Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why I Admire A Man So Many People Hate

I have articulated my frustration with politics many times before. I will not be doing so again right now. But one of my biggest goals when it comes to politics is to keep it from getting personal. I believe our desire to take political discourse into the realms of the personal is why the climate in politics today is so toxic and why no problem is getting addressed in our country.

For those reasons I have defended President Obama as a person. I believe there is a great deal of good in the man. I may not agree with all he stands for and advocates, but I don’t believe politics is what makes a person.

Along those same lines, I came across this article today. I know many liberals and democrats who despise President George W. Bush. And I mean despise him. I’ve never understood it. There were things I disagreed with him on when it comes to politics, but when he spoke or made appearances, I always saw a good man doing his best. Call me naive, but that is what I saw. So it was heartening to see that I was not alone and that this high ranking official in the Clinton administration had many of the same feelings about George W. Bush that I always did. And that he could back up those feelings with personal experiences. So, because I believe it is important to accentuate the positive and raise our discourse, I am linking to this article below. Please take the time to read it. Because this is the type of politics I believe our Savior would have us practice.

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/04/25/democrat-reveals-3-things-liberals-dont-get-about-george-w-bush/

Meanwhile, only three and half months until THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER hits bookstores and mailboxes. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to pre-order it, today’s as good a day as any. You can order at Amazon.com by clicking here. Or you can request a copy be ordered for you at Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ, or any bookstore that handles LDS books. Simply walk in and ask to be on the list for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, by Ryan Rapier from Cedar Fort Publishing. Your support is appreciated.

One other note; my friend, Brad Hull, of Due West has a request. He and the rest of the band are striking out on their own and could use your help. I would explain it here, but they do a much better job, so to hear what Due West is asking, please follow the link below. If you haven’t heard a Due West song, you are missing out. In today’s world of country music, their amazing harmonies are a rare commodity. Here’s hoping their new venture works out and we hear new Due West music on the radio real soon.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/duewest/due-west-new-music-project?ref=live

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All The News That’s Not Fit To Print

On a previous blog, I documented my complete and utter fascination with countdowns. I love countdowns. If I were flipping through the channels one night and came across a countdown of the top 10 favorite office supplies of left-handed circus performers, I would probably watch it. (I hope no one at the A&E channel sees this and gets any ideas. This actually sounds like something they would air.)

Anyway, not only do I love to watch top 10 shows or listen to music countdowns, I also like to produce my own. And today, I want to countdown the stupidest news stories I’ve seen in just the past week or two.

But before I get to that, let me rant for just a second. The reason this list is even possible is because we don’t really even have news shows or news websites anymore. We have political leaning, shock inducing, run-it-into-the-ground analyzing, pumping up people who are famous for absolutely nothing fluff. 90% of all news stories are garbage or non-informative at all. Think about the recent bombing. In the hours (and hours and hours) following the event, every major channel switched to people sitting around guessing or accusing their political opponents or finding people who were near the event who provided absolutely nothing new to the dialogue. Why? It accomplished nothing. Yet any news organization in this country that didn’t join this lemming over the cliff exercise would have been considered derelict in their duties. It’s Redonkulous. (Translation: So stupid I had to make up a word to describe it.)

Okay, rant complete. And now, The Top 10 News Stories From The Last Few Weeks That Suggest We Have Not Evolved Much Since The Time OF The Neandrathals, or The Top 10 NSFTLFWTSWHNEMSTTOTN. Now there’s an acronym with a promising future.

10. The Boston Bombers Were Going To Go To New York – Huh? May I ask just a few questions? Did they actually go to New York? No. Were any bombs actually planted in New York? Not that anyone is aware of.  Is the Mayor of New York an over-protective ninny? Well, probably, but that question is completely unrelated to what we are talking about here.

This story was breaking news for every major news outlet in the country. And yet, THERE IS NO STORY!!!! If either one of the brothers ever said they wanted to one day have children and go to Walt Disney World, should we report that as well? Okay, yes, they may have wanted to plant a bomb. But did they? NO! It was shocking, it was scare-inducing, and maybe it belonged in paragraph 14 of a news story about the bombers. It did not belong as a headline splashed across our front pages. That’s just lazy journalism at its worst.

9. Fraudelent Signatures Helped Get Obama On A State Ballot In 2008 – You’ll be surprised to learn I only saw this headline on Foxnews.com. The purpose of this story? To keep the anger and divisiveness in our nation at all time highs. It serves no other purpose. I mean, do we really think Obama wouldn’t have won the presidency without these fraudulent signatures? As a nation we have got to get over this. This is the same kind of crap that Democrat leaning news organizations pulled for eight years with W. Here is a real news flash: WE ARE NOT THE NCAA! If some obscure violation is found while digging through documents of years past, we don’t rewrite the history books and pretend a presidency didn’t happen. Stories like this do not accomplish anything accept fostering continued resentment that needs no additional fostering. Come on Fox. Be better than that. Leave the bomb throwing to…okay, maybe that’s a bad analogy.

8. Some Weight-Loss Company Is Paying Kim Kardashian To Gain Extra Weight During Her Pregnancy So She Can Lose It All With Their Weight-Loss Program – Admittedly, this is a tabloid headline, but it speaks to bigger problem. WHY DO WE CARE ABOUT ANY OF THE KARDASHIANS?

They don’t DO anything. They have no special talent and they provide nothing to the betterment of our society. I mean, I know this is a little crass, but seriously, the whole family is famous because one of the sisters knows how to have sex while a camera is running. That’s it. And yet, we are constantly force fed every excruciating detail of these parasites’ lives. Just stop already.

7. George Jones Passed Away – Okay, this one isn’t really fair, but I included it mainly because I thought he was already dead.

6. Kate Middleton Shows Off Baby Bump – Seriously folks, leave these poor people alone. This headline isn’t that bad, but it comes on the heels of the infamous “Kate Middleton sunbathing pics”. Pretending to be outraged when this poor woman was photographed in what she believed was a private setting by a photog hundreds of yards away and then writing news stories about how awful this was only kept this embarrassing story alive for about two months. Which is two months longer than it should have been. News stories decrying sleezy practices only give the sleezy practitioners the attention they want. And you know it.

