Monthly Archives: June 2013

An “I’m Ready For My Close-up Mr. DeMille” Q&A

While it remains a little less than two months until THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER hits the streets, we are now less than one month away from another milestone that is equally important in book selling circles.

That milestone is The Blog Tour.

Blog Tour photo

For the uninitiated, a blog tour is where an author takes his book into the cold, cruel world and makes it available for book bloggers to review and highlight on their site. The idea is that the author try and schedule as many reviews or mentions on as many blogs as possible on consecutive days. This is meant to maximize your book’s impact in the marketplace. So, I have been working feverishly to try and book up as many of my blog tour dates as possible for the weeks of July 22nd through August 16th.

As I mentioned before, some of these blogs like to include “interviews” as part of their blog tour stops. These interviews are not actual sit-down interviews or even back-and-forth exchanges through e-mail. What usually happens is the blogger provides a list of generic questions to the author and lets him or her choose a dozen or so to answer. Those questions and answers are then posted to the website on the day of the tour stop.

While I don’t hate this idea, I certainly think it would be more interesting, as far as I’m concerned, if they would let me choose my own questions to answer. But since most bloggers won’t let me do that, I choose to occassionally do it myself simply for the fun of it.

So, in honor of my upcoming blog tour that starts a month from last Saturday, I present Another Interview with Author and Genius Extraordinaire, Wile E. Coyo…er, Ryan Rapier.

In a book like THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, characters and their traits can bear a strong resemblance to actual people. Are you concerned that people you know might see themselves in some of your characters and be offended by their portrayal?

Yes. Especially those people on whom I actually based the characters. I’ve already apologized to my father and told him not to read the book. (It should be noted for anyone who knows my father that the father character in the book is an amalgamation of many people I know and not a strict representation of my own father. Now I pray he sees it that way.)

Your book, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER, has been released on Netgalley, a source for readers to get advance copies of books in exchange for a review on the website Goodreads. Consequently, you now have several reviews and ratings of your book already out in the public domain. Does this concern you?

Not really. However, I am very curious about how the woman who runs the site, Literal Hotties Naughty Book Reviews is going to rate my book. Based on the near pornographic images that lead off her website, I have a feeling my book probably did not meet her expectations.

Now that you are involved in the marketing phase of your book being published, what has been the most disappointing aspect of trying to get the word out about THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER?

This is an easy one. By far the most disappointing aspect of marketing my book has been the fact that my publicist at Cedar Fort is a Lakers fan. He’s a decent enough guy and so I naturally expected so much more of him. But since forgiveness and redemption play such a large role in my book, I choose to overlook this one character flaw that he has and simply move forward with our relationship despite the fact that he feels no remorse for his “sins”.

No, really, what has been the most disappointing aspect of marketing your book?

Two things, I suppose. The first is that there isn’t a huge pile of money sitting there to provide unlimited advertising on any medium I choose. Large piles of money always make marketing a much easier proposition. The other thing, and I have voiced this before, is that there is this need in publishing to pigeon-hole what genre your book falls in. I mean, I understand why, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. I literally hate this conversation:

“So, is your book a romance?”

“Well, there is a romantic aspect to it, but I don’t think I would characterize it as a straight forward romance.”

“Is it historical?”

“No.”

“Fantasy?”

“No.”

“Science-fiction?”

“Again, no.”

Befuddled looks abound before the next question, “Contemporary YA?”

“What on earth is that?”

“Contemporary Young Adult.”

“Then, no.”

“…So, then…it’s a romance.”

“Fine, if that makes you feel better, it’s a romance.” Under my breath I add, “Except it’s not.”

In terms of success, what would you like to see your book do?

Well, become an international best-seller and provide me millions upon millions of dollars to live the lifestyle I would love to become accustomed to. I mean, seriously, what kind of question is that? I realize the PC answer would be, “Any success this book has is just gravy on top of the joy I have felt in having it published.” I have actually given this answer, but any author being even remotely truthful is going to give the original answer I just did.

In realistic terms of success, what do you expect your book to do?

