Monthly Archives: January 2014

Are We Becoming Our Doomsday Parents?

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

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

Huh?

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

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

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

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

Yeah…not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And by and large we still turned out okay.

I’m pretty sure they will too.

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Football on Sunday: The Great Doctrinal Debate

This past Sunday, we in the bishopric were faced with a truly grave situation requiring the toughest of decisions. It was the kind of decision that would make lesser men cry. I may have even teared up myself. But in the end, we stepped up and did what we had to do, because that is what is expected of us.

And what decision could be so brutally tough you ask yourself? (Most of you probably aren’t asking yourselves anything, but it makes the writing more dramatic to suggest you are.) Our primary presidency has scheduled the annual Priesthood Preview meeting for 11-year-old boys who will turn 12 during the next calendar year directly in the middle of the scheduled time for the Superbowl. And fathers throughout the ward were wondering what we were going to do about it.

Okay, admittedly I am way overdoing this. The primary presidency did schedule the meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Superbowl Sunday, and one individual did ask me if we were concerned about attendance. The truth is, I hadn’t even thought about it yet, and at that point, I wasn’t sure if I cared. (Denver did win later that day and since I am a huge Peyton Manning fan, I do actually now care.) But because we are all good Latter-Day Saints, or at least try to be, no further thought was given to it and we will proceed with this meeting at the time scheduled.

However, it did bring up a subject that always makes me chuckle. What IS the appropriate thing to do on a Sunday?

Now, those of us who have been to an LDS church for more than two weeks in a row know the “primary” answers to this. Read our Scriptures, Go to Church, Spend Time Building Family Relationships, Visit Our Neighbors and Use the day for what it is actually referred to, A Day of Rest.

However, even those answers are not immune to debate among the faithful. Some feel a four hour nap is completely within bounds while others will declare that to be slothful. Another situation I have heard of is that some feel doing your home teaching on Sunday (visiting your neighbors) takes away from the time that should be spent as a family. And finally, there are those who believe three hours on a Sunday is plenty of time for the Go To Church aspect of Sabbath observation while others feel that scheduling as many extra meetings as possible so we don’t have to have them during the week is a good use of our Sunday hours. (Frankly, with that one, I believe every meeting suggested for church purposes, whether it is to be held on a Sunday or not, should be forced to undergo a thorough examination of its needfulness by a committee headed up by someone other than me. They could meet Tuesday evenings and Thursday evenings as needed with each meeting lasting no more than two hours…What’s that? Do I want to serve on this committee? Heck no! That would be more meetings for me…oh. I see your point. Bottom line, I am not a fan of meetings and would like to see as few of them held as possible whether they be on Sunday or not.)

But the one argument that always makes me smile (mainly because of the fierce loyalty found on both sides) is whether or not it is permissible to watch television on Sundays, specifically football.

Since I was a kid, I believe I have heard every possible argument for and against on this subject. And frankly, I don’t care. But boy does it seem to raise its ugly head every first weekend in February.

Now me? I believe if you don’t want to watch television on Sunday, that is a worthy goal. If you do, I have no problem with it. Me personally, if I do it, I would like to see it be a way to draw my family together in common activity (ie. my teenager is out watching a television program with us rather than hiding out in her room, which we did last night with Sherlock and it was awesome.) but the truth is, I’m guilty of watching television alone on Sunday sometimes, so…take anything I say with a grain of salt.

With regards to the Super Bowl, I especially like if a family can do something to make a tradition out of it. I know a family that records it on Sunday and locks down their house to outside information so that no one knows what happens. Then they wake up in the wee hours on Monday morning to watch it together while eating the regular Super Bowl party type food. I think that is something that builds family unity and gives the parents an opportunity to enforce the idea of Sabbath importance without equating football with evil incarnate.

On the other hand, I am not a fan of someone specifically scheduling a meeting to coincide with the Super Bowl, for the express purpose of keeping their fellow saints from the prenicious evils of the NFL. For some reason that just strikes me the wrong way and I believe has the potential of making those who attend a meeting out of duty resentful against the very message or program that is being promoted.

Whatever your family chooses to do, I hope you enjoy the upcoming Sunday that has almost become another American holiday-regardless of whether you recognize it or treat it just like any other Sabbath day.

In other news, this marks the 100th blog post for this, my author page. For some, the question might be: 100? Is that all? It certainly feels like more than that. But for me this is pretty amazing. In fact, at about 1,000+ words per post, this blog represents enough writing for another novel. And that fact fills me with conflicting feelings. Bit I digress.