5. Woman’s Car Is Robbed And Her Purse Is Stolen – ….And?

This was the lead, THE LEAD, story on a local Phoenix 10 o’clock news broadcast last night. The reporter explained that this woman had parked her car near a local hiking preserve and “did everything right.” Apparently, doing everything right is leaving your purse in the car, but hiding it really well. I have a couple of thoughts. 1. How about you don’t bring your purse. 2. If you are going to bring your purse, hide it before you arrive at your destination where possibly thieves won’t be watching. But lastly, 3. How is this a real news story?

When Shannon and I were first married, our truck was robbed right outside our apartment. We did “everything right” too, which basically means we locked the car and parked near a street light. But it’s funny, a baseball bat to your side window kind of undoes all of those major precautions. But my point is, this happens everyday, EVERYDAY, in Phoenix and every other city in the world. This is not news. Why doesn’t this channel report on each of the bills being considered by the Arizona legislature that will actually impact each and every Arizona resident. Oh yeah, I forgot. You are a local news program, which means your main job is to scare the tar out of your viewers by completely overblowing the most minor incidents. That, and acting like Hurricane Katrina has hit everytime it rains in the Phoenix valley.

4. Gun Control Bill Hits Snag In Senate

3. Immigration Bill Hits Snag In Senate

2. Senate Resolution Honoring Margaret Thatcher Hits Snag In Senate

How about we report when these yahoos actually accomplish something. I’m so tired of the press giving 24 hour coverage to these petulant children and their tantrums. After all, just like children, attention is all they want. If we withhold it, maybe they would actually do something constructive to get it back. I’m just saying.

1. The NFL Draft – Up front, I am a lover of sports. But this event has gotten out of control. It gets almost as much pre-coverage, post-coverage and analysis as the Super Bowl. And for what? Half of these guys won’t even make it onto the teams that draft them. Who honestly cares if Dufus Hockenstock from Pewter State University runs a 40-yard dash .4 seconds faster than Billy Bob Huckleberry from Alabama? This is the poster child for what is wrong with a 24-hour news cycle whether it be in sports, politics or national news. We forget about what is important and instead, join the hype that is perpetuated by a non-stop media news cycle.

Speaking of blatant Hype, my debut novel, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, arrives August 13, 2013. It is available for pre-order now through Amazon.com by clicking here, or, if you live in the Gila Valley, you can pre-order the book at Bookworms Bookstore. Another option is if you have an LDS bookstore in your area, walk on in and request that a copy of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER be ordered on your behalf. They will appreciate the patronage and I would appreciate the expanded reach. Thanks again to those who read this blog on a regular basis for your patience during this book marketing process.

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This Wasn’t In the Brochure

I’m going to be straight up. There are a few things about being a parent that I dread almost more than death. In fact, if you catch me on the right day, almost might come out of the equation.

Now I’m not talking about the normal go-tos. The dirty diapers, cleaning up puke and potty training are obvious and frankly, child’s play. No, I’m talking about the insidious things that generally come later in life. Things like:

Recorder concerts – Now I recognize that I am going to have to attend a lot of different recitals/concerts/sporting events with varying degrees of talent being showcased. That’s not a problem. If a child of mine has an interest in something, I am more than happy to support them and attend said events as they work through the difficult early days prior to their talent and hard work paying off. It is  part of the parent/child contract, and something I am happy to do. But Thatcher schools has this crazy idea that in third grade, they need to give every child (Not those with an interest in music. We are talking every child) a recorder. Wait a minute, I take that back, they require us as parents to go buy every child a recorder. Now for those who don’t know, a recorder is a poor man’s version of the clarinet and, when played incorrectly, is first cousins with a dog whistle. Needless to say, third graders play them incorrectly about 97% of the time. So, they force each of these children to learn a few songs on the recorder (which requires wayyyyy too much practice time at home) and then invite all the parents to come and listen to their children play these songs they’ve been enduring at home for the past month in a concert setting. What you discover is that no child has learned to play the recorder any better than your child has and so if you close your eyes, you realize that the “concert” could just as easily be a mass exercise in torture at your local bird sanctuary. I have now survived two of these blitzkrieg assaults on my eardrums and am steeling myself now for the third one which will take place next year. But I never give up on the dream of some congressman finding an obscure entry in the Obamacare bill that requires the immediate destruction of all recorders nationwide. I know it’s not likely to happen, but come on. Have you seen the size of that bill? And it does purport to encourage preventative healthcare. I can’t think of anything more preventative than taking away all the recorders so I don’t accidently break one over the head of some unsuspecting and undeserving music teacher.

Pinewood Derby Cars – There are many reasons I am hoping this baby we are expecting is a girl. Daughters have a way of nestling their way directly into a father’s heart. They also do not require the father to make a pinewood derby car each year between the ages of 8 and 10. Oh how I hate this rite of passage that the scouting organization forces upon its members. The main problem is, I am not a skilled worker of wood nor do I own a lot of tools needed for effective wooden car construction. So, I am left with these admittedly imperfect options. I can build it from scratch and have a wonderful bonding experience with my son that is shot to h#@! the minute we put that car on the track and it finishes a good three second behind all of the other cars. That’s what happened to my oldest son on our first attempt. The next option is to go to Hobby Lobby and purchase a pre-cut car that looks awesome, but requires very little from me. I basically have to hand it to my son with a sheet of sandpaper and say, “Get after it, bud.” and then go park myself in front of the TV, providing “expert” examinations on the wood’s smoothness at varying intervals. This is what we did the second year and while the bonding was definitely lacking, my son took first place in his age bracket and was thrilled. The only downside was the nagging guilt I felt at my lack of involvement in my son’s success. This year, I was faced with the perfect storm I’d been dreading for months. It was the only year I would have two sons in the cub scouting program at the same time, requiring me to build two cars instead of one. So, I did what any delinquent father would do and I bought tickets to the ASU/UofA basketball game that was scheduled for the same day as the pinewood derby and I got them and myself the heck out of Dodge. Surprisingly, I felt less guilt with this option than I did with the pre-cut car. Go figure. Anyway, this year worked out so well, I am half thinking of making this a tradition for at least…the next two years. Even if ASU is playing in Pullman, Washington that weekend, I will still have to give it serious consideration.