Not much. I hope for the best, but understand I’ll be lucky to see little, if any, return. It just is what it is. When people joke that I’m going to be a world famous author, I smile because that would be great. But I know better. The same type of chances exist that I will win the lottery. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe I am speaking to the quality of my book, it is just such a crowded marketplace. I’m sure great works of literature die in obscurity all the time. It’s just all about being in the right place at the right time…the same getting struck by lightening.

You’ve remarked often about how hard it is to plug yourself and your book all the time. Why is that?

Because I don’t want to be the guy who is always yelling, “Look at me, look at me.” I’d much rather be recognized by people who come across my writing and then seek me out to tell me they enjoyed it. It seems like it would be more genuine that way. Unfortunately, if you try that approach, very few people end up “happening” upon your work. So you have to make a spectacle of yourself. Beg people to read what you have written and then pray they aren’t disappointed. It is, in a way, the old concept of under promise/over deliver vs. over promise/under deliver. If you are constantly talking about this great book you’ve written, you are in the game of over promising. It just makes me uncomfortable.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world about your upcoming release, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER?

Only that it is THE BEST BOOK YOU WILL READ THIS YEAR. BUY IT NOW, BUY IT OFTEN. PURCHASING THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER WILL BE THE BEST DECISION YOU MAKE IN YOUR LIFETIME!!!!!

(I said I didn’t like to do it. I didn’t say anything about not being willing to do it.)

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is available for pre-order by clicking on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble links contained at the top of the page. You can also visit any bookstore that sells LDS-themed books and request a copy be ordered for you to be ready on August 13. If you live in the Gila Valley, visit Bookworms Bookstore to request a copy that will be ready for our launch party August 17. Thanks again to everyone who has already pre-ordered or is planning on pre-ordering this book. It means a great deal to me.

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They Like Me, They Really Like Me

For those of you who post regularly on Facebook, what’s the greatest feeling in the world? Come on, admit it.  That’s right. It’s the moment when you realize that something you posted is catching steam. The one status update that has over 20 likes and 10 comments. I’m not sure why, but it is a complete rush to know that you said something clever, witty or important enough to compel multiple people to move their thumb a fraction of an inch to press their smart phone’s screen. It’s an even greater rush to know that you affected people in such a way that they would actually take time to type out a response.

Okay, maybe you all aren’t that self-absorbed. But come on, you know there is some truth to what I’m describing. Otherwise, why would we take to the time to post in the first place?

Well, I have now learned that the rush associated with successful social media excursions is but a small part of the euphoria that is possible out there in internet land. Let me explain.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER was released on a site called Netgalley this last week. What Netgalley does is provide your book electronically to people who read books and then review them on blogs or Goodreads or other digital formats. It’s a way to build a buzz about your upcoming release. So far, about ten people have requested THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER through Netgalley. I am fully aware that the number is not overly impressive. But of those ten, four have already completed the book and given it a rating. The ratings on Goodreads goes from zero stars to five stars with five stars being the best. So far, all four have given my book a rating of four stars or higher. Yeah Me!!!

But the thing that provided the great euphoria I described above was the one person who actually wrote a review. This person is someone I have never met, nor were they approached to read my book for any endorsement type purposes.

Her name is Nan (that is all that is provided on her profile) and her review of my book landed on June 14, 2013…my 40th birthday.

Prior to my finding of her review, I had been sitting in my office taking care of odd jobs and trying not to be depressed at my rapidly declining youth. It wasn’t that the day had been bad or anything, it just-by virtue of its existence-was a bit meloncholy. And then I logged onto Goodreads (because I am completely narcissistic) to see if anything had changed on THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER’s page. Low and behold it had.

Sitting at the top of the review portion of the page was Nan’s review. It started with all five stars being shaded red which means she had rated it as high as she could. Right then, my spirits started lifting. Next, I read the following words in her review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Oh my, the way it touches on so many different topics within the LDS culture. Wow! Truly one of the best reads this summer. I won’t bore you with the synopsis. You can read that… You won’t be disappointed.