Anyway, what will I do to celebrate this momentous occasion? Well, I will travel down to Mesa tomorrow and spend the evening with a book club. The club, which my cousin’s wife, Amy, belongs to, has selected my book for the month and is hosting me as a guest. Having done this only one other time, I am both excited and a little anxious. As I learned with the last book club, women can have strong opinions about their books.

So to those I will be spending the evening with tomorrow, I look forward to it. And all I ask is that you please be gentle with me.

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The Price of our Entertainment

Well, this week it finally happened. I had to give up on The Blacklist.

For those who don’t know, The Blacklist is a new show this season that follows former FBI Most Wanted criminal Raymond “Red” Reddington as he helps a young female FBI agent (whom he clearly has some connection to that he is not sharing) advance in her new career by helping her track down criminals so evil and shadowy, the FBI doesn’t even know they exist.

When I tuned into the first episode, I thought that sounded like a pretty good premise. And I still think it does. But what has followed over the last several weeks is a very dark show that glories in violence to the point that it almost is worthy of being on FOX.

The reason I finally drew the line this week is not even so much the violence that was depicted. Sadly, I think previous episodes were worse in that department than this one, although it was close. No, my main issue with this episode is that the central figure in this show went on a killing spree of anyone even remotely associated with his kidnapping that occured in previous installments.

Now some might think that doesn’t seem like such a big deal. I mean, heck, we love Jason Bourne, James Bond and many other flawed heroes who resort to piling up fatalities like folded laundry so long as the people dying are framed effectively as on the side of evil. But this had a nastier edge.

The show wanted to portray that their anti-hero is definietly more anti than hero. That he shouldn’t be applauded because he is still pretty evil himself. The only problem with this is, he is played very effectively by James Spader and through the construct of the show, you can’t help but root for him. Even when he kills a paramedic who was just trying to earn a few extra bucks as well as other characters whose “crimes”, while unethical and maybe even against the law, were hardly worthy of death. It was at this point that I had to ask myself, “What kind of person am I actually rooting for here?”

The answer is: someone who overreacts to the nth degree in order to show others that he is a major bad— that nobody better be messing with. And when I think about it, that is exactly the kind of person we should not be glamorizing.

Why?

Because if that is the type of person we idolize, then we should be giving a medal to Curtis Reeves instead of putting him in jail. Who is Curtis Reeves you may ask? He would be the guy who stood up for all of us who despise those annoying people who can’t put their cell phone away in a theater. He showed those people that we are not going to take it anymore this past Monday by…shooting someone to death who was texting his daughter’s babysitter during a movie’s previews.

Let that sink in for a second…Yeah, I believe it’s still as bad as it sounds. Is this really what we as a country have sunk to?

Sadly, it would appear that the answer is yes. See the problem isn’t going to end with Curtis Reeves. It’s going to be everything that follows as well. We will hear from angry voices on both sides of the gun control issue. We will hear from angry voices demanding more security from theaters and angry voices saying those who are demanding more security are overreacting. There will be angry voices everywhere. And they will join the thousands of other angry voices who are frustrated or mad over some other issue or item that isn’t going their way. Some of these voices have legitimate points, others do not. But more and more, the one consistency among all of these voices is the level of vitriol they are willing to spew. And that level of anger brings us full-circle to Curtis Reeves.

The way I see it, the more we ratchet up every issue, nuisance, perceived slight and disagreement to the point of all out confrontation, we run the risk of someone who has no sense of proportional reaction standing up for us and blowing someone away over a text in a movie theater and little bit of popcorn to the face.

And where might this individual have lost their sense of proportional reaction? As I sat reflecting Monday night, I found it hard not to point to entertainment filled with flawed messages of right and wrong justifying extreme violence which I have tried to rationalize in the past as not being pertinent to my life and therefore not a problem. Entertainment like The Black List.

So with my deepest sincerety, I pray for the family of Chad Oulsen, the perpetrator of such a heinous crime as texting his daughter’s baby-sitter during theatrical previews. He didn’t deserve this. And I hope that if nothing else comes out of his death, more of us will recognize the need for increased tolerance, compassion and love in our every day discourse. Not just with those we like or care for, but with those that curse us, hate us, despitefully use and persecute us. Because funnily enough, if we can all calm down and tune out the garbage that the world is shouting at us, the Greatest of Us All has been quietly suggesting that course of action from the beginning.

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No News is Cable News

I was perusing the headlines over the weekend and, well, it would appear that cable news outlets and their corresponding websites did not make a New Year’s Resolution to acquit themselves more professionally in 2014. To what am I referring? The absolute junk that is fed to us at times as news. It’s like news organizations have forgotten what “news”  really is. So, because of my outstanding run as a boy scout in my youth, I am going to revert to my training and take this opportunity to do a good turn today and teach them what is and what is not a news story. (I know in my last post I said my New Year’s Resolution was to not write about politics in 2014. That resolution stays in effect. However, I might make a reference to a political story or event, but rest assured, it will not be for political purposes, but rather for the purpose of educating.)

