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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.

The Night of Broken Silicon

Up front, I don’t really feel like I have the time or desire to write another word about this subject. In many ways, I feel like I’ve said all I have to say. But because of opinions and beliefs that I have shared on this site, I feel it important to express my feelings about a recent development in this on-going political debate. To be clear, I am not renouncing one opinion  I have shared. If it appears to some that I am, I apologize. Please go back and read those things you think I’m betraying because I don’t believe you’ll find a contradiction. However, if you believe otherwise, I apologize. I have always been about open dialogue and finding common ground through love and acceptance. That’s it. Which is why what happened on April 3rd is so aggravating personally and destructive nationally.

Can we all agree on one thing up front? Regardless of your feelings on gay marriage, or any other form of marriage contrary to the long established “one man, one woman” mantra, the hard facts are that from a purely scientific point-of-view, an argument could be made for the status quo that has existed for centuries. I suppose if taken to its most biological and primate form, you could also make an argument for polygamy (which I am loathe to do and will not be doing) but in the end, the reality is, from a purely biological standpoint, you need a man and you need a woman to create life. Factor in religion, (whether you believe in God or a god or some sort of supreme power greater than humanity or just hold to the belief that religion’s existence is simply an opiate for the masses) and the basic reasoning for the creation of marriage centuries ago would seem to be a desire on the part of society to create an institution that would provide the best possible outcome for humans during their infancy and formative years. And whether or not you agree with that opinion in today’s world, it would be disingenuous to suggest that it is an opinion completely devoid of merit.

Now, to be fair, in the United States of 2014, we are well aware that the plight of the traditional family is far from healthy. And it would also be disingenuous to suggest that gay people or the idea of gay marriage is the reason why. My own personal viewpoint is that children born in circumstances that amount to first world poverty should be of far greater concern to the faithful than what two consenting adults of the same gender want to do with their lives. Furthermore, I would stand up and support the rights of two individuals of the same gender who are committed to each other in a long-term relationship to adopt a child because I believe the life provided to that child by two loving parents in a stable home is so much more preferable to what millions of children are growing up in within the borders of our nation.

But that’s just it. The ideas that I support in the paragraph above are simply my opinions. And I should be free to hold them and support them to whatever extent I deem acceptable within the context of my personal life. Which is where this ongoing political struggle regarding gay marriage took an ugly turn last week.

Brendan Eich is one of the co-founding members of Mozilla, the parent company behind the web browser Firefox. In 2008, Mr. Eich donated $1,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign fighting against gay marriage in the state of California. His donation became public when the opposition to Prop 8 requested the lists of people who donated so that they could make them public. I feel it is fair to say (since many who were involved in this process have essentially said as much themselves) that the purpose of making that list public was to shame to those who gave money to Prop 8. At the time, it had little effect on Mr. Eich. However, when he was announced as Mozilla’s new CEO a little over two weeks ago, certain proponents of gay marriage both within the company and without, made it their mission to get him removed. After ten days, they were successful.

What is so disturbing about this is the arguments that have been used to justify this in the aftermath. The New Yorker magazine stated that he was fair game because his political views on gay marriage were well known. They made no mention of how they became well known and in truth, Mr. Eich was never an outspoken advocate against gay marriage. He simply gave a donation. The only reason his views were well known is because of the “outing” (pardon the pun) of Prop 8 contributors by political foes for the specific purpose to cause damage.

Furthermore, The Los Angeles Times goes on to argue that because Mr. Eich is on the wrong side of history, his personal views, regardless of whether they affect the company or not, disqualify him from holding the office of CEO, especially in Silicon Valley where liberal views and support of gay marriage are the prevailing sentiment.

To this I say…WHAT????

There are several things I want to address, but first and foremost, let’s talk about this wrong side of history argument. The Los Angeles Times compares being against gay marriage in 2014 to being against interracial marriage or racial equality in…2014. It admits it may not be as retrograde, but still suggests that they are the same. The problem with this argument goes back to what I stated earlier. Regardless of whether anyone likes it or not, there is a biological argument that simply does not exist with regards to racial equality. I am not saying I adhere to this argument as being substantial enough to completely deny the benefits of marriage to gay people, but it is an argument that has not been fully laid to rest. Mainly, those who support gay marriage point to the fact that those who have been given the opportunity to enjoy marriage in a heterosexual relationship have not handled their stewardship well and therefore don’t deserve the right to define marriage in today’s society. Divorce rates well above 50% indicate they are right. But that doesn’t fully address the basic biological argument. Especially when it is combined with a religious component. Therefore the argument in 2014 is hardly laid to rest. Bottom line, to say that the “wrong side of history” had been fully developed and therefore justifiable grounds for discrimination is a tad sinister. Could it be that in years to come Mr. Eich is discovered to have been on the wrong side of history? It is certainly possible. But also on the wrong side of history is disqualifying individuals for privately held convictions. Just ask Joseph McCarthy.

Secondly, the argument that he was not fit to serve because the political make-up of Silicon Valley is predominately pro gay marriage is also ludicrous. If those who supported Prop 8 had also publicized the names of everyone giving money to their opposition, would those justifying Mr. Eich’s ouster be so quick to support the ouster of…let’s say the CEO of Cabelas sporting goods. I have no knowledge of Mr. Millner’s view on gay marriage, but if he had given money to fight Prop 8 in California and had then been forced to resign because the hunting and fishing community is predominately anti-gay marriage, the resulting explosion from those justifying Mr. Eich’s ouster would have been heard ’round the world. And rightly so.

Finally, I turned to Slate.com. And here, I found a compelling piece of editorial journalism. Mr. Bouie’s argument is that if Mr. Eich’s removal was unfair, it was only a high profile example of what many who are gay, and live in states that do not have laws protecting gay individuals from being fired for their sexual orientation, face. To this argument I say, okay, I agree with this one. Neither is right and both should not happen. I find no issue with joining Mr. Bouie’s call for every state to work toward non-discrimination laws that extend to sexual orientation. Because as he states so eloquently, “For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.” Now there’s a rational thought in the middle of hysteria.

Bottom line, I believe the world is changing. I believe the realization on the part of religious people the world over that same-sex attraction is not easily explained away is becoming more widespread and is fostering an environment that could be beneficial to all. Should it have happened years, decades, and possibly even centuries earlier? Yes. It should have. But it’s happening now. And while advancements may not come as quickly as some would like, taking actions like those that were taken against Mr. Eich will not help anyone. They will only further divide and foster more anger. Which is ironic since this whole argument exists over the rights of each individual to love whom they will.

Blessed (Not By Elton John)

WARNING: The following post may contain sappiness and does not contain the USDA’s daily recommended dose of cynicism.