Suddenly, my day was pretty awesome. Some person I had never met, who had no motive to say anything except what she truly thought about a piece of work that had consumed over a year and a half of my life, not only liked it, but recommended it highly. I wanted to cry. I didn’t. But I thought about it.

So, I want to thank Nan for her kind words that ended up lifting my spirits on a day that had thus far left me a little depressed. And I want to recognize my belief in, and personally thank, my God, who I believe loves each of his children enough to send them a little pick-me-up at just the right time when He feels they need one. That knowledge is something that truly does make me feel a little special. I hope it does you as well.

For anyone wanting to add THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER to their Goodreads bookshelf, you can do it easily by clicking here. For anyone thinking this is the most self-indulgent post they have ever seen, I have not given you a link to click because…I didn’t want to. I suppose you could comment and really let me have it, but I will leave that up to you.

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Putting the BS in BSA

So today is kind of big day. It certainly is a day surrounded by milestones. Exactly three months from yesterday, my wife Shannon and I will welcoming our fifth (and last) child to the world. Two months from today will be the release of THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. Let me repeat that. Two months from today and I will be a published author. That is just cool to say. Sorry, I digress.

And also, today is my last day as a thirtysomething. Tomorrow is my fortieth birthday. I am not happy. But anyway, how did I spend my last week as a carefree young man in my thirties? I took a group of boys up to the Boy Scout owned and operated Camp Geronimo. King of the party animals aren’t I?

I want to pause in my narrative to take you back and place you in my adolescent 12-year-old mind. I am sitting in a campsite as my scoutmaster goes over all of the requirements to receive the “Big G” award at Geronimo.

Me: “Why on earth would I want to do any of this garbage? I don’t want yell some silly troop chant at dinner. I sure as heck don’t want to sing at dinner. And can someone explain to me why in the heck I would want to get up at 5:00 in the morning to go jump in a freezing cold pool and swim a lap so I can get some patch to put on a shirt I don’t even wear on a normal basis? That just seems idiotic.”

To put it mildly, I was not the ideal 12-year-old scout. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy scout camp at Geronimo as a youth. I remember spending entire afternoons shooting twenty-two rifles at targets trying to work my way up the marksmanship ladder. I remember thinking the skits performed at the campfire by the staff were funny and I even enjoyed swimming in a pool with 100 other stinky, smelly boys my age. It was pretty cool. But when it came to the ceremonial scouting stuff, I immediately turned off and tuned out.

Over the years, my attitudes regarding the BSA have not improved. I think the uniforms are ridiculous. I think the paperwork involved with any aspect of the program is suffocating beyond belief. I think every training or meeting they have could be done in about 1/8 of the time they end up actually taking. And we will not even begin to go down the road of the Friends of Scouting pledge drive. Suffice it to say I tolerate whatever level of involvement the BSA has in my life, but I don’t necessarily welcome it.

Prior to this year, our ward had not been to a BSA owned scout camp in quite a number of years. This was due mainly to the fact that we could put on our own scout camp for less money and have more control over what happens with our boys. But this year, it was requested by men I respect and sustain that we attend a BSA owned camp. So after much inner (and some outer) turmoil, we signed up and began preparations to attend Camp Geronimo this summer.

Flash forward in my narrative to a meeting that occured this last Monday between one of our scout masters and the camp commissioner over our campsite. Come to find out, as our scoutmaster recounted back to myself and the other leader present all of the things required to achieve “Big G Gold”, I realized I care even less about achieving “Big G” recognition now than I did as a 12-year-old. Up until that moment, I was not aware that was possible.

Other things I learned on day one of scout camp:

-If my leaders had to go through what we went through to get us into camp, they were saints. Before we even left, one of our leaders had to print out about a ream worth of paperwork just to be ready for registration.

-Very few things annoy me more than being condescended to. However, I have learned now that I hate being condescended to by a snot-nosed teenager more than regular condescension.

