to really oppose big government or not?

In my opinion, not only is that the question I should be asking, but it is the single most important question Republican presidential hopefuls need to be asking as well. Because right now, Rand Paul seems to be the only one who knows the right answer.

As for everybody else?

Well, let’s just say that lip service to core beliefs has been a recipe for disaster time and time again. In fact, the exact number would be five times since 1992.

(To those looking for day 2 of our California trip, I apologize. I will continue with that commentary in the coming days.)

The Long and Unwinding Road

Years ago, I used to blog a running journal of our family’s vacations as a way to remember all of the crazy little things that happened that are easily forgotten over time. After a week in California, with my wife and five children, I have decided to revive that tradition, at least for this one time, and blog about our adventures in a five part blog post. So without further ado, I present day one of our family vacation to Magic Mountain and Newport Beach.

(As a precursor, we had planned on making the first trek of our journey from Thatcher to Phoenix on Sunday evening. But as things worked out, I was released from the bishopric at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon and was needed for different items with regard to the changeover. Consequently, I informed my family that I wanted to leave the next morning by 5:00 a.m. As the night went on, however, I knew that getting up at 4:15 to get out the door by 5:00 would be a bit much, so I set the alarm for 5:00 with the hopes that we could leave by 6:00.)

4:50 a.m. – The slamming of a bathroom cabinet door jolts me from my sleep. I had wrongfully assumed that everyone would wait for me to awaken them to leave. Such was not the case with my 16-year old daughter (who we shall from here on out refer to as Thing 1). Angrily, she proceeds to get ready to go, demanding to know why I had not gotten up when I said I would, thus depriving her of precious sleep. All at once I had a flashback to a time when I did something similar to my wife during our courtship days. For just one moment, I was afraid. Very afraid!

5:30 a.m. – Beyond my wildest dreams, we manage to pull out of our drive a full half-hour before I had imagined we would. The 1-year-old (Thing 5) is set up and ready to go with Mickey in the portable DVD player and I am beyond grateful that I had time to pull a runner to Wal-Mart to get that ever important caffeine-fueled Diet Dr. Pepper. As we pull onto the highway, I mentally calculate in my head, “1 minute down, 9 hours and 59 minutes to go.)

9:40 a.m. – Can’t express my gratitude enough for Brandon Mull and Walt Disney as the last three hours have passed without incident. Thing 5 is still engrossed in the same Mickey, Donald and Goofy feature despite it being on its third showing and the rest of the car is now fully invest in book 2 of Mr. Mull’s Five Kingdoms series. Life is good. We have made our way all the way across the Phoenix valley and it is now time for breakfast. After leaving the small hamlet of Thatcher to come to the big city, we are overwhelmed at the wide plethora of option culinary options available to us. So overwhelmed that we end of up choosing…McDonald’s…located inside of a Wal-Mart. What the %#&@ is the matter with us.

10:05 a.m. – Back in the car and making good time. At least I think we are making good time. Once we get outside of Phoenix, it is hard to tell how we are doing time wise as the horizon in every direction looks like the surface of the moon as far as the eye can see. Gotta love Arizona!

10:48 a.m. – What is it with people who are unable to maintain a speed that is even remotely close to consistent. A white Toyota pick up for the third time pulls ahead of us in the fast lane and then slows down to the speed of the car that we are quickly overtaking in the slow lane. I’m suddenly feeling we might be too harsh on perpetrators of road rage.

11:35 a.m. – CALIFORNIA!!! YEAH!!!! The Rapier family celebrates by…staring on in horror as Thing 5 pukes repeatedly all over herself and the car seat she is sitting in.

11:48 a.m. – Despite all of my best intentions of never visiting this God-forsaken wasteland again, our family finds the first freeway exit available and arrives in Blight, California. Sorry, that’s Blythe, California. If you’ve been there, I’m willing to bet you can understand how I might get the two mixed up.