Often following a particularly biting post or one where the more negative aspects of my personality shine through, my wife will remind me that she intends to have all of my blog posts printed and saved in a book format.  She did this with my old blog and it serves as a bit of personal history. Her purpose is to keep me on track from saying something that I will likely regret our posterity reading at a future date. It doesn’t always work. In fact it rarely works, but I feel that for posterity’s sake, I should take today’s portion of the top 100 items that leave me in shock or speechless (see previous post for explanation) and devote it to things that I am shocked and speechless to be blessed with.

Now to be clear, as I was contemplating this post earlier in the evening, I had a need to turn on a light and was struck with how blessed I am to live in a time of electricity. Which made me think, Do I have to include that kind of stuff in this post? I quickly determined that no, I do not. For one, I have never lived in a time where indoor plumbing, electricity and telephones have not existed. I did, when I was very young, have to get off the couch to manually change the channel on my parent’s small black and white television, but I hardly think that counts as a major hardship. So with that in mind, I don’t believe I am truly shocked at those kind of blessings. I don’t think it’s possible for someone like me. I have never known a life without them. It goes along the lines of the “How can I know good without knowing evil” kind of debate.

So, the items I will include are only those kind of things that when I sit and ponder, I am stunned at how blessed I truly am.

Ready? Then let’s pick up where we left off with number 90.

90. To Quote Dr. Suess, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”

Two things, I realize this could actually fit in the same category as those listed above because travel has always been available in my lifetime. Also, I don’t want this next paragraph to come across as bragging. It isn’t meant that way, so please don’t take it that way.

But when I sit back and think of where I have been allowed to go in my lifetime, I marvel. Now compared to others, it isn’t much, but in comparison to millions of people currently on this planet and in comparison to billions who have lived upon it over the course of time, I have seen some amazing things. I served a mission in England. I got to see the rolling hills of Wales and stand where Kings have been crowned. I have seen The Statue of Liberty from across the bay and eaten lobster in Maine. I’ve met Mickey Mouse on two different coasts. And I’ve sat amidst the waves of a storied Hawaiian beach in the early morning hours with not another single living soul in sight. I’ve been blessed to do some truly amazing things in some truly amazing parts of the world, to the point that if I were never allowed to travel again, I would still have to admit that I’ve been blessed.

89. In Case I’ve Never Mentioned It, I Wrote A Book

At this point, over 1,500 people have either read my book or have at least purchased a copy. That means 1,500 people have read the words I put together or at least paid for the privilege to do so. That is mystifying to me and extremely humbling. In comparison to John Grisham or Stephen King, I have a long way to go. But even though I know I probably won’t, how awesome!

88. Never Underestimate The Value of a Good Friend

I am always amazed at the caliber of friends I have. And not just friends who come and go in a year or two, but folks I have been blessed to call friends for decades. Yes, decades in the plural form. And to be clear, as far as decades go, I’ve only been around for four. Why such good people put up with me as the years go by I will never know. But I am grateful for them more than I can express.

87. The Power of the Fork

I am allowed to call myself a proud alumnus (I would probably have used the word alumni improperly here had I attended BYU) of the great Arizona State University.

86. The Old Pueblo Has Never Been My Pueblo

There may have been a day that I would have welcomed the opportunity to be a proud Wildcat from the University of Arizona. But that opportunity would have required me to live in Tucson. And I am beyond blessed in never having had to do that. Speaking of which…

85. Not Everywhere is Ideal for Hanging Your Hat

Along with Tucson, as of yet, I have never had to live in Lordsburg, Deming or any other locale that gets a large portion of their revenue from traffic pulling off of the I-10. I’m sure many of these communities are fantastic, but…no para mi.

84. My Mother Always Prayed For Good Influences

I have been influenced by some amazing people in my life. From a music teacher who showed me how to believe in dreams to a mission president who taught me to believe in miracles. Parents who taught me to expect more, but only if I earned it. Extended family who provided everything from a challenge to my rigid mindset to a soft place to land when the difficulties of life reared their ugly head. A brother who has helped me see the value in welcoming differences rather than requiring similarities. And a wife who sees the real me on a daily basis…and stays in spite of it.

83. Who Are These Little People That Look Like Me?

Yes, I know every parent says this, but suck it up and take it because I’m going to say it anyway. My kids amaze me. It’s funny what you dream about when you are expecting your first child. It’s also funny how often those dreams don’t come true…and that it’s more than okay. After so many years, I still can’t answer the question of which is harder, having a child that is nothing like me, or having a child that is exactly like me. Both provide more learning opportunities than I ever could have imagined. But mostly, I am blown away that I get to be a small part of the lives of these amazing human beings in the making. They deserve better. But I’m glad they didn’t get what they deserve.

82. Workin’ 9 to 5

In my entire adult life, I have never had a job that wasn’t Monday to Friday, with eight hours somewhere between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Yes there are days when I might have given this away to make more money. But in today’s world, coming home every night and spending time with my family is one of the greatest blessings I could ask for.

81. I Have Never Failed to Live Up To My Potential As a Constant Disappointment

I doubt I will ever be able to understand why a loving Heavenly Father continues to bless me as he does when I work so hard not to deserve it. Nor will I ever be able to put into words how grateful I am that he does.

That’s it for our trip through the 80′s. We’ll return later for a groovy visit to the 70s.

 

 

 

 

A Century Milestone Deserves…Probably Something Better Than This

Last week, something momentous happened. At least something momentous for someone who has written a book. To everyone else, probably not so much.

The momentous event in question is that I received my 100th rating on Goodreads. As I have probably explained before, Goodreads is a combination of Expedia and Facebook for readers. It is a big deal. And to get 100 ratings is pretty awesome. What makes it even more awesome is that the average rating for The Reluctant Blogger continues to hold steady at 4.19. Ratings are on a 1 to 5 star basis and over the course of the 102 ratings it has received thus far, the 4.19 average indicates that a very large majority of readers believe The Reluctant Blogger is either a four- or a five-star book.

So yes, the whole point of this post is for me to wallow in self-congratulation.

Okay, not really, but maybe a little. Anyway, along with the 100+ ratings my book has received, I also recently passed the 100 post milestone for this blog. (This post will be my 108th.) Supposedly when a blogger hits 100 posts, they are supposed to do a list of 100 something or other that I can’t remember nor care enough about to go research. So instead, I have decided to embark on my own multi-part blog post made up of the 100 things that I believe defy logic, are inexplicably ridiculous and/or leave me speechless with shock. (So speechless, in fact, that I will now devote multiple posts of over 1000 words each to just how speechless they leave me.)

So, without further ado, I celebrate my 100th blog post (actually completed two months or so ago) and my 100th rating on Goodreads by presenting my list of the top 100 things that make me say, WHAT?!?!?!??!