The first thing I did when we arrived at the check-in location was to place myself in line to get registered at the health lodge check-in table. (This is the table where they go over every boy’s and leader’s health records that you have filled out and brought with you.) Everyone else in front of me finished up with their person helping them except for one, leaving me alone on a bench facing the check-in staff made up of sixteen to eighteen-year-old boys. Rather than call me forward, they proceed to start riffing on movie quotes while doing everything in their power to avoid eye contact with me. Finally, an adult nearby looks at me and asks, “Are you waiting to be helped?” Seriously??? I’m sitting on a bench five feet from you all, clearly doing nothing except waiting to be seen. I am holding over 80 sheets of paper (just like the five guys that were ahead of me) and you are asking if I am waiting to be helped? When I stated that yes I was waiting for just that, the little @*#&@ directly in front of me finally looks at me and says, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were with him.” He then pointed to a guy seated fifteen feet away to whom I had not spoken during my entire time in line. I bit my lip and proceeded.

-Ty Page is awesome. Ty used to be the district person over scouting here in the Gila Valley. When he was here, he was amazing to work with. He may not always give you the answer you wanted to hear, but if he didn’t, he explained why he couldn’t and always did his best to be accommodating and kind. Ty is now in charge of Camp Geronimo. He has only been there a year or two, but you can already see his influence. The BSA camp now accommodates LDS troops who won’t come over Sunday by moving classes and campfires to fit the new schedule. He is positive and always expresses his appreciation for you being there. In short, he displays an amazing amount of customer service, his customers being the troops who choose to come to Geronimo. Sadly, Ty has inherited a staff that doesn’t always see things his way.

-Under Ty are a group of men known as camp commissioners. These men each oversee a certain number of campsites throughout the camp and whoever you are assigned to, that commissioner becomes your main point of contact throughout the week. My poor friend Justin was designated to go represent us at the first meeting with our camp commissioner. Now, this meeting shouldn’t have had to take place because we arrived in plenty of time at check-in to meet with our commissioner, but before we arrived, he had decided that he didn’t want to stick around. See, our commissioner is a lifer. One who breathes, eats and sleeps scouting and doesn’t like to see traditions changed. Especially changes that cater to a group of people who don’t appreciate scouting like they should in the first place.

So, Justin’s first introduction to this guy is when he is calling role. Time had progressed to the point that our Senior Patrol Leader (the boy who is designated as leader of the troop. It should also be mentioned that not once did anyone from Geronimo refer to him as Senior Patrol Leader, it was always SPL. It took me about fifteen minutes to figure out the acronym because I didn’t want to look any more stupid than I already did by asking what it stood for.) needed to get off to class. Justin had leaned over to tell our boy this when the commissioner called out our troop number at role call. Justin didn’t hear him. So when he called it out again, he responded with “here”. The commissioner’s response was, and I quote, “A little slow aren’t we? Why don’t we do this again?” He then proceeded to go through the entire role call until he reached our number. When Justin responded affirmatively the first time, he was rewarded with a snarky, “That’s better.”

In this meeting, Justin was not wearing his scout uniform. He wasn’t required to, at least not in writing. But when the commissioner came up to him, he called him John. Justin responded that it was Justin. The answer he received was that the commissioner thought it must surely be John, as in John Deere, because that was the insignia emblazoned on the shirt he was wearing. This guy is quite the comedian. And not condescendingly obnoxious at all.

Next, the commissioner asks Justin if our troop has full scout uniforms, including pants, socks and belts, for each boy and leader. Justin replies that we do not. The immediate response is that it will be impossible for us to get “Big G Gold.” (We were heartbroken.) However, just to make it a little more painful for Justin, he then spends the next ten minutes going over the rest of the requirements for “Big G Gold” and then finishes by telling my poor worn out friend-who had been up since three o’clock that morning in order to get our boys there-that with his troop, they tried to go back and find the last time they hadn’t achieved “Big G Gold” and just couldn’t find it. They went back over twenty years and just couldn’t find a year they didn’t achieve “Big G Gold”. To which I say, “Amazing. May I please doff my cap to thee.”