The Birds and the Bees Talk – Another reason I am rooting for baby #5 to be a girl is this horrific life moment that any decent parent cannot escape. Shannon and I have a deal. She will take the girls and I will take the boys. I would assume most other couples would have a similar arrangement, but there is no way in Hades I’m ever gonna ask. Because I really don’t want to know if there is a couple out there that doesn’t. Anyway, when my oldest daughter reached this pinnacle of life, my wife got on Facebook and started gathering a hundred different ideas on how best to handle this. She got books and she went into that talk as prepared as if she were facing a final in her last semester of college. She did great. She covered every base and was ready for every question. I was proud of her. As it turned out, she either did such a good job, or my daughter just isn’t a real talker about personal things, but she had relatively few questions to deal with. I was hoping and praying for similar experience.

Anyone who knows my oldest son is knowingly shaking their heads right now. There isn’t a topic on this planet that involves science in any way that isn’t going to get fully dissected by a thousand inquiries. I should have known this. But I didn’t. I think I chose to approach this whole thing with a dash of denial.

So, on a warm spring morning, I took him to get a Dairy Queen blizzard and we went and parked under a tree. I didn’t have books, I didn’t have diagrams and I didn’t have any great ideas provided by my network of social media friends. I just laid it out as best I could. I tried not to hold anything back and then I waited…hoping…gaining confidence with each passing second that he just sat there eating his ice cream.

And then the dam burst.

He started off easy enough, but then he moved to things that I hadn’t thought of until well into my high school years. He even threw in a few questions I couldn’t answer. By and large, when it was over, it had ended up being a good experience for us. And if nothing else, I will be wellllll prepared for son number two in a few years. But it got me thinking.

When my dad finally came to me that fateful day to have the talk, I had already been through a thorough education at the hands of my peers at Duncan Elementary School. Looking back, I knew far more than I should have while at the same time not really knowing anything. This made things tough on my father because I didn’t have any questions. I also think there is a major difference in this younger generation and the one I grew up in. Because I can remember clearly that even if I had had questions, there was no way I was going to ask them of my parents. It would have been way too embarrassing. But my son, to this day, will come back to my wife and I with no shame or embarrassment. It’s actually pretty cool.

But I also realized this week that this level of comfort between child and parent has its downside.

My daughter and I were driving along listening to my iPod when a song came on we have sung along to a hundred times. But this time, there was no sound coming from my daughter’s side of the truck. When the song ended, she said, “I can never sing along to that song anymore.”

I was confused. “Why not?”

My question earned me a huge eye roll and a look that practically screamed, “COME ON, DAD!!! Don’t be such an idiot.” It’s my favorite look. It makes me feel so good. Anyway, she combined her expression with a mumbled, “I just…I just can’t.”

And that’s when it hit me. The title of the song references something that can be taken two very different ways. Very tentatively, I asked if that reference was the problem.

“Uh, YEAHHH!!!”

I have never experienced such conflicted emotions in my life. It is one thing for my son to be so open about personal things. It is just kind of who he is. But my daughter…Never! So the fact that she would be this open with me was like the ultimate validation of my parenting.

On the other hand. I was horrified. I have always wanted to live in a fantasy world where my thirteen-year-old daughter never learned of such things. Never mind I knew what she was talking about at her age, in my mind, she should never have known.

And another thing. I chose to assume at thirteen that my parents didn’t know anything about this…act I’m referring to. And it was guaranteed I would never breath a word of it to them.

So there I sat in my truck trying not to look as stunned as I felt. I attempted to casually talk with her and assure her the song did not contain a line she thought it did. I hope it went okay. I think it did.

But I will admit to one thing. Part of me wishes that the old teenage/parent version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell still existed. A much bigger part of me is grateful it doesn’t. I would not trade the relationship I have with my daughter for anything. That night was unique in that most of my family was out of town and so she and I got to eat pizza and watch a movie mostly on our own. It was a night I will not soon forget.

But while changing a dirty diaper or cleaning throw up is beyond nasty in the moment, within minutes, it’s over. It’s gone. This reminder that my children are growing up in a world filled with the vilest garbage is not fading at all. And so, although I might prefer to turn a blind eye, I will do everything I can to keep the channels of communication open. I may not always like what I see or hear, but at least there will be a better pay off than what I get from those infernal recorder concerts.

SHAMELESS BOOK PLUG ALERT

My book THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, arriving August 13, 2013, deals with the difficulty of a parent communicating with a teenage child. It might also touch on one man’s frustrations with aspects of scouting. It can be pre-ordered through Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ or from Amazon. com by clicking here.  You may also request a copy be ordered for you through any bookstore selling LDS fiction.

If you are not currently a fan of my author page on Facebook, please take a moment and “like” it for updates on cover art, interviews and reviews that come out as the release date draws closer. That link is www.facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor

Thank you to everyone for your continued support.

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Sumo-Sized Praise for THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER

As I have previously mentioned on this blog, and as anyone who has ever attempted creative writing can attest to, writing a novel is not a one-shot-and-your-done process. You often have to write something, come back to it and realize you have no business thinking you can write, trying again, coming back and realizing you still have no business thinking you can write, taking your work to your spouse who confirms that you have no business thinking you can write, and so on and so forth until after five, six or twenty attempts later, you finally have a decent draft you can present to peers for a critique. When you finally get to that point, it can be very nerve wracking because you have arrived at a place where you realize you can’t do much better. You think to yourself, “Either I have talent or I don’t, because I cannot look at this story one more time without setting it on fire and then finding a dark corner to hopefully drink myself into oblivion.”