100. The Belief That Greeting Every Customer As They Walk Through The Door Is A Good Idea.

Every time I go to my local Subway, as I walk through the door to take my place in line behind anywhere from 5 to 10 people also seeking a refreshing sandwich, I am greeted by at least one employee (on occasion it has actually been more than one) yelling at me, “Welcome to Subway!” Now this isn’t a greeting that makes me feel special. It’s a greeting yelled by a worker who doesn’t even bother looking up to see if I’m there to rob them at gunpoint or not. It is spoken in a way that says, I hate doing this, but I will completely get fired if I don’t. What makes this horribly unsuccessful attempt at good customer service so egregious is the position it puts me, the customer, in. Do I yell back? No, that would just be really weird. Do I ignore the bellowed greeting? That kinda seems rude. So what do I, and most people placed in this awkward position do? I mumble some kind of thank you that I hope no one actually hears, especially my fellow customers, who in that moment I am certain handled this social disaster much better than I. To make this whole thing worse, I walked into Walgreens this morning and they apparently have adopted this practice as well. I was halfway down an aisle, twenty feet away from the nearest cashier, who then proceeded to scream across the store, “WELCOME TO WALGREENS!” I wanted to turn and glare at them and possibly extend my middle finger. I didn’t because I don’t actually believe extending the middle finger is ever a good idea when not done on the golf course within the confines of a very select group of friends. But needless to say, I was not impressed. So I suggest this. Ditch this idea, Walgreens, before you traumatize some poor soul walking through your door who is there to fill their prescription for anxiety medication. It will just be better for everyone if you do.

99. That Someone Thought This Title Was A Great Idea For A Comic Book Style Information Guide For Children (My Son Is 9 And He Received It) Who Are About To Get Their Tonsils and Adenoids Removed.

Tonsil Comic Book Photo

 

98. That Someone With the Talent Level and Intelligence of Jason Aldean is More Financially Successful Than I Am.

97. That Someone With the Talent Level and Intelligence of Kathy Griffin is More Financially Successful Than I Am.

I realize this could go on all day so we will stop here.

96. That Disney Thinks People Will Pay Gobs More Money To Have Their Family Locked Into A Schedule While Visiting The Happiest Place On Earth.

For those who are not aware, Disney World has just rolled out their latest technological marvel to less than stellar reviews. The marvel of which I speak is a bracelet that can be purchased (for big bucks) that allows a family to pay for everything they want with a wave of the wrist and is preset (based on the schedule created by the family prior to their arrival) with a slew of Fastpasses all set to go so that the family will not ever have to wait in a stand-by line for a ride or not get priority seating for a show. The only drawback? You must stick rigidly to a schedule.

In my mind, the whole point of a vacation is to not be held to a schedule. Apparently, I am not alone in my belief. Many park visitors are politely declining Disney’s latest advancement. Maybe somewhere down the road, this idea of perfectly scripted vacations will catch on, but hopefully not in my lifetime. I want no part of it.

95. That My Two Favorite TV Shows of All Time Are Weirdly Looking More and More Plausible.

Okay, Person of Interest seemed completely unbelievable when it came out. The idea that a machine would be built by the government that could be spy on every citizen using the technology that surrounds us was ludicrous…until it wasn’t. But an airliner just flying into nothingness and disappearing? Don’t tell me there was one person who had watched Lost that wasn’t going, WHOAAA!!!!!

94. That Obamacare Could Mean The End of Hobby Lobby.

93. That Not More Has Been Made By Mormons On Both Sides of the Issue Regarding President Uchtdorf Basically Endorsing President Obama’s Immigration Policy.

92. That Syracuse Did Not Take My Bracket Into Account Before Laying An Egg and Destroying My Chances At Winning Any Office Pool Or Family Bracket Challenge.

This also goes for Duke and Creighton. On the flip side, I would like to thank Villanova and Wichita State for being exactly the caliber of team I thought they would be.

91. That I Don’t Own A Sombrero Like This One.

Sombrero

I know this picture has made an appearance before, but I LOVE that hat. It has the ASU pitchfork perfectly included in the stitching pattern. Someday…

…Someday

So that’s all for today. Look for a much larger chunk of this list in upcoming posts. Or don’t. It might not be worth your time.

UnFrozen At Last

I think up until last night I might have been the only person in America who had not seen Frozen. Don’t get me wrong, I could sing Let it Go word for word without help, but as far as having viewed the actual movie? Not so much.

But last night all of that changed. And I was so moved that I feel the need to share the top 10 things I took away from this latest Disney classic. So, in no particular order:

10: The Controversy

I feel like first and foremost, I should address this up front. A great deal of angst and debate has surrounded this movie and I feel I would be shirking my duty as…what? A blogger read by an incredibly small audience??? Okay, bottom line, I feel like I should just get this out of the way.

I liked Tangled better.

I know, I know, this admission is filled with all kinds of pitfalls and could seriously damage relationships with both friends and family, but it’s true. To me, Tangled is the better movie.

I think I just prefer the more grounded approach it took. The sequences with the trolls and the fact that Frozen had such an incredibly weak villain lost points with me. I think Mother Gothel is possibly one of the most insidious villains Disney has ever created. When you combine that with what I consider two of the most powerful scenes in animated history (the lanterns and the quiet moment with no words spoken between the king and the queen just before they walk out to release the lanterns) and Tangled wins hands down.

Now I’m not saying that I hated Frozen. I actually enjoyed it a great deal. It makes my heart happy that we are getting movies liked Frozen, Tangled, and Wreck it Ralph from Disney animation these days as opposed to Chicken Little, Home on the Range, and…pick any Disney animated movie that wasn’t from Pixar made during the decade of the 00′s.

9. Time for a New Climax

The staple of modern cinema where a protagonist is at the point of death at the hands of the villain, only to be saved by a shot or a beaning over the head by a previously unseen accomplice is probably not going away any time soon. That doesn’t change the fact that it is starting to become annoying. The whole point of this is to make the viewer believe that there is no hope. But it has been played to death to the point that every person watching knows exactly what is going to happen. Admittedly, my favorite show on the planet, Person of Interest, uses this device way too often. But I still love the show.

Anyway, Disney has taken this plot device to a whole new level. It started back with the classics of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, among others, where it appears the villain’s plan has actually worked, but thankfully, a miracle kiss saves the day. This was taken to a whole new level with Beauty and the Beast, where you actually had the main character die before being resurrected by loves true kiss. I mean eternal sleep is one thing, death is quite another. Unfortunately, I think Disney has played this option out way too far. Both Tangled and Frozen used this device. For the next installment in the Disney Princess canon, I believe they should go for an Ocean’s 12 approach where the villain was undone weeks before the climax, just he nor the audience ever knew it. Let’s not visit the well of resurrection again any time soon.