11:56 a.m. – After much scrambling, Thing 5 is clean and free from her puke dowsed clothing. There is truly nothing like walking around a scary gas station with your sweet little daughter wearing nothing but a diaper. Ahh, the sweet memories I still look back on with fondness of those leering weirdos following every move the two of us make. Meanwhile, a line of highly agitated looking females has formed outside the women’s restroom where Shannon is still barricaded inside trying desperately to work miracles on the car seat armed with only water and restroom paper towels.

12:05 p.m. – Shannon emerges from the bathroom and, to be quite frank, did an amazing job. The car seat ain’t perfect, but in light of where we started, she did an amazing job. However, the seat is still quite wet so we need to find something to put over it as a covering that Thing 5 can sit on. Shockingly, the Shell station where we are at has no such thing. However, they do sell California t-shirts that in theory should cost $3.35. So Shannon instructs me to get one of those and a water bottle while she re-installs the car seat.

12:07 p.m. – The police are called after I jump over the counter of the gas station and bludgeon the attendant after he tells me that the shirts are 3 for $10 and refuses to sell me just one shirt. Okay, the first part of that only occurred in my mind. But I seriously considered it. As a protest I throw the shirt and the water bottle on the counter and leave.

12:08 p.m. – I explain in great detail to my wife the injustice I just suffered. Her response? “Well did you at least get my water bottle?” Grumbling something unintelligible about her stupid water bottle, I start the van and we set off in search of a grocery store or big box store to buy a towel and a water bottle.

12:17 p.m. – The best we can find is a Dollar Tree. Blythe is quickly climbing the chart of Least Favorite Towns I’ve Ever Had To Spend More Than Five Minutes In. The Dollar Tree has no full size towels so I settle for two dish towels, M&Ms for my wife and a cold Diet Dr. Pepper. At this point, I also realized that we had spent so much time in panic mode, we had now reached a point where I needed to use the bathroom. Full-size towels are not the only things the Dollar Tree doesn’t have.

12:21 p.m. – “Where’s my water bottle?” D— IT!!!!!!! I explain that I need to use the bathroom so we will have to make one more stop anyway and I vow to get it there. And in other news, it’s official, Blythe, CA overtakes Lordsburg, NM as my least favorite town ever.

12:25 p.m. – We pull into a Circle K and I leave the van running as I head inside. I can’t describe the relief I feel as I take care of business.

12:30 p.m. – Shannon leaves me with the kids inside the running van as she heads back into the Circle K to get the water bottle I had forgotten for the third time. Any good will I may have built up with my wife during the course of the morning has all been squandered at the expense of some stupid overpriced bottle of Dasani. I’m an idiot!

1:00 p.m. – The Rapier’s successfully fuse cultures as we pull through the drive-through of Taco Bell in Indio, California to purchase burritos and nachos for Things 2 through 5 and then take said bag of burritos and nachos with us into Panda Express where the parents and Thing 1 get something much more closely resembling real food.

1:35 p.m. – We are back on the road and making excellent time. We should easily beat my travel time estimation of 10 hours.

2:00 p.m. – AAAANNNNDDDDD I just cursed myself. For some inexplicable reason, a traffic jam forms near the turn off to Palm Springs. I should point out that the turn off to Palm Springs is not Palm Springs. It is just an intersection in the middle of nowhere. What on earth could possibly cause a traffic jam that would cause us to go at an average speed of…12 MPH?!?!?!?

3:45 p.m. – After almost two hours and about 20 miles, I still have no answer to my question. We haven’t seen an accident, we haven’t seen a wide load blocking multiple lanes of traffic, we haven’t experienced lane closures. We have just experienced mind-numbing slow speeds as we crawl along the interstate. How could all the drivers in California not care that we have a 1-year-old toddler who has limited time in a car before she blows a gasket? GET OUT OF THE FREAKING WAY AND LET US GO!!!!!!

3:46 p.m. – It appears no one heard my desperate plea and we continue on at…12 MPH.

4:20 p.m. – After we pass the exit we would normally take to Disneyland, traffic finally begins to lighten up. Happiest Place on Earth??? Based on what I just saw, I would bet money it won’t be this week.