Okay, maybe that’s a tad dramatic, but it’s not far off. (By the way, your spouse will likely be more than happy to join you in setting it fire if she hasn’t done so already without your knowledge.)

So for me, after I had been through this gauntlet of hell, there was one logical choice when it came down to seeking a “peer review” from a fellow author.  I put peer review in quotes because my experience up until then was hacking my way through one unpublished novel while she, on the other hand, had published four. It’s kind of like calling your local karaoke star and George Strait peers. Anyway, the person who seemed the most logical was fellow Gila Valley author, Jennifer Griffith.

Jennifer, as mentioned, has published four novels. Her latest, BIG IN JAPAN, a story about a 300 pound man who finds himself unexpectedly caught up in the world of sumo wrestling, has even reached as high as #9 on the Amazon sales list for sports novels. And she knows a thing or two about critiquing manuscripts. Thankfully, she agreed to take a look at mine.

It turned out I couldn’t have been more fortunate. She provided a great perspective and gave me very sound advice that led to an overall strengthening of my story. She was also very supportive during the process of submitting my manuscript to agents and publishers. I owe her a great deal.

Anyway, when THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER got picked up by Cedar Fort Publishing, instead of saying thank you, I instead asked her for another favor. I asked if she would be willing to provide an endorsement. Once again, she was gracious and willing.

So first of all, let me say how much I appreciate Jennifer Griffith’s help and support through this entire process. And second of all, let me express how grateful I am for the following words that are extremely kind. Thanks, Jen. Her endorsement now follows:

Todd Landry would be the slightly cynical, charming everyman – if his life weren’t tinged by the tragedy of the death of his wife. Marci died too soon, leaving him with three kids and no idea what to do next, how to deal or how to progress.

He’s been putting on a good face for his children, but his parents and siblings know everything’s not okay and have insisted he get some counseling. To appease them, he’s been going faithfully to Dr. Schenk, a detached psychiatrist who’s ready to drop Todd as a patient because he refuses to speak in therapy sessions week after week. The doc issues an ultimatum: Todd must write or be dropped as a client. Todd knows the only thing keeping his family off his back is that he meets with Dr. Schenk, so he (extremely) reluctantly agrees. And he starts writing a blog.

What ensues in Ryan Rapier’s debut novel The Reluctant Blogger, is the unfolding of a life. It’s a life rich with history, emotion, and characters so true to life you’ll swear you’ve met them in church or are related to them yourself. Todd’s obstacles and efforts toward healing are fraught with emotional and social danger, and with frequent hilarious predicaments, all told through Todd Landry’s dry wit and his incisive descriptions of the friends and family that populate his world.

Rapier has an uncanny ability to take the reader from laughter to wrenching emotion in a matter of paragraphs. The whole page-turning journey is a wonderful roller coaster ride with characters the reader is invested in from page one—all the way to the highly satisfying ending. – Jennifer Griffith, Author of BIG IN JAPAN

BIG IN JAPAN is available in select bookstores and on-line at amazon.com. You can also visit her blog at www.authorjennifergriffith.com or you can like her Facebook author page as well at facebook.com/jennifergriffithauthor.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER will arrive in bookstores and mailboxes August 13, 2013. It is currently available for pre-order at Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ, or on-line at Amazon.com by clicking here. If you aren’t currently liking Ryan Rapier’s author page on facebook, please do so for no other reason than we are a self-absorbed society that judges ourselves by how many people are our “friends” or “like” us…and I’m no different. The page can be found www.facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor

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An Age-Old Truth That’s New To Us

September 11th changed everything for Americans.

The truth is, we should have recognized the signs in Atlanta, in 1996, but it was easier to live in denial. We wanted to believe the Olympic Park bombing was the work of some deranged individual with a homemade pipe bomb, nothing more. Even when that individual turned out to be innocent and the bombing was never solved, we’d moved on and put it out of our minds. Because terror doesn’t happen here.

But then September 11th happened. After that, we paid attention a little more to things like the Madrid train bombings or the London underground attacks, because after all, it had happened to us. We felt a kinship to those who were suffering. And we silently prayed it would never come to our shores again.

And then yesteday. Once again we are outraged. National news organizations sent all of their people to Boston and we watched them come up with every story angle they could on the tragedy.

But the ugly truth is, it’s a little harder to get worked up this time. We want to be mad…and to a certain degree, we are. But instead of wall-to-wall coverage, we got an hour during prime time. Already, most of us are heading back to work, generally unaffected by yesterday’s events. And to a lot of people, that is probably the saddest part of all.

We don’t want to be mad anymore. We’re all angered out. We’re tired of fighting about guns in the wake of Newtown. We’re tired of memorializing each and every victim of senseless tragedies inflicted on us by either crazed loners or organized terrorists. Not because we don’t care about them, but rather because when we think about it, we care too much. We visualize those faces as people we know, people we care about…people we love. And you can only do that so many times before you just can’t do it anymore.

And so, with no options left to us, many will embrace the only thing left. Acceptance.

Acceptance that this is just the new reality we live in. That bad things are going to happen and the world we enjoyed a mere 20 years ago doesn’t exist anymore. We don’t want to, but emotionally, we don’t have much choice.

And undoubtedly, in an effort to try and understand this new reality, people will say things like, “What is this world coming to?” I know, because I have already heard that phrase uttered at least twice. But sadly, the answer is even more depressing. Because the answer is, the world isn’t going anywhere. It’s just that we, as Americans, we were lucky enough to be separated from it for so long. But now, we’ve arrived at the same place the rest of the world has been for quite a while.

Case in point:

When I left on my mission in 1992, families were allowed to see their missionaries off right at the gate to the airliner that would take them to different parts of the world. For me, it was Manchester, England. There was no security, no throwing away of any liquids more than 5 ounces, no pat downs in a separate area when your boarding pass was chosen at random. None of that existed here.