8. Sidekicks Make a Movie

The one thing Frozen definitely had over Tangled was Otto. While a mute chameleon did his best, the little snow man was pretty darn awesome. Best line? “Stay out of sight.” “Okay.” Moments later, heard off in the distance, “Hello there.” Woman shrieking.

I loved that.

7. Return to the Basics

I think computer animation is looking better than ever for one reason. It is getting better and better at mimicking the feel of traditional hand-drawn animation while playing to the strengths of what a computer can do for you. When Finding Nemo came out, one of the most commonly heard compliments was how real everything looked. I think the look of Frozen blows Finding Nemo away because of how beautiful it looks as artwork as opposed to realism. Just my opinion.

6. New Favorite Broadway Star

Now that I know her name, strictly because of Frozen, Idina Menzel is now officially my favorite Broadway star. I loved her voice in Wicked, but I didn’t care enough to go find out the name of the woman who played Elphaba. Now I know her name and would be drawn to something that she is starring in just because of who she is.

5. One Great Song Hides Mediocre Company

Let It Go is an amazing song. One truly worthy of an Oscar. However, I think its greatness hides the mediocrity of the other Frozen songs. I know Do You Want To Build a Snowman? is getting love now, but truly, none of the other songs are that memorable. Look back to the second golden age of Disney animation and think of the number of classics that came from Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King. The full collection of Frozen songs do not measure up.

4. Kristin Bell Has an Amazing Voice

That’s all that really needs to be said.

3. Mob Mentality Intrigues Me

As I mentioned above, Frozen is not my favorite Disney animated movie out of the last three made. If I were to walk in and pick a movie to watch out of the last three, I would, as stated, pick Tangled. Which makes me smile because the biggest Disney hits are all great, but not ones I would watch over and over. Lion King, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3, and Frozen are now the most successful Disney and Pixar movies financially. However, I would not actively seek any of them out to watch repeatedly. I would definitely choose, Aladdin, Emperor’s New Groove, The Incredibles, Cars, and Tangled for that.  There is no point to this other than I find it interesting what is most successful in the short term versus what has staying power over the long term.

2. The “Other” Controversy

I really resent The Well Behaved Mormon Woman and all other Christian yappers who have forced this “Frozen is a movie promoting homosexuality” garbage on us. Due to having had a brand new baby last September, my wife and I have not been to the theater to watch a movie since last summer. For months I was looking forward to sitting down and watching Frozen with my kids and taking it in for the pure enjoyment of it. Sadly, because of all the ridiculous demagoguery, a cloud hung over my personal viewing of the movie last night because I couldn’t escape the thoughts of, “Where are they getting this? Is this what they are referring to?” or any other countless intrusion my brain kept making on the movie as I watched it. I recognize this is my problem (my wife had no such issue) but it still made me mad. So to all those who want to demonize Frozen, thanks a whole heap for cheapening my viewing experience.

1. But If They’re Right

However, just for the sake of argument, let’s say all the Christian/Mormon bloggers and entertainment personalities that have fostered this are right. This was Disney’s way of trying to “normalize” homosexuality. It still leaves me with one question.

What’s the problem?

Because as I watched this movie, all I saw was a girl who chose to love her sister regardless of what anyone else said or thought about her. Even when she thought that the sister in question had intentionally hurt her, she still cared for her deeply enough to sacrifice herself for her.

So let’s say Elsa is gay. (By the way, I think trying to insert this issue into this movie is absurd, but I wasn’t the one who started this.) If this is the case, the message I got was that we love those closest to us even if they are different (including gay). If you want to take it even further, Anna never “condoned” freezing the kingdom, but she loved and accepted the person doing the freezing anyway. Isn’t that what Christ would have done? Isn’t that what being a Mormon/Christian is all about?

At no point did I see a movie that advocated anything accept showing love to those who are different. So if you ask me, maybe Disney did have a hidden agenda with this movie. A Christian agenda. Except this would be the Christian agenda actually set out by Christ himself. Not the hell-fire and damnation agenda concocted by those supposed followers who are looking for a boogeyman behind every animation cell.

A Partial Recant

I was wrong.

It pains me to admit it, but I fell victim to the same type of problem that I have at times been critical of in others and that I absolutely abhor when I am guilty of it myself. It is the hideous monster known as the knee-jerk reaction.

Yesterday, I heard the story of the New Mexico hair stylist who refused service to Governor Martinez. My immediate reaction was that if it was true, I was infuriated. I Googled the story and came across two different news outlets who were reporting this story as if it were indeed a recent and current news item.

So I took that at face value and ran with it.

Sadly, I should have checked a couple more sites because the story I referenced is, in fact, two years old.

I am saddened that some conservative sites are using this old story in such a way as to imply that it happened recently. It is unfair to their readers and a classic example of shoddy journalism. Unfortunately, I don’t believe journalistic integrity is of a great concern to them. However, integrity, journalistic or otherwise is important to me. And so, I apologize.

I considered removing the post altogether, but instead have chosen to leave it up. The sentiments expressed have not changed. I still believe we as a nation of unique and diverse individuals should be striving for communities that thrive on acceptance and kindness. I still believe Mr. Darden’s actions were wrong, although the timing of such actions does change certain aspects of my response.

So please forgive me. If I whipped up any ill will, I cannot apologize enough. And to any of my friends in the LGBT community who may have felt I was deliberately misrepresenting facts, please know that was not my intention.

And if nothing else, it is only 15 days until March Madness begins. In my experience, that always makes everything better.

SB 1062 Fallout: Finding Common Ground Should Be A Two-Way Street

I love Ellen DeGeneres. I think she’s incredibly talented and possibly the most hilarious female stand-up comedian I have ever seen. (No offense to her, but as far as the best stand-up over all, I’d have to rate Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Brian Regan ahead of her. But, I mean, these rankings are the highly subjective opinions of one guy so…) For the first time in years, I tuned in to see a good portion of the Oscars and was highly entertained by her unique hosting style. Again, I think she and Steve Martin would probably qualify as my favorite hosts. And seeing her have the success she has today makes me happy.

Because it all could have been very different.

The first time I ever heard of Ellen DeGeneres was on New Year’s Eve in 1990. HBO was having an all night marathon of stand up comedians doing a half hour show each. I remember laughing so hard my stomach hurt when she came on. Within five years, she had gained enough popularity to have her own television show. And my wife and I watched it fairly religiously (no pun intended here with regard to what follows.)

However, as the show prepared to enter its fourth season, rumors were flying fast and furious that Ellen was a lesbian. She, herself, refused to confirm the rumors for quite some time, but eventually she came out, as did her character on the television show. Within a year, her show was cancelled.