5:00 p.m. – Traffic Jam #2. Not near as bad and not near as long, but we have a whining toddler in back and we know it can’t be long until that time bomb explodes.

5:38 p.m. – Time bomb goes off. Thing 5 has had enough and begins to wail uncontrollably. Fortunately, according to the navigation on my iPad, we are only 15 minutes away. 15 minutes of crying baby out of 13 hours is definitely more than we could have or should have hoped for.

5:57 p.m. – We arrive at the Grand Vista Hotel in Simi Valley and frankly, this is a mixed bag. We are done driving for the day which is awesome. But on the flip side, the Grand Vista has seen better days. We check in and get on the elevator to go to our rooms. This provided our first exposure to several indistinguishable and yet entirely unpleasant smells we would encounter during our brief stay over at the Grand Vista Hotel.

8:39 p.m. – After most of the family goes swimming and we eat Chipotle for dinner down by the pool, we retire to our adjoining rooms and begin the process of getting everyone to bed. As I am laying on my bed waiting for one of my brood to finish in the bathroom, my 6-year old daughter (Thing 4) wanders in and says, “Your guys room smells better than ours. It smells kind of fruity.” At this point, she inhales deeply and then gets a look of consternation on her face. “Actually, now it smells more like a fart.”

10:00 p.m. – Two important events have occurred, allowing us to turn out the lights and go to bed. We have had family prayer and American Gladiator has come to an end. We say goodnight, shut the adjoining door between rooms and call it a night. Up next, Magic Mountain in the morning.

Why No One Should Want To Be President

There is a game that is highly popular with my family that I absolute refuse to play. Some of you may have heard of it. It’s called Apples to Apples.

Now the reason I refuse to play is very simple. It’s because the game is stupid and it’s rigged. If the group of individuals playing includes multiple women, a man is guaranteed to lose 98% of the time. Now I suppose the outcome might be different if I played with a group of all men, but in that situation, I think the more likely outcome would be that each of us would look at each other and in unison we’d ask ourselves why we are playing such a stupid game when we could be a) golfing, b) watching sports, or c) any of the 1.9 million other things we could be doing that would be more fun than playing Apples to Apples.

So why would I mention this? Because I think we as the American people have created an Apples to Apples type situation for those who would seek the presidency of our country. A situation where no matter the issue, it’s impossible to win.

Case in point: Last week, President Obama suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of his own party with regards to trade policy. In short, what he wanted was the ability to negotiate trade agreements with other nations in good faith. He wanted to be able to assure foreign leaders that what they mutually agreed upon would be guaranteed a straight up or down vote from the U.S. Congress without a bunch of add-ons or changes that would leave the originally negotiated deal looking more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a trade deal. Shockingly, labor unions in our country are very much opposed to this. They, and their Democratic supporters in Congress, believe they should have final say over any trade deal negotiated with any other country. Which in my opinion, is a very bad idea. Any group that is singularly capable of destroying a city like Detroit the way labor unions have should not be granted one whisper of input when it comes to trade policy. Period!

So in this instance, I am very much in line with President Obama. And so should be every other Republican. Especially those individuals who love to eviscerate the President on Facebook or Twitter or Fox News. Each of us bearing a voter registration card with an (R) on it should be lining up to support President Obama on this issue. It is that important.

But we aren’t.

Because in today’s political climate, we are not allowed to give anyone we consider an opponent any credit or support whatsoever. It is simply not allowed. And anyone who might choose to break this sacred practice had best be ready to suffer some form of castration, crucifixion or forced viewing of Two Broke Girls.

And don’t thing Republicans are the only ones guilty of this. Democrats gave George W. no credit for being the first president to provide funding for AIDS relief in third world nations. He also got no credit for Medicare part D nor letting Democrats have such extensive input on his Education initiative. Instead, for his efforts he became the most reviled president by the left we have ever had.