But when I arrived in England, I found a much different story. Again, this is in 1992. British military roamed the airports with automatic weapons. Waiting for arrivals or saying goodbye to departing friends or family took place outside of security checkpoints, much like the experience we have in American airports now. When I looked for somewhere to throw away a piece of trash I had collected, there were no trash cans available. I asked why later. The answer shocked me. Trash cans are perfect locations for someone to drop a bomb into. They’d already had experience with that. I was stunned. This had to be a massive overreaction on their part. Right?

Twenty years ago last March, I had been in the mission field for roughly eight months. On a regular morning just like any other, in a town less than a hundred miles from where I was living, two bombs exploded outside of a downtown shopping area in Warrington, England. Warrington was in my mission. I knew the missionaries serving there.

Much like yesterday, the death toll was relatively small, but the number of injured was quite extensive. The Irish Republican Army had planted bombs in two different metal trash cans on the road and exploded them within minutes of each other. Unfortunately for them, one of the fatalities was a cute little boy about three years old. His picture was everywhere the next day. Unlike the terrorists of today, the IRA actually cared about their PR. After Warrington, it hit an all-time low.

But this all happened twenty years ago. And the country in which it happened had already taken precautions against things like this because it had happened before. Yet, when I returned home to my family a little over a year later, I walked up the jetway to the waiting arms of my mother right outside the gate. We walked out of the airport, never passing security checkpoints or massively armed personnel. Our day hadn’t come yet. We, as Americans, were still allowed to live in a dream world where things like bombs and terrorism didn’t affect us.

So, what is this world coming to? It’s not coming or going anywhere. It’s stuck in that same awful place where human beings kill other innocent human beings for some purpose only they can find justification for. It’s a horrible place. And sadly, the United States is now at the table along with every other nation of the world. I wish we weren’t. For the sake of my children, I’d give anything to go back to the way it used to be. But yesterday is a stark reminder that those days are gone and likely never to return in my lifetime. I’ve accepted it. And that brings me the most sadness of all.

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What’s in Your Bucket?

Not everyone may be aware of this, but my life is about to end.

Okay, maybe that’s a tad dramatic when it comes to the fact that I’ll be celebrating my fortieth birthday in a couple of months. But reaching this milestone has not exactly been something I’ve been looking forward to.

Either way, the reality of its proximity has made me a bit reflective lately. So when someone over lunch mentioned a bucket list, (something I have heretofore considered stupid), it got me thinking.

First of all, how blessed are we to live in a time when the concept of a bucket list even exists. I mean, I can’t imagine people alive in the middle ages were sitting around composing bucket lists. What would one of those even look like anyway.

1. Don’t contract cholera

2. Avoid the plague

3. Make sure someone of noble birth never catches a glimpse of my beautiful wife or she will likely disappear to some castle and I will likely end up dead.

Not exactly the kind of list one would compose for entertainment purposes.

But in our time and place on this planet, we have options. And so I got to thinking, what would my bucket list look like. Should I start my bucket list from right now, or should I recognize the things that would have been on my bucket list but I have already been blessed to see them happen. I decided I liked the second option better.

So without further ado, my pre-40th-birthday-pity-party-present-to-myself: My 2013 Bucket List

1. Don’t contract swine flu, avian flu, SARS…or cholera. (Just because it doesn’t make for a great list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include it.)

2. Be there to witness my childrens’ reactions on their first trip to Disneyland

2a. Oops…Be there to witness all of my childrens’ reactions on their first trip to Disneyland

3. Visit at least a portion of all 50 states. (20 down, 30 to go)

4. Attend a round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta, Georgia.

5. Eat one of the world famous pimento and cheese sandwiches at Augusta National while attending a round of The Masters (wait, is that the same nasty concoction that my Granny used to try and force feed me when I was three? Yeah…forget this one.)

6. Visit England

7. Visit England while not under the strict rules of being a full-time Mormon missionary (Two years in the country and not once did I get to eat a meal in a proper English Pub with a cool name like Hound and Goose or The Bald Duke. However, members did take us to an authentic Turkish restaurant, complete with a belly-dancer. Awesome food, left before the belly-dancer got started.)

8. Eat at an authentic Turkish restaurant and see the belly-dancer (Just kidding, sweetie)

9. Be the only single solitary soul on the #1 rated beach in America, Kaanapali beach in Maui. Oh wait…

9. Be the only single solitary soul on the #1 rated beach in America, Kaanapali beach in Maui.

10. Live somewhere other than in the Sonoran Desert (Again, without the strict rules of being a full-time Mormon missionary)

11. Dance with my daughters at their weddings

12. See a Cirque du Soliel show in Las Vegas

13. Understand half of what I saw in a Cirque du Soliel show in Las Vegas.

14. Golf Pebble Beach

15. Take my boys to the ASU/UofA football game in Sun Devil Stadium. (Hopefully to be crossed off in Nov. 2013)

16. Play in a golf tournament complete with a tropy that would have my name on it if I won

17. Win a golf tournament complete with a trophy that would have my name on it when I won (Dang you Justin Echols)

18. Go on a cruise for a week where I am stuck in close proximity to thousands of people I have no desire to know, living in a cabin the size of my kids’ bathroom and gaining 35 lbs. because my wife is still in the cabin, sea sick, and I have nothing else to do but eat at the never-ending buffets (Whoa, how did this get here. This belongs on my please, oh please, don’t ever make me do this anti-bucket list. Weird.)

19. Run with the bulls in Pamplona (This will be the last thing I do because of its kick-the-bucket list potential)

20. Golf a PGA tournament course

21. Golf Kapalua again because I can’t imagine a place being much closer to heaven

22. Touring New Zealand and visiting some of the scenic sites captured in the Lord of the Rings movies

23. Pick my kids up from their mission

24. Greet my kids at the airport when they come home from their mission (Can’t decide between these last two. I’ve fantasized about both. Either way, as long as they go on a mission I get to do one or the other, hopefully)

25. Write a book

26. Get my book published

27. Go on a book signing tour (I’ve heard these are brutal. But I can’t complain about them if I’ve never done one, right?)