What saddened me was that I never got the idea that Ellen wanted to be the poster child for what would become the LGBT movement. It seemed to me that she accepted that role when it became impossible for her to do otherwise, but doing so was never her first choice. Since that time, she has been outspoken at times, but still seems relatively low key when it comes to her political activism on the subject. I could be wrong, but I get the sense she just wants to be herself and entertain people who are gay, straight or otherwise. Which in a perfect world, is exactly how it should be.

But in the mid-nineties, her gamble at coming out and then portraying a lesbian character on national television could have been career ending. She was brave at a time when bravery truly counted. No offense to those coming out today. I believe it is probably a very difficult decision and something that is very personal, but momentum is at their backs and history is in their favor. It wasn’t that way for Ellen.

So with all that in mind, I was so glad to see Ellen being Ellen at the Oscars. It warmed my heart to know she had come through everything and is now the personification of success. And her sexual orientation doesn’t matter. Yes, I suppose to those who see her as a role-model it probably matters, but to the public at large, it truly doesn’t. Again, in a perfect world, this is as it should be.

Sadly, even in 2014, this is not a total reality. I am fully aware that there are probably many Americans out there who won’t watch Ellen’s show because it “promotes the gay agenda in America.” I also know many who feel that shows like, Modern Family are to be avoided for the same reason. Personally, I can respect that some might not watch that show because it crosses some lines of decency, but holy crap is it funny. And those who avoid it strictly because of its gay characters are seriously missing out.

But either way, the culture has come to the point that both shows, and others like it, have found enough of an audience to be successful. At the same time, if a person holds religious or personal convictions that keep them from watching those programs, that is their right. This is, once again, how it should be.

And this idea should carry over into the public marketplace. If a person doesn’t want to seek the services or products of a company or person for any reason whatsoever, that should be their right. However, I truly believe that business owners are not afforded the same privilege. If an individual seeks services or products from a business owner, they should be provided those services or products regardless of how the business owner feels about them personally. It is part of the package that a person accepts when they enter the marketplace.

Now in my conservative heart of hearts, I actually believe that if a person wanted to refuse service, they should probably be afforded that right strictly because we claim to be a free country. In that same heart, I believe that in a perfect world, the free market would take care of discrimination should it occur. Sadly, we learned in the century following the abolition of slavery, this theory doesn’t always work when put into practice. So, with that knowledge in mind, I have adopted the belief that I hold and espoused in the previous paragraph.

Which is why I was so appalled when Arizona chose to pass SB 1062. At its core, I understand the reasoning behind the bill’s introduction, but that reasoning doesn’t make it right. Proponents of the bill have repeatedly stated that the bill was mischaracterized and in no way referenced gays, but that is a load of garbage. Even the bill’s sponsors were quick to point to lawsuits involving gay individuals in other states as their motivation. I also read the law, and despite what many of its supporters want to say, it did exactly what the opposition said it would do. It was vague and could be interpreted exactly as it was characterized.

Now, to be clear, I think there are some issues that need to be addressed regarding the protection of religious freedoms. Some examples include Hobby Lobby being forced to provide birth control and the “abortion pill” as part of their health plan. That specifically infringes on that employer’s right to practice their religion. If they spend one dime to provide what they view as the destruction of a life, their religious views are being infringed upon.

A second example is not-for-profit charities being forced to again provide for abortions (whether by medical procedure or by a pill) in their health plans or being forced to adopt children to gay couples. While I personally believe children being adopted into loving gay homes is highly preferable to the possible disaster of an upbringing in a dysfunctional home presided over by heterosexuals, I fully respect a religious entity’s right to deny that service based on religious convictions. There are other avenues to adopt children available beyond religious charities and organizations. So if a church believes the traditional family is the best solution for an adopted child, it should be their right to work towards that end. To do otherwise would infringe upon their religious convictions.

But much beyond that, it gets too murky for my taste to legislate. I have used examples of the problems that could arise should 1062 have passed and I will not do so again now. But suffice it to say, if you open a for-profit business, you open a business to everybody. Get over it.

Because this is how I believe, I was happy to lend my voice to those both in the LGBT community and those without that called for Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062. It was the right thing to do. I believed it then, I believe it now. But today, I am wondering where the outrage is now that the tables have been turned.

New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez, personally believes in the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. This belief stems from her religious convictions. As such, she also opposes gay marriage. It is her right to do so. Whether a person believes she is on the wrong side of history or not is beside the point. As an American citizen, she is entitled to her beliefs.

So in light of the events that occurred with SB 1062, I find it very disconcerting that within days, her hair stylist, Antonio Darden, a gay man who owns a salon in Santa Fe, has decided he will no longer provide service to the governor because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.

What???

Is he really that stupid? Does he not understand the extreme slap in the face he just gave to each and every one of us who belongs to a faith that holds a strong belief in traditional marriage but still chose to stand with those who opposed SB 1062? Maybe he does and just doesn’t care. What’s even more disconcerting about his decision is that he has styled the governor’s hair three times previous (all while she still held the same personal and political viewpoint and also while I assume he was still gay) but has decided in the aftermath of SB 1062 that he will do it no more.

The ultimate cake topper on this, if you will, is that one of the lawsuits that prompted SB 1062 occurred in NM where sexual orientation is protected from discrimination. The business owner lost that suit. To me, it seems conceivable that this idiot has opened himself up to a lawsuit as well. But we all know that no politician in their right mind would open that can of public relation worms. So maybe that’s why he’s chosen his victim so carefully. Bottom line, this is bad form and flies in the face of everything that was avoided by Governor Brewer’s veto.

So my ultimate question is this: where is the outrage from the people of the LGBT community? In my humble opinion, he is making you look like hypocrites. And if nothing is made of this, he is ultimately justifying in the minds of many, the actions taken by the AZ legislature. If a business owner in NM can be successfully sued for denying services to a gay couple, but a gay business owner can deny services to a person of religious conviction with no repercussions whatsoever, then all the fear and concern on the part of SB 1062 supporters seems justified.

Now many will point out that he is just one guy and should just be ignored. But sorry, he chose a high profile public figure to make his statement over. He made this a big story. It should be, and must be addressed.

Because at the end of the day, I believe the majority of most people in the LGBT community and a large faction of religious people just want to live side by side in freedom and equality. For many of us on the right, we are still working amongst ourselves trying to figure out how that works. Is that fair to gays and lesbians? Probably not. But many of us are doing the best we know how to achieve what we believe is the common goal. And this man’s actions do nothing to further that aim.

And neither does a collective silence from those he would purport to represent.

The Arizona Legisture: Committed To Executing God’s Will (Whether He Wants It Or Not)

I’m starting to feel like an unwilling resident of Masada in 73 AD. (Or, for the benefit of my politically correct friends, 73 CE.)

As the story goes, a group of over 900 Jewish zealots retreated from the Romans and closed themselves up in a fortress atop a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. When the Romans found a way to finally breach the fortress, what they discovered was every building burnt and all but seven of the 900+ residents dead from having their throat slit. Or in other words, they walked into Arizona, politically speaking, in 2014.