Now don’t get me wrong. I disagree with President Obama on many things and I would certainly never vote for him, but c’mon. When somebody works hard for something you agree with, they should get your props and your support. But unfortunately, in the world of U.S. politics in the 21st century, that’s not possible. Instead, we would rather conduct our political discourse in such a fashion that it is devoid of rationality and common sense. In other words, we would rather play Apples to Apples.

Avenge Me Now, Or Avenge Me Later

The movie, Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron, has only been available for viewing here in the United States for 11 days. And yet, assuming from the vast amounts of money that have already been spent on tickets for this motion picture, I think it is safe to assume that as one who has not yet seen this picture, I am rapidly becoming part of the minority in this country. To be quite frank, the box- office numbers for this flick are insane. (Apparently not quite as insane as they were for the first Avengers, which in some people’s eyes makes the billion + dollars this movie has already made worldwide somehow disappointing, but that is a topic for a different blog post.)

So with each day that passes, the likelihood of the question, “Have you seen the Avengers yet?” turning to “You haven’t seen the Avengers?” grows exponentially. In about a week, I expect the level of incredulity accompanying the second question to hit defcon level. But in short, whether it be this week or next week or even next month, my answer will be a short and unequivocal, “No!”

Now, I can already see some of you beginning to nod your heads in sympathetic understanding as you ask, “Is it because of the sexual innuendo, graphic violence and use of profane language?” To which my answer would be, “No, I’m perfectly fine with all of those things in a movie geared towards teen and preteen children.” (I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Relax.)

But no, that is not the reason I will not be seeing The Avengers this summer. However, my reasoning is just as idealistic if not as morally guided. You see, my goal this summer is to not see one movie in the theater that is a sequel or a reboot or a rebooted sequel or a sequel with everyone wearing cowboy boots of any kind. Bottom line, I don’t want to spend money on a film that provides some variation on characters I have seen before.

“So,” I can hear some asking. “Is this a movement you are trying to start? Are you boycotting Marvel and hoping that thousands will join you in your cause?”

Oh My Heavens NO!!!!!

I own Disney stock. If anything, I want each of you who has seen Avengers to go see it at least three times more. I mean seriously, bump that closing stock price right through the roof.

No, my little financial rebellion is mine and mine alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good retelling of a story or a new concept on an old idea. But frankly, I’d like to, in my own little way, suggest that enough is enough. I don’t need to see a reboot of Full House. It was stupid the first time around. I’d be willing to bet my next two paychecks it won’t be any better this time. I also don’t need to see CSI or NCIS: Barnyard Squad. Come on, come up with a new concept. At this rate, some genius will come up with the idea of creating a show centered around a Latino Archie Bunker or, heaven forbid, remake Ghostbusters with women.

Wait, What!?!? Are you seriously telling me that both of those concepts are currently in the pipeline? Really!!! Then consider my point doubly made. Oy!!!

So, anyway, there it is. My declaration of summer. NO SEQUELS OR REBOOTS!!! And may the force live long and prosper.

(Now, to be clear, I do intend to rent The Avengers when it becomes available on Blu-Ray. Also, this sequel thing is only good until September 22nd. I mean, c’mon, the new James Bond movie is due out this November and it’s titled, Spectre. FREAKING SPECTRE!!! I may be strong, but I’m not made of steel. Plus, I’m not going to lie. I, along with the rest of the world, am dying to see if J.J. Abrams has make the first decent Star Wars movie since the ’80s.

When One Door Closes

Although I have been given no concrete verification, I just have a feeling that my time as a member of my ward’s bishopric is coming to an end. All of which is fine and good and as it should be. I mean, seriously, we hit our six year mark in April. It’s time.

(Again, I haven’t been told anything so don’t take this as anything more than the ramblings of a hopeful man. It could still be months away for all that I know (in which case I would look incredibly foolish) it is just that these thoughts have been very much on my mind so I am putting them to paper, or rather to screen, now.)

So, if all holds to form, some time soon, we will arrive at sacrament meeting and the stake presidency will be there. The new bishopric will be announced and then both the new and the old bishoprics will be invited to share their testimonies. So my question is, how do you possibly wrap up six years worth of service into one testimony?