28. Sell millions of copies of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER and become known the world over as the American Victor Hugo (Wait, didn’t he have multiple affairs and get thrown out of, not one, but two countries for inciting political upheaval? Maybe I should shoot for the American Stephen King…What? He’s already an American? Well snot! I suppose if I can sell enough copies to keep my publisher from hanging a picture of me in his office under the heading of “Worst Mistake I Ever Made”, that will be good enough.)

29. Throw a huge party when I celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary (I mean huge. And all of you are invited…if you’re still alive.)

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives August 13, 2013. Pre-order now on Amazon.com or through Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ.  Also, take the time to go “like” the Ryan Rapier, Author page on facebook. You’ll be glad you did. Well, I can’t say for certain if that’s true or not, but…I’ll be glad you did. 

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Dreams Are For Rookies…And People From The Gila Valley

Confession Time: I hate American Idol. I haven’t always hated American Idol, but I’ve never been a fan. However, add Nicki Minaj to anything and my like vs. hate needle will quickly shift toward the extreme dislike.

Truth be told, I’ve only watched one half of one season. That would be the David Cook vs. David Archuleta season and it mildly held my interest, but when it was over, so was my desire to see any more.

One of my biggest complaints has always been the audition process. I just hate seeing people desperate to get on TV make fools of themselves, or even worse, people who truly believe they have talent, who…WOW…Just Don’t!

Because of my feelings about American Idol, I have never watched America’s Got Talent, The X-Factor, and up until three weeks ago, The Voice.

But then word started seeping out that a local boy from good ol’ Thatcher, Arizona was going to be making an appearance on the NBC show. I don’t believe I’ve ever met Ryan Innes, but I know his parents very well and other members of his family are some of my very best friends. So, three weeks ago, out of loyalty, I tuned in to the premiere of The Voice.

You know what? The show ain’t that bad. I genuinely like each of the judges. They are entertaining in their back and forth with each other and you get the sense that they actually enjoy working together. They also don’t get in the way of the people who are performing.

Which brings me to my favorite part of this show. From the first night, the worst performance I have seen was still pretty darn good. They don’t force the viewers to wade through hours of off-key train wrecks. You get right to the good stuff. And the added dimension of the judges not knowing what the peformers look like and having to make judgements on the voice alone is actually very intriguiging. Overall, I have been enjoying this show a great deal. The one thing I wasn’t seeing was Ryan Innes.

Then, last night, we got word that after three weeks, he would finally be on. So, my family and I settled in for the duration. And we waited…and waited…and finally after the full two hour broadcast, (I missed the entire NCAA basketball finale between Louisville and Michigan. How is that for friendship and loyalty? I should be getting an ice cream cone or something. Anyway…) Ryan showed up as the final act for the night. Now we have seen four episodes prior to this one so we knew that if you get showcased in the final position of the night, it’s going to be pretty good for you. And…to see how it went, click here.

I have to say that even though I have never met him, I am very proud of Ryan. But my favorite part of that video are the shots of the family. You see, dreams are funny things. You don’t wake up one day with a dream and walk down to The Voice studios and make it a reality. They are often years in the making. And almost no one makes them happen alone.

I know that Ryan has worked incredibly hard in order to get to that stage we saw him on last night. But I also know he wouldn’t have made it there without the support and strength provided by the people waiting for him in that backstage room jumping up and down, clapping and crying, cheering him on. I know that the joy they felt in that moment was made all the more sweet because there have been many times when things didn’t go so well, and instead of celebrating, their job was to console.

Now, because this is my blog and because I am still in the process of plugging a book, I will now direct this post back to me. Please know that I am not so self-aware that I don’t recognize how me-centric I appear. Anyway, I was so happy for Ryan Innes to be able to achieve a little more of his overall dream last night. It was interesting for me to watch because it also caused me to reflect.

Earlier that day, Shannon and I had traveled down to Mesa and during the course of the conversation, we began talking about the number of people we know who are trying to get a book published. And my wife made the comment, “Do you realize how lucky you are?”

The truth is, I do. However, I probably don’t realize it enough. Because it’s true, I am extremely lucky. And even on days where I stress out because I have no idea what else I can do to spread the word and generate interest in my book, I need to remember how truly fortunate I am. I am living my dream. And like most dreams, it hasn’t come easy, but because of the support of my wife, my family and some very dear friends, I was able to be in a position to be lucky.

So to the entire Innes family, I want to express my deepest congratulations.  Last night was awesome. Ryan was awesome. And regardless of what happens next, Ryan Innes killed it in front of millions of people on network television. No one can ever take that away. To my friend, Brad Hull, I again extend my congrats on the milestones he and his fellow Due Westers continue to achieve. If they never find themselves headlining at major arenas around the country and world, they still have sung on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry. That is their moment that belongs to them and no one else.

And to myself? You, Mr. Rapier, are one lucky bastage who probably doesn’t deserve this opportunity you’re receiving. But even if the book flops and it is the only one you ever publish, you need to remember that moment on December 21st, 2012, when the e-mail from Cedar Fort publishing hit your in-box. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. And remember that you’re lucky, because dreams don’t just happen for everybody.

Ryan Innes can be seen on THE VOICE, Monday and Tuesday nights on NBC.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER drops August 13, 2013. It is currently available for pre-order at Bookworms Bookstore and from Amazon.com. Please visit Ryan Rapier’s author page on Facebook at facebook.comryanrapierauthor and like us if you like.

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When Did Civility Become the Dirtiest Word?