I mean, how else can you describe the destruction our legislature keeps trying to heap upon our backs. And each time, they claim they are doing it out of either a religious obligation or something similar. It’s starting to enter the realm of insanity.

For those who are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, let me take you back to the beginning. And the beginning would be SB 1070.

SB 1070 was a bill passed in Arizona to combat the issue we have in this state with illegal immigration. The impetus for this bill was the murder of an American citizen, a rancher simply monitoring his fence line, along the Mexican border. He was killed by members of the criminal cartels of Mexico who consider our border to be a running joke. It was a serious issue that demanded a serious response.

Instead, we got a law that did little to address the criminal cartels and instead urged cops to demand that anyone with a Hispanic appearance produce paperwork proving their American citizenship or face deportation. These requests/demands could be made during any type of “criminal” investigation up to and including a traffic stop. Sadly, I will admit that in the early going of this law being drafted, I bought into the hype regarding our illegal immigration issues and supported this law. The resulting fall-out forced me to look deeper into the issue and in the end led me to a complete reversal of my illegal immigration stance.

It was a bad law. And if a person of sound logic took time to think through the ramifications of it, they would quickly realize just how bad it was. But the worst part of the whole thing is what it did to businesses, or rather individual’s livelihoods. It caused a boycott of our state (not the first as we were the one state to refuse to acknowledge MLK day decades ago, again out of religious protest, supposedly.) It hurt literally thousands of jobs reliant on tourism. And for what? Not much. Some of it got thrown out by the Supreme Court and the rest has been deemed unenforceable by much of our state’s law enforcement.

But at the time, it was presented as necessary in order to fulfill our moral obligation to our nation’s laws. In fact, Senate President Russell Pierce, a good upstanding Mormon from the East Valley who introduced the law, said his impetus in creating the law was to uphold his belief in the 12th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Huh?

Anyway, after this debacle was finally put to rest, legislators then took up a new crusade. They decided they needed to teach the federal government a lesson or two about fiscal responsibility. Under the ACA (Obamacare), states must use their federal Medicaid dollars along with their own budgets to fund Medicaid coverage up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Despite a voter approved measure some years earlier, legislators had dropped Medicaid funding down to well below the poverty level in order to “balance the budget.” Or in other words stopped paying hospitals and doctors for care they were legally obligated to provide in order to be “self-sufficient” and “fiscally responsible.” Never mind those people still get sick and go to hospitals or doctors with no way to pay. According to some legislators way of thinking, those ne’er-do-wells were sinking our economy and must be cut off. But when the ACA demanded the level of funding be returned to 133%, those same legislators said, “Screw the federal government and their money. We don’t think they should be spending it on this in the first place so we won’t do it and we will write off $7 billion that would be used to pay hospitals and doctors that desperately need it for the care they currently providing for free.”

Thankfully, Governor Jan Brewer stepped in and forced a plan through that would meet the federal government’s requirements and restore the $7 billion to our state. And what was the response of those legislators who consider themselves the moral arbiters of our state? They sued the governor to stop her plan from being enacted. Thankfully, their lawsuit was eventually thrown out.

But, not wanting to let a few discouragements get in the way of their religious fervor, the Arizona legislature this last week passed a law allowing anyone who owns a business to cite “religious beliefs” as a reason to deny services to someone else. At an initial glance, it seems like a fairly reasonable law. People should not be forced to go against their religion in order to do business, right?

However, what this is really about is the fear that homosexual couples will sue businesses associated with the wedding industry who don’t want to provide services to those seeking a same-sex marriage. And this knee-jerk reaction masking itself as a law is an abomination that will again give Arizona a black-eye and hurt its citizens badly in the short term.

The main problem here as I see it is that those supporting this law who belong to the LDS faith are treading on thin ground-for many reasons. First, aren’t we the church that likes to point to the extermination order in Missouri as an example of government overstepping its bounds? Well, what’s different here? So we belong to a faith that doesn’t theologically agree with the practice of homosexuality or its off-shoot of same-sex marriage. But aren’t we also the faith that claims the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience while allowing all men the same privilege?

Being a Mormon business owner who doesn’t want to provide services to individuals who don’t hold the same religious standards as they do is a dangerous precedent to get into. For instance, what justification does a wedding photographer have if they agree to service a wedding where the bride is wearing a strapless gown, or take pictures at a reception where alcohol is flowing but then refuses to be the photographer at a gay wedding? Theoretically, on religious grounds, they should refuse all three.

Oh come on, that’s not the same!

Isn’t it? What’s the difference?

What makes this law even more offensive is that it opens the door far beyond wedding services. And my question then becomes, where does this end? Can a Baptist business owner who considers the Mormon faith a cult deny services to any Latter-Day Saint? If his religious convictions can theoretically be “offended”, I would say he has a case under this law.

Bottom line, is this really where we want to go? At least as Mormons, we have been counseled to show kindness and respect to those with whom we disagree, including those who support gay marriage. We are counseled to love everyone, including those who are homosexual. Finding excuses to exclude doesn’t seem like kindness, respect or love to me. If a person’s business takes them to a gay wedding, even though they may personally not believe gay marriage is conducive with God’s teachings, it doesn’t affect their faith any more than attending a heterosexual wedding presided over by a Wiccan priestess would. So how about our legislators stop trying to suggest that it does.

Furthermore, if our governor doesn’t veto this bill, we will once again become the target of boycotts and thousands of jobs will be adversely affected. And for what? So that some politicians can score political points by saying they are protecting the religious freedoms of their constituents? Bull Crap! The law will be struck down eventually anyway, and everyone knows it. So instead of doing things that will benefit our communities and our economy for decades to come, these law makers will slit the throats economically of thousands of Arizona citizens for a cause and a law that won’t last the year.

I vote we slit the throat of their political careers instead.

Governor Brewer, for the good of every Arizonan, please veto SB 1062. Our state has enough issues to keep it busy without it.

I’d Be Better Off In A Pine Wood Derby Box

I have a serious question.

No seriously, I do. It’s a question I I believe deserves a respectable amount of thought and consideration. And here it is:

Is there a more effective device of torture for a father than the annual Cub Scout Pine Wood Derby?

Now wait. Before you roll your eyes and blow off my query as the silly ramblings of an avoid Scout Non-Enthusiast, let me present my argument.