The answer is, you don’t.

In fact, my comments should be short and concise so that I will leave plenty of time for the outgoing bishop to express his thoughts. So instead of being “that guy” who takes 20 minutes in sacrament meeting to self-indulge and in the end says not much more than if he had shut it down after five minutes, I will be “that guy” who self-indulges here and share some reflections of my last six years.

It is hard to believe that I was 35 years old when I received the call. I had lived in Thatcher for four years and had been in the teacher’s quorum for the entire time. I didn’t know that anyone outside of the current bishopric and Rhett Dodge knew my name. It is hard to believe that I lost my mom two weeks later. Much like this calling, it doesn’t feel that long ago and yet, at the same time, it feels so much longer.

Now, I am 41 (staring down 42 in just over a month) and I feel much older.

During these six years, I wrote a book. Our family welcomed another baby. And I somehow got roped into making an idiot out of myself not once, but three times, all for the sake of making a trek exciting for the youth of our stake. (Whose brilliant idea was Baby Got Hat anyway?) In short, a lot has happened.

I am so thankful for so many of the experiences this calling has blessed me with. One of the first that comes to mind is the role I was able to play in the open house of the Gila Valley Temple. I was asked, along with Kimble Hansen, to be the local point of contact for the media and be a part of the Public Relations committee. I’m not sure why being on a bishopric mattered for this assignment, but apparently it did. Nonetheless, it remains one of my greatest memories to be there for several shifts overseeing the tour guides. Also, the experience of being there with the press (all two or three of them) right near the cornerstone when President Monson came out to put the final mortar in place was beyond words.

I have been thrilled at the opportunities I have had to spend time with the young people of our ward. I will never forget the evenings spent in the garage of the Dodge cabin up in Nutrioso where Phil Oliver and Hal Skinner would be cooking while the rest of the adults would sit around talking. (In actuality, it usually ended up being the rest of us listening to Calvert Allred share Border Patrol stories…which were AWESOME!!!) During the course of those discussions, the boys would often drift in and hang around in the background. After two or three nights of this, the hour was getting later when some of the boys began to ask when we were headed to the garage for “man talk.” Man I hope we didn’t say anything too destructive to the mind of an impressionable teen.

Of course not everything over the course of six years is going to be positive. I’m going to admit something that I probably shouldn’t, but here goes. I have never made many remarks regarding the Ordain Women movement. Mainly because, although I don’t necessarily agree with their views and methods, I must admit that I am one of those that struggles with certain questions. One of those was made more apparent to me because of my service.

There is no doubt to me that our church is a product of the time in which it was founded. Even with all of the advances made in the last ten years, we are still a highly patriarchal faith. Which brings me to the disciplinary aspects of the church. At a bishopric level, almost everyone we met with in this setting was female. (Melchizedek priesthood holders are handled at a stake level.) In each instance I remember thinking, I will do my best and seek the Lord’s help, but I am not a woman. How am I supposed to relate to her on her level? The whole experience felt very cold and 19th century to me because it was not appropriate for us as men to offer a hug or any kind of physical contact and yet it felt sometimes that a hug was exactly what was needed to convey what the Savior would have done for this person. In short, it felt like we needed the presence of a woman. I hope I don’t come across as a contrarian, it was just one of the things from my experience I will not look back on with fondness.

Another is overseeing six different Friends of Scouting drives. Now, I wrote a book detailing in two different chapters my deep and abiding love for scouting so I will say no more, except this: Real friends don’t make you bum money off of little old ladies.

But the negatives are few and are so overwhelmed by the positives. The people who would bring food for us during tithing settlement; the individuals who accepted callings I know they would have preferred not to have; the answers to calls for service that were met without question by numbers that would bring tears to the eye; and finally, the opportunity to work alongside two of the most God-fearing, humble and extraordinary men I have ever known.

I will miss it. But not enough to ever want to do it again. Because I have missed sitting in church next to my amazing wife and wonderful kids more. It has been an amazing six years. And when the time comes, I will be the first to offer my support to whomever it is that takes our place.