…there are times when the lack of civility in sports is embarrassing. How is it that normally kind and compassionate human beings can be so intolerant and filled with hatred toward an opposing team and its fans?…unfortunately we see today too often the same kind of attitude and behavior spill over into the public discourse of politics, ethnicity, and religion. – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I remember the exact moment I heard those words the first time. I was sitting in a darkened chapel, watching the priesthood session of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as I do every six months. When President Uchtdorf gave this particular talk, President Obama had been in office for just under two years and we were a month away from the mid-term elections. At the time, it was one of the most powerful and influential talks I had ever heard. To this day, it still is. I remember looking around and wondering if everyone around me felt as changed as I felt. I couldn’t sense any cosmic shift in the mood of the room and so I assumed that maybe my epiphany was mine and mine alone. My feelings only seemed to be confirmed as the election got even closer and the discourse, even among church members, continued to decline.

Now, many hot-button issues and one more general election later, I feel certain that the message given that night is one that has either been interpreted differently or altogether forgotten by many of my faith.

There are two things I will refer to specifically. There would be three, but I have addressed the ugliness over illegal immigration before and choose not to rehash that issue now.

The first thing that causes me a lot of heartburn is the vicious bile spewed constantly toward President Obama. I will be the first to admit that I disagree with the man on most issues. I believe in many instances, his economic policies are detrimental to the well-being of our nation.

But frankly, he is not the devil. He is a fellow child of our Heavenly Father who loves his two daughters, enjoys golf and has a passion for college basketball. Take politics out of the equation, and he sounds like a person I would very much enjoy getting to know. For my friends on the left who are nodding their heads vigorously, hold up a second. The same could easily be said of his predecessor.

Furthermore, I have to respect the man for his convictions. While I may disagree with many of them, I recognize in President Obama a belief that he is trying to do what is best for this country. For instance, I don’t agree with most of his healthcare bill, but at the end of the day, his goal is to provide coverage for more individuals. Is that really a terrible goal? He’s also trying to push preventative care and healthier living.  Advances in both of those areas would definitely bring down healthcare costs. I’m not a huge fan of forcing people to live a certain way, but the reality is, freedom comes with a price. And if you choose to live unhealthily, where does society’s responsibility end when it comes to footing the bill for your costs?

Now, I know many on the right would say, “Exactly. That is why we shouldn’t have Medicare or Medicaid. Either you can afford your healthcare or you can’t.” But come on. Are you really willing to be the one who stands there in the ER and say, “Well, tough luck there, buddy. We have the technology to save you, but your credit card is maxed out. I guess you should have made better choices. Soyonara, pal.” I would hope you are not. And if you are not, don’t be so quick to put that onus on someone else.

And so when the President comes at this issue from his point of view, I find it hard to vilify him for it. He is trying to solve a problem. I may think there are better solutions, and I can voraciously defend my views, but I have no business as a follower of Christ making the whole thing personal.

The second item I will address that gives me heartburn is the ugliness that has been brewing for years over same-sex marriage or marriage equality. And yes, there is a reason I use both monikers.

The older I get, the more I become convinced that we might be missing the point. History is full of examples where time and again, one part of society has a distinct advantage over another. What is interesting is how the majority segment of society then uses whatever weapons they may have in their arsenal to keep the minority in their place. But eventually, every majority gets their turn as the minority. It happens over and over again.

And so, I’ve started to believe that on an individual basis, we each will be judged on how well we lived up to God’s expectations of us. But I think there might also be a second part to that test. And that is, how did you treat those over whom you had an advantage?

So I hope I cause no one offense when I say that I care very little how the Supreme Court rules on the issue of marriage. Mainly because I don’t believe the issue is really about marriage at all. I believe it is about legitimacy.

I believe every human being wants legitimacy. As a Mormon I want legitimacy. Why else would I bristle every time a Christian of a different denomination says I don’t belong in their fraternity? Why should I care what they think? But I do. Because I am the minority in a Christian world and I am offended when I am told that my belief in Christ isn’t real…isn’t valid…isn’t legitimate.

I also believe gays and lesbians have the natural human desire to be seen as equal and fellow human beings. And it is impossible for them to feel they have that status if they are denied the ultimate expression of a committed relationship in our society. Frankly, I can see their point.

However, I believe this issue would be in a much different place today if society’s treatment of the LGBT community had been different stretching back decades ago. Not necessarily starting with, but specifically, the 1980s.

When the AIDS epidemic hit, if Christian people everywhere had opened their arms and their hearts to scared individuals who were facing a plague they didn’t understand; if they had put their arms around terrified people who were dying and ministered to them the way their Savior would have, and not ridiculed and cursed those afflicted by saying, “it’s what they deserve,” I believe the national discourse between mainstream Christianity and the LGBT community would be quite different today. And most of us in the Christianity camp would probably be happier with that. Because guess what. Little by little, Christians are getting their shot at being the minority. And come to find out, we don’t like having many of the same tactics used by our side in the past now being used against us. It’s not near as fun to be labled a “hater” as it was to make snide comments regarding “Adam and Steve.”

I’m sure many people will read this as my endorsement of gay marriage. It isn’t. But at the same time, I am not endorsing its opposition either. I do believe that the ideal situation, and the one God would prefer, is that each child enter a home with a loving father and mother. Basically, my beliefs adhere to the LDS Church’s Proclamation on the Family. But I am also aware of the fact that the ideal isn’t always reality. In fact, quite often it is not reality even in homes with a traditional mother and father.

I’ve heard the arguments bandied about that if gay marriage becomes the law of the land it will cheapen those with a traditional marriage and lead to the further destruction of society as we know it. Well…

1. Most Christian faiths don’t recognize my marriage in an LDS temple as anything special. To everyone not of the LDS faith, my marriage is no different than anybody else’s. But to me, I believe it has special significance. And if the state of Arizona were to someday not recognize my temple marriage as a legitimate ceremony, and we found ourselves in a situation like that in England where we needed to be married civilly before we could be married in the temple, it would not change my view of the importance of my marriage. Neither would a government law redefining one nation’s defnition of marriage.

2. Which vaunted society would we be destroying? The same one that once declared a black man as only 3/5 of a person? Or maybe the one that rounded up every Japanese American during WWII and put them in prison internment camps? Or maybe the one that still perpetuates a reservation system for the Native Americans that has done more to destroy a once proud people than any war that was ever waged against them? Letting two people of the same gender get married hardly rises to the level of any of these previous examples.