-Camp inspections happen every day. I don’t have a problem with that. It seems fair. However, guess who does our camp inspection. If you said the camp commissioner, you are correct. On day one, he comes into camp and we had not filled out the camp inspection form and placed it on our bulletin board as it so clearly stated we needed to in our camp handbook guide booklet thing. After looking our camp over, the commissioner comes back and says, “I’m just going to be blunt, guys. This is really not good.” He then proceeds to tell us all the things wrong with our campsite-most of which revolve around us not filling out the required paperwork and placing it one the bulleting board. To get the idea of what we are talking about, think of that public restroom you go to  that has employee initials next to the times they did a clean bathroom check. Pretty much the same concept here.

Anyway, he docks us pretty hard and leaves. The next morning, we do a much better job, especially on our documentation. As he walks into camp, he has not yet had a chance to see anything beyond our front table which looks exactly the same as it did the day before. From his vantage point, the camp does not appear any different than it had the previous day. However, our checklist is posted on our bulletin board, and that he can see. The first words out of his mouth as he approaches are, “Oh my, this is so much better.” Really??? Good job fighting the “BSA requires way too much paperwork” stereotype there buddy.

Once he completed his inspection, he returned to our main camp area and sat down to review. He said if we still wanted to achieve some sort of “Big G” recognition, we would need to accomplish some things. He then went through the list. At no point did we indicate that we wanted to do this, I just believe he couldn’t comprehend how troop leaders wouldn’t care. Anyway, as he is going through the requirements, he says, “Well, a scout is trustworthy, so if you tell me you did your chant at dinner” (So not happening) “then I’ll believe you. And if you say you did your song at dinner” (Again, see the previous aside) “then a scout is trustworthy and I’ll believe you. By the way, I’m going to need you to backdate those forms you have up on the bulletin board there so that it looks like you did those things every day, even though you weren’t even here on Monday and I didn’t really inspect your camp.” Anyone else see the irony? Because he didn’t.

There are other things I could share about my Geronimo experience, but I won’t because this post is already way too long. There were some positives. Some really solid and good positives. And there were some amazing, eye-roll inducing, head-scratching negatives. Thankfully, another leader came yesterday to spell me so that I didn’t have to stay the whole week. Not that I wasn’t enjoying the time with the boys, but it was 95 degrees in the mountains. Miserable. Anyway, the main thing I learned is that I respect Ty Page even more now. He has a very tough job and I wish him the best as he goes about it. Also, I learned that when we have to go back in two years, there are things we can do ahead of time to be prepared and not face the wrath of a lifer. And believe me, we will definitely Be Prepared.

But I will say this. If the boys I am with aren’t jazzed about achieving “Big G” status, I’m still not going to push it on them. Because as I was standing there yesterday morning outside the dining hall with some Smoky the Bear look-a-like demanding that we all sing a song or he wouldn’t let us in to eat, I realized something. Whether I was twelve or two days away from turning forty, that guy looked like the world’s biggest dork either way. And while there are many things in which I am lacking, my boys can always count on at least one thing from me. I will never require something of them that I would not be willing to do myself. And that most definitely includes yelling or singing at dinner.

As a warning, I feel I should inform everyone that THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER contains interactions between characters that convey some of my feelings about scouting. While I also tried to include things that show the organization in a positive light, my overall sense of disdain might come through. If this offends you, I apologize and beg you to buy the book anyway. Thank you.

The book may be purchased by clicking on the Amazon or Barnes and Noble links located at the top of the page. Or you may pre-order the book at Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher and pick up your copy during our book launch party scheduled for August 17, where you can get your copy signed and indulge  yourself in some kind of unhealthy delicious refreshment at the same time.

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It’s Finally Here…The Cover Art’s World Premiere

Well, since it officially went up on Goodreads this afternoon, I decided I should get it up on the website as soon as possible. So here it is. The official cover art for The Reluctant Blogger.

Official Book Cover

So there you have it. Now I am actively soliciting feedback. What do you think? Does it intrigue you? Does it make you want to read the book more…or less? Use the comments below, use facebook…use the darn phone if you have to. I just really would like to know.

The Reluctant Blogger can be purchased on-line at Amazon.com by clicking here. It can also be preordered at Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher, AZ.

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A Different Kind of Trekkie

In case you haven’t heard, Mormons are weird.