Every year, the torment begins from the second you are handed that little seven-inch box with a block of wood and four silly little plastic tires in it. (As an aside, I have two boys and have thus far been involved in the making of three pinewood derby cars. In two of the three pinewood derby car kits we were assigned, an axle was missing. I actually had to go buy another little kit of four tires and four axles just to get a fourth axle for the car we were making. $*@& BSA!!! They get you coming and going.) ((As an aside from the aside, I scheduled a boys day away in Tempe last year to watch the ASU/UofA basketball game on the same day as the derby, thus getting out of the one year when I would have been on the hook for two cars as my boys ages overlapped. Don’t think for a second I regret that decision. Now back to the original discussion.)) You are handed that kit and some nice lady gives you a big smile and wishes you luck, totally ignoring the beads of sweat that have broken out on your forehead.

See, the question running through a father’s brain long before the box is even opened is this: How involved am I going to let my son be in the construction of his own car?

And through the miraculous waves of Wi-Fi, I can already hear the judgement of women everywhere as they sanctimoniously scream at their computer, “They have to be totally involved. Only a jerk would keep his son from being the main builder of his own car.”

But any man reading this knows better.

He knows that any amount of joy a young boy derives from building of his own car will be annihilated and then some on race day when he finishes dead last in every heat. And if you let the boy do all of the design and most of the work, that is exactly what is going to happen. Trust me, I know. I learned that horrible lesson in year one. And trust me, I may not be the smartest guy in the pack, but staring at your devastated son’s face time after time from across some plastic barrier is enough to drive that lesson home for good.

But the flip side of this issue isn’t any better. If a father takes over too much of the responsibility, the boy has no buy-in and you end up building an entire car by yourself while your kid is watching TV. Maybe some fathers are okay with that, but I am not one of those fathers. I have better things to do than build model cars by myself in my free time.

So each year, the day arrives. You’ve gotten on-line, you’ve hopefully followed enough of the internet suggestions to get a decent amount of speed out of your car, and you’ve graphited the living crap out of the tires in the hopes that it will magically over compensate for any failure on your part. Now there is nothing left but to settle in your chair and begin praying.

Now some might think you’re praying your kid will have the fastest car. That would be completely incorrect. You want to be the father of the kid whose car finishes second or third out four in every race but one. You do want him to have the glorious experience of full-fledged victory, but only once.

And why would you want that?

Because you don’t want to be drying tears when the whole thing is over, but heaven forbid the car does well enough to place in the top three of your child’s age range. Because a top three finish lands you in the district pine wood derby…and provides you another Saturday lost in a crowded cultural listening to rambunctious cub scouts and their multitudes of younger siblings.

So how did things go for us this year? As he walked to the head of the track for his first race, I almost couldn’t look. But not looking wasn’t going to change the result so I watched in morbid fascination as the cars were released. And???

We got second.

SCOOOOORRRREEEEE!!!!!!!

But sadly, as the races continued, I realized we had overshot the mark by just the tiniest of margins. He never finished below second and actually won about five of his twelve races. Sure enough, when the final results were called, he had won third place and we are now scheduled for districts on March 29th.

That’s right. A full Saturday right in the middle of March Madness.

With only one year left in my car building career, I may have to rethink this whole thing one last time.  Yeah, drying the tears can be pretty brutal. But it only lasts an hour or two and you generally get ice cream out of the deal. Frankly, that sounds a whole lot better than possibly missing a classic UofA game where they qualify for the Final Four.

So look out, Logan. Next year, you may be totally on your own.

 

Orson Whitney and the Five Stages of Grief

When I started this blog, I vowed that while I would publish posts touching on a variety of subjects, my first goal was to document my experiences of becoming a published author. Since most of those experiences either occurred before or culminated near the date of August 13th when the book came out, not many posts have been related to that subject recently. However, an event I should probably acknowledge recently occurred.

Annually, an awards ceremony is held in Utah to recognize the best works of fiction by LDS authors throughout the previous year. These awards are called The Whitney Awards, named after Orson Whitney, a man who said something about us having our own Shakespeares and Miltons or something or other. I should be more respectful of my culture and heritage, but I don’t particularly want to take the time to go research what exactly he said and why he is worthy of having these awards named after him. Suffice it to say that The Whitney’s are probably the most coveted award an LDS author could be up for within the confines of the LDS culture. (A National Book Award, Faulkner Award or Hugo Award would probably be preferable to a Whitney, but if you are LDS and nobody else is recognizing your book outside of the faith, a Whitney is about as prestigious as your likely to get.)

Anyway, back in September, I learned that my book had nominated for a Whitney Award. I was ecstatic. I didn’t know much about them then, but I was a quick study and was very excited at the honor. I then learned that getting a nomination is not overly difficult, and what really matters is getting to the next round of being a Whitney finalist.

Whitney finalists are chosen by a committee that reads all of the nominated works and then decides on five finalists in what I believe are eight categories. Once I learned this, I immediately started doing what I had done when I submitted this book for publication. I tried to depress my expectations. I told myself there was no way. It simply was not going to happen and I needed to just put it out of my mind.

But then others started mentioning my book. People I had never met who blog about books. A review I hadn’t expected showed up on a site that is well-regarded and widely followed among LDS women. It outright stated that they hoped my book would be one of the finalists because they believed it was definitely one of the best LDS novels of the year. Other sites made similar statements. Suddenly, I had trouble keeping my expectations in check.

Then, last week, the list of finalists came out and…I was not included. I wish I could say it didn’t bother me too bad, but the truth was, it stung. Worse than I expected.

In a situation almost identical to the day I found out Cedar Fort would be publishing my book, I learned of this news in a room by myself, all alone. It kind of paralyzed me for a bit. In a very short amount of time, I went through five stages of grief. Denial – Surely their has been a mistake. They’ll realize it soon and let me know that due to some error, I was left off the list, but it has been fixed. Anger – What the @$%*!!! Who do these people think they are? My book is at least as good as some of those listed. This is joke! This is a conspiracy!! These lousy Utah snootypants (I don’t think that’s the word I actually used, but it seems to me like it started and ended in ‘s’. Hard to remember) they just hate people from Arizona. Bargaining – I don’t actually remember bargaining with anyone except maybe the lunch lady where I work (lunch time arrived right about the time I was moving past anger) over how many small boiled potatoes should constitute a serving. Depression – I don’t know what I was expecting. I’ve known from the beginning this book was crap. I suck!!! And then finally Acceptance.

Now the thing is, Acceptance came in waves over the next few days. The first wave hit me that night when I finally got around to watching the new documentary on Netflix, Mitt. For those who aren’t aware, it is a documentary with footage taken by a film maker who had unlimited access to the Romneys through both presidential elections he ran in. But the film isn’t political. It just shows what life was like for this family behind the scenes-including election night 2012 when he lost to President Obama on the world’s largest stage.

Watching it certainly brought my disappointment into perspective.

Regardless of your political persuasion, it’s a great film. And it certainly soothed my feelings.