3. I cannot help but comment on the fact that I belong to a church with a tenuous position when it comes to this issue. I’ve heard arguments to the fact that the difference between gay marriage and the plural marriages practiced among the early saints is that each marriage within a plural marriage was performed between one man and one woman. Maybe so, but the fact remains that we once held a stance outside of the traditional marriage argument being waged today. And if you take into account our eternal view of things and the current practices allowed for a man whose wife has passed on,  you could make the argument that we still do. It is uncomfortable, but true.

Once again, I’m not trying to use these arguments to advocate for gay marriage or marriage equality. I know it probably sounds like I am, but I’m not. The truth is, I don’t care. In my view, the issue has become so toxic that there is no chance for winners, only losers. No matter which way the Supreme Court rules, the fighting will continue. And Christian families with children or siblings who are gay will still not have any idea how they are supposed to act or feel. People will continue to be hurt and relationships will continue to be lost. All because winning has become more important than caring.

There is an old saying, “Love the sinner, not the sin.” How I wish we could rewrite that phrase to say simply, “Love the sinner.” That way, there is no wiggle room to justify a lack of civility. We are all sinners and all in need of love from each other and from God. How different would our discourse (and our facebook news feeds) be if we could get to that point?

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Random Streams of Consciousness

After all the sugar that entered my blood stream over the weekend, it is hard for me to maintain a single coherent thought for more than a minute. Therefore, today, I am going to comment on a topic until I lost interest or focus and then move on to another topic.  We’ll see how it goes.

– Speaking of sugar, why is it that every major historical achievement that warrants its own holiday has been reduced to seeing how much unhealthy food a person can ingest in a day? For instance, how do we honor the truly blessed event of our forebears discovering this land of opportunity and plenty? By eating pie. Not a piece of pie, a pie…each…maybe plural. And you can top that pie off with some turkey and rich mashed potatoes dripping with gravy. But regardless of what the main course holds, you better have 36 pies waiting in the wings on Thanksgiving day or people will begin to question your level of gratitude.

Or how about the birth of the Son of God, the person responsible for each of us being able to return to live with God?  That’s right, Candy Canes, Sugar Cookies and any sort of imalgimation of chocolate, peanut butter, popcorn/rice crispies, and frosting. And nothing says Glory to God in the highest like a reenactment of the nativity topped off by several glasses of egg nog…and cake balls. (Who invented cake/oreo balls? Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever simultaneously loved and hated one person more in my entire life.)

And finally, how does the modern day Christian celebrate the single greatest act ever performed for the benefit of all mankind? With ham, of course. And as many Cadbury chocolate eggs as you can scrounge because you know full well the day after Easter their black market value will quadruple.

So, as I step on the treadmill today after a complete meltdown this weekend, (my wife had the nerve to tell me Saturday night to stop eating the ice cream in the freezer. I calmly explained that the only way that was going happen was if she stopped buying the ice cream to put in the freezer in the first place.)  I will start again and work tirelessly over the next month to undo the damage I inflicted on myself in three short days. Hey, that should be just in time for Memorial Day. AWESOME!!!

– For those who may have wondered, I didn’t win my golf tournament. I didn’t even come close. And I think the reasons are, #1, I am not that good of a golfer. #2, I need to quit getting so excited in the days leading up to this event. I was so overly amped that I barely slept three or four hours the night before and then spent the first six holes unable to breathe out of excitement. By the end of those six holes? I was down 13 shots. Yeah, that’s not a good recipe for success right there.

– Letting your kids make decisions for themselves has got to be the hardest thing to do in the world. This morning, my son was so excited that it was April Fool’s Day (AFD). He desperately wanted to wrap his arm up and put it in a sling for school. Now think through this with me for a second. He wanted to dibilitate himself for an entire day by removing the use of one arm so that he could yell, “April Fools” during the last five minutes of school. Who really gets punk’d in this situation? I can only imagine everyone around him who had the full function of both arms all day long reacting with a barely interested, “Huh? Oh…good one.”

Good one that is, until he mentioned that his best friend pulled the same prank a couple of years ago. Now take another moment to think about this.  Who are you trying to prank on AFD? Your friends, of course. So…do we really think your best friend, the same guy who has performed this clever act of subterfuge before is gonna be taken in by this? My son’s response, “Well, it was two years ago and he only had a wrist brace.” Okay, got me there, son. He won’t see this coming at all. But this is the same son who demanded to wear a neck tie with his polo shirt to school. I tried desperately to stop him, but he assured me everyone else was doing it. Turns out, he was right. At least five other boys were taking part in this fashion travesty. I don’t know what that says about his friends, but it reminded me that sometimes, I just have to let things go.

– A trend that has started in the last few years is having video trailers for books, much like previews to a movie. If my book is going to have one, I have to produce it myself and I have had some initial conversations regarding just that. However, I was hoping that I might get some input. I know not many people like to respond to blog posts, me included, but if you have a moment, please tell me if you have ever seen a book trailer. And if so, did it help in your decision to seek out a book that you might not have otherwise read? I’m just curious.

-Finally, a personal request that if you are a reader and interact with other readers, please introduce them to this blog or send them to facebook.com/ryanrapierauthor on facebook so they can like my page and get updates regarding THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER as its release date gets closer. In the next couple of months, the cover art from the book as well as previews from early chapters will appear on this blog and hopefully heighten people’s interest in the story.

So if you know a family that might be interested in a humorous LDS novel about life, love and relationships, set a date to ask them to visit this blog by, invite them over for dinner and if they accept, I can just happen to be there as well to share a short message about my book. Oh wait, that sounds a little too familiar. Never mind. If you could just mention my page to anyone who might find it interesting, I could ask for nothing more.  Thank you.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER arrives in bookstores August 13, 2013. It is currently available for pre-order through amazon.com by clicking here or through Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ.

 

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