As a Mormon, it was never made more apparent to me how weird we must seem than when I tried to explain to a co-worker, who is not LDS, why I was a little late to work last Thursday.

“Well, see, I had to drive a car load of kids up Mt. Graham so they could take part in a pioneer trek.”

“What’s a pioneer trek?”

“Umm…It’s a way for the young people in our church to learn about their pioneer ancestors and all they experienced in their journey west back in the 1800s.”

“And they have to go up the mountain to do that?”

“Well, no. These kind of things happen in all kinds of different places, but all the fourteen to eighteen-year-old LDS kids from Thatcher went up on Mt Graham for ours.”

“So what do they do?”

“They dress up like pioneers and then push a handcart for several miles over three days from one point on the mountain to another. They aren’t allowed to have any modern conveniences for the most part and they have to prepare their meals the way the pioneers prepared them and eat what the pioneers would have eaten.”

The blank stare that so clearly communicated the message, “You people are %#*@&#% nuts,” was priceless.

But regardless of how looney we might appear to others, I have to say, I am so proud of the kids in our stake. I didn’t go on the trek, but I was up on the mountain all three days of it, which provides a unique perspective…I guess. Anyway, I wanted to document some of the unique things I saw and experienced this past weekend.

-There are few things more impressive than coming up on a large gathering of young people dressed in period clothing. I don’t know why it is impressive, but that first morning when we arrived at the Stake Center, it was awesome. Over three-hundred kids decked out in their pioneer best, excited and nervous but ready to go. It was an incredible vibe to be a small part of.

-One early lesson learned, if each ward is responsible for getting their own kids up the moutain, it is probably best to assign seats in vehicles before they all get intermingled in with the rest of the stake-making it nearly impossible to account for them all or even find them for that matter.

-Another lesson learned. Always follow instructions exactly and if you aren’t clear on the instructions, ASK! The main organizer of the trek stated his vehicle needed to be the lead vehicle and that everyone else should follow him…but just in case you got lost, he provided the location of the final destination. Our vehicle, along with several others, did not want to get stuck behind some buses that one ward had rented so we got out on the road early.  OOPS! They never mentioned that after the stake center, there was a surprise stop at the temple to hear from Brigham Young. I guess we were one of those companies that didn’t follow instructions and would have died on the plains if this were the real deal.

-The next day, I was to be part of the evening program. So another performer and I arrived at the designated campsite at 5:00 p.m., which was right about the time dinner was supposed to be coming off the fires. Not knowing where we were supposed to go, we parked the car and walked down into the main camp. All the expressions of excitement and joy from the previous morning had mostly been replaced by dead stares of exhaustion. Gary Sorenson, the man who had ridden up with me that afternoon, was supposed to be the square dance caller that night. Looking around at all of these kids who were clearly worn out beyond belief, we wondered aloud to each other how much square dancing was actually going to take place that night.

-Bishop Todd Haynie and I were asked to take on the role of prospectors for the kick-off fireside that was held back in February. We were given a bare bones script and asked to improvise where needed to fill in the gaps. Apparently we did alright because we were asked to reprise our roles for the Friday evening program. The problem with Friday night was…there was no script. It was pretty much, “Here’s the order of people performing, and at some point, a mob is going to interrupt the performances and then we’re going to hear from Porter Rockwell after he runs the mob off and then we’ll get right back to the performance schedule. So go up there, keep the program moving and…be funny!!!” No pressure there. The inherent dangers associated with that kind of instruction is that the people who are left to improvise will come up with things to say, that if given a chance to really think through, they probably would never have said. One of those things was Bishop Haynie’s character name was Prospector Pete. As we were getting dressed up and prepared for the program, Gary Sorenson could not get the name Prospector Pete right. He kept calling him Prostate Pete, which led to Proctologist Pete, and so on. In the moment, we thought that might be funny-along with all of the jokes associated with proctology. In hindsight, maybe not so much. Thankfully, most of the proctology jokes (definitely the funniest) got left behind at the staging area and did not make it into the program. Sadly, there was a large hole in the middle of the stage right where you needed to stand to speak into the microphone. Combine that with proctology and there were probably a few jokes that did make it in that also should have been left back in the staging area.