The next round of Acceptance came as I watched Super Bowl 48. (Screw the Roman numerals. Once we got to the point where an L was showing up in the graphic, we should have stopped right then.) My favorite football player is Peyton Manning. And as I’m sure most everyone knows, he got CRUSHED!!! What made me sad is that there are so many people in the media and otherwise who I knew would use this loss to validate their beliefs that Peyton Manning is a) a choker b) only good in the regular season c) …all the other crap they say about Peyton Manning every time he doesn’t walk on water and single-handedly save all the children in Africa. It made me sad for him.

And again, I gained a different view of my own discouragement.

But the true scope of my setback came when a dear friend of mine came into my office to tell me that he’d lost his job. After we talked for a while, he left and unbeknownst to me, went home to discover that his grandson had committed suicide.

Suddenly, not being nominated for an award I hadn’t even known existed one year prior seemed pretty insignificant. When I saw him again and we hugged and cried, I gained a deeper understanding of what true sadness and disappointment really look like. I prayed for him that day. I’ll being praying for him again when he lays his grandson to rest tomorrow.

So come this April, I will not be traveling to Utah in hopes of receiving an award for my book. And I’m okay with that. Instead, I will spend that weekend celebrating my daughter’s fifteenth birthday. I hope we do something fun. But either way, she better expect a hug from me…or maybe ten. Because as I was so vividly reminded recently, those hugs, and hugs from my wife and other four children, are the things that really matter. Certainly more than some shiny award that would have ended up on a shelf and would never have hugged me back.

 

Are We Becoming Our Doomsday Parents?

I’ve had an epiphany lately. As much as we may not want to admit it, I think there’s a chance many of us in our 30′s and 40′s are morphing into those adults we made fun of back in the day. I know that’s hard to hear, but I think the evidence is becoming a little bit undeniable. Where am I getting this from? Well, being in the bishopric for our ward, I get the ultimate privilege of chaperoning youth dances in our valley.

(As an aside, I’m going to indulge myself with a little rant at this moment. See, I’m still a little unclear on why we go through the process of telling our youth they need dance cards in order to attend dances and then requiring a member of every bishopric from all three stakes to attend each dance in case someone…anyone…shows up without a dance card and needs someone to speak for them from their ward.

Huh?

Either enforce the dance card requirement with no exception or, set up a tribunal inside the front door and pass judgment on each person as they enter with a quick thumbs up or down based on their appearance and overall general attitude. I think it would be just as effective and free up quite a few adults who might actually have other plans on a weekend night, but I digress.)

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and pray that the DJ I’m about to describe is not a regular reader of my blog, because I might be a tad critical in just a moment. See, the thing is, several times at these dances I have observed playlists that do not include more than three songs that have been released since 1990. If I was a teenager, I would seriously be like, “WHAT? Are you kidding me?”

I mean, think about it. How would those of us who are children of the ’80s have felt if we showed up time after time to dances at the Stake Center only to hear the top 10 greatest hits of 1969? Knowing our generation, I don’t think we would have handled it well.

Hey, kids. Let’s slow it down now to this timeless tune from the Everly Brothers. I know some of you have been requesting Brian Adams, but seriously, that song is off the soundtrack of a movie with someone’s naked rear-end in it. So we’ll stick with this harmless melody about some girl named Cathy and her pet Clown.

Yeah…not so much.

But yet, somehow we expect these kids to be okay with doing line-dancing, or YMCAing, or any other fast dance that will in no way require members of the opposite sex to actually touch each other. And to add insult to injury, most of these dances are done to songs that came out before any of them were born.

Now, the reasoning behind this that I have heard is:

It’s just too hard to find music today that is appropriate.

Really??? This from the generation that produced such uplifting spiritual tomes such as: Pour Some Sugar on Me, Push It, Armageddon It, Take Me Down To Paradise City, Welcome to the Jungle, Walk This Way (Run DMC Version) and oh so many more. And maybe I came from an apostate stake, but most of these were played at church dances. The difference? I believe our parents had much less interest in the music we listened to and spent their time at our dances doing their best to ignore what was coming out of the speakers rather than policing it. Only a brutal in-your-face Son-of-a-B—- reference blaring from the alternate version of The Devil Went Down to Georgia would often get a reaction.

Anyway, the truth is, it is more difficult to find songs without a swear word in it today. But they do exist. And if we want our kids to have any interest in attending these church functions, we need to take the time to find them.

And I know I’m really going to get in trouble for this suggestion, but we need to be a little less puritanical in what we get worked up over. For some of our parents, the musical rebellion was found in listening to songs about sneaking off with the leader of a biker gang. Certainly not the behavior our grandparents advocated. For those of us with younger parents, the behavior described gets a little dicier. Take for instance the multiple drug references found throughout the works of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Mamas and The Papas and Simon and Garfunkle. Or dare I mention the many sexual allusions found in the hits of Neil Diamond.

As far as our generation is concerned, I’ve already alluded to several songs that are highly suggestive or downright descriptive. And I didn’t even touch on some of the worst ones.

But now, we are the ones fretting over whether or not Miley Cyrus worked in a drug reference in her latest song. Let me help clear this up by saying: I’m sure she did and…so what? If the song has a good beat and catchy lyrics, our kids are going to like it. And they will want to dance to it. But I’d be willing to bet that if we have done our jobs as parents, they will not join her on a wrecking ball several weeks after being subjected to her music. It didn’t happen to our parents, it didn’t happen to us and it won’t happen to them.

No, I have a feeling they will end up looking back and shaking their heads in slight embarrassment that one of the iconic songs from their high school years is Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. It’s a horrible song…but it’s theirs. Just like I’ll Make Love To You by Boyz II Men is ours. We may not have picked it had we been given a choice, but it is ours nonetheless.

So, as I wrap this up, am I saying we should play Robin Thicke at the next church dance? No. But I do believe we should go out of our way to provide music to our kids that is theirs…not ours. Neon Moon was a stupid song when it came out in the 1980s. We should not be forcing it down our kids’ throats thirty years later as one of only three slow songs played at a dance. (I have witnessed this happening at a minimum of three dances I have attended. All the same DJ, but seriously? Neon Moon? It’s title references bar hopping and drinking all by itself. So what was it we were saving our kids from anyway?)

I believe we should trust our kids enough to let them supply their own play list. Let them be the DJ’s. That’s how it was when we were kids. (Obviously be selective in which kids you trust to compile that list.) And if we hear something we think might be questionable? Take a minute…breathe deeply…and recall that first church dance we attended at age 14. You know the one. The dance where it took all night to work up the nerve to ask that special girl/guy to dance. And when the magical moment arrived, each of us can still recall how nervous and yet ecstatic we were to be holding her/him in our arms. And what was that song playing over the speakers? Oh yeah, it was Love Bites by Def Leppard.

And by and large we still turned out okay.

I’m pretty sure they will too.