-I was totally impressed. When they called for square dancers, a bunch of those kids got up and did it. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. Amazing.

-They failed to mention to us how serious the Porter Rockwell interruption was going to be. It was very powerful and moving. The question those of us on the stage had once he was done was how on earth are we supposed to tell jokes after that? No offense, but I thought that was a little mean. Nevertheless, in short order one of us said something inappropriate and we were off and going again.

-Another thing that happened during the Porter Rockwell portion of the program was some serious introspection by us MC’s. We had a bit prepared for our finale in the program which would then give way to the spiritual portion of the program. Following the Porter Rockwell thing, it felt like what we had planned might be wildly in bad taste. Even before Porter we were worried it might be crossing a line we shouldn’t cross. But after some eating competitions and some humorous readings by the stake presidency, we decided to proceed. Looking back, I have to ask, “What were we thinking?” Let’s just suffice it to say that we did a song parody that began, “I like big bonnets and I cannot lie.” It was received very well. At least by the youth. After we got off the makeshift stage, both Bishop Haynie and I began to have second thoughts about something we could now not take back, and we were both a little worried about our next interaction with President Kartchner. Apparently we shouldn’t have worried at all. He is now requesting that it be performed again at some future gathering so it can be filmed and put on YouTube. Maybe he really is punishing us after all.

-When I arrived to pick up a carload of youth Saturday afternoon, it was again inspirational to see how positive most everyone was. They were beat down tired and smelled a little riper than usual, but they were excited. It was neat to see how close some of them had become. In fact, I was talking with a friend of mine who had served as a “Pa” and he remarked on how the one thing he hadn’t counted on was how close you could become in just two and a half days to eight kids you hadn’t really known prior to the start of the trek. At this point, I was starting to feel a little jealous that I hadn’t been a part of the whole experience. My pregnant wife of five months would have shot me had I suggested we go, but still, I can’t help but feel like I missed out.

-Four days earlier, our ward considered the fact that we had a stake youth temple assignment Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. to be highly inconvenient. I mean, our kids would only have been home for about 3 hours before they would be expected to be cleaned up and back at the church ready to go to the temple. But as we gathered in the parking lot, we started to realize what a blessing this assignment was. Attendance had not been mandatory and we had let each youth know that if they were worn out from the trek, they didn’t need to worry about coming. We had 31 youth show up. Over 25 of them had just pushed a handcart more than 13 miles along mountainous grade trails. It was humbling. We had one girl whose feet were so blistered she could barely walk come. Not once did she complain as she hobbled into the font. A couple of kids said they almost fell asleep because it was so quiet and peaceful. I can’t say that after what they had endured that I would blame them.

I want to say one more thing about the kids in our ward. I’d put them up against any other ward worldwide. When we had 16 boys headed into the dressing room, the baptistry coordinator suggested we send a leader in with them to make sure they weren’t messing around and getting into trouble. My gut reaction was to be offended. I quietly said to the other counselor in the bishopric, “Doesn’t he know who we are? We’re Thatcher 1st Ward. We don’t dink around.” And I meant it. We take our young men to the temple every month and never once have I worried about their behavior because I don’t have to.

I know this post is incredibly gushy. But I don’t care. I’m proud of my daughter. I was informed by members of her “family” that she got in and pushed like it 1847 all over again. When she arrived home on Saturday, my wife and I had to go help a family member unload their U-haul. We told her we would be back. She insisted on coming to help. I don’t care who you are, as a parent, that’s a moment you want to brag about. Of course the next day when she bore her testimony (Good thing) and said she thought before they left on the trek, and I quote, “that it would suck” (with the Stake President seated right behind us. Maybe not as much of a Good thing) I was still proud of her. She’s amazing and I am proud to call her my daughter.

I’m proud of our ward. I’m proud to be associated with the people of our ward and stake. This post is gushy because I feel gushy. And aren’t we lucky that our God allows us moments and experiences that make feeling gushy all right.

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