Example #1 – Courtney Stodden does not support Phil Robertson’s views about child brides.

Now, if you are fortunate enough not to know anything about what I’m referring to and are clueless as to who Courtney Stodden is, count yourself very lucky. But this one has so many problems it is hard to know where to begin. First, there is nothing news worthy about something a reality TV star said several years ago to a private audience that most observers agree was probably said in jest. Was Phil’s comment that men should marry girls at 15 or 16 before they get any independent ideas in bad taste? Yeah. But so was my grandfather’s favorite saying of “I see, I see, said the blind man to the lady in the bathtub.” That doesn’t make it newsworthy.

But…But…he’s a celebrity on television. He should be held accountable for his remarks.

I’m sorry, there is also some dufus in a sun costume selling sausage sandwiches on television. We don’t care what he says, nor should we. So how is what some millionaire who got rich of off making duck calls in the back woods of Louisianna says newsworthy. Here’s a clue: It isn’t.

Second, when a 16-year-old girl gets her parents to buy her fake boobs that are about five sizes too big and then marries a man in his fifties who happened to appear for twenty minutes, total, over multiple episodes of the television show LOST, she should not be famous. Let me repeat that, being sixteen with Disneyland-size helium balloons under your shirt and enough make-up to give you the appearance of a twenty-something-year-old prostitute and marrying a man in his fifties should be grounds for calling Child Protective Services, not Entertainment Tonight. Courtney Stodden is famous for…NOTHING!!! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!

So, with all of this taken into account, let me suggest to all news outlets across our country. What Courtney Stodden thinks of Phil Robertson’s comments on child brides is: Not A News Story

Example #2 – Comments made about Mitt Romney’s adopted black grandson and corresponding backlash.

Prior to this blow up. I, along with 99.9% of Americans, had not heard of Melissa Harris-Perry. The fact that she, an African-American woman and television host on MSNBC, took time to poke fun at the Romney family was in bad taste. But so were half the comments I made at Thanksgiving dinner this year and our audiences were roughly the same size. However, they in no way came close to the vulgarity and nastiness of comments made by Martin Bashir earlier on the same network. It was kind of like that moment when one of your friends makes a joke that barely crosses the line and everybody groans and says, “Dude, come on.” After which, he immediately apologizes and you move on. (If I’m being truthful, I actually agree with Melissa Harris-Perry in thinking the idea of Mitt Romney and Kanye West as in-laws is very funny, but I digress.)

So to have the whole nation blow up and call for this woman to be fired is ridiculous. It doesn’t accomplish anything and as soon as she tweeted her apology, it should have ended. If it even needed to get that far. It was touted as a political story and frankly, this whole thing does nothing to further the political discourse or the betterment of people’s lives which is what politics should be about.  Bottom line: Not A News Story

Example #3 – Any Celebrity Going to Rehab

Ke$ha is the latest example of some young starlet whose life has spun out of control and is headed to rehab. Ask yourself, as long as this person is not in charge of any nuclear weapon codes, would I want this story shared with the world if it was about me? What if it were about one of my children? If your answer is yes, you’re a moron and completely out of touch with civilized human beings. If your answer is no: Not A News Story

Example #4 – Benghazi

The election is over. Obama won. It’s a done deal. But can we now learn the truth about what happened to our men and women who died in Libya that night? Please? They deserve the truth coming out. To avoid the political idea that this is a Republican vs. Democrat thing, let’s look at two stories both stemming from Democrat administrations. When Bill Clinton had his issue with Monica Lewinsky, there wasn’t one torrid detail we could escape about the blue dress, the cigar, the thong and every other disgusting thing associated with that story. So why can’t we just get some answers regarding an event where actual American citizens died while serving their country? And why do most news services seem completely disinterested? Here’s a hint guys: Definitely A News Story

In the end, I know nothing will change. We will continue to see “news” stories that play to our baser selves, but here’s hoping that in 2014, more of us will choose to turn the channel or avoid the click when these non-stories show up. Because it’s not news. But if we as the consumers keep acting like it is, then stories like these will continue to become more prevalent until they are they only news we get. And my goodness, heaven help us if that happens.

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My New Year’s Revolutions

The title of this post really has no significance other than I really like that commercial with with the kid who is going to keep his new year’s revolution to eat more jelly beans. If you haven’t seen it and don’t know what I’m talking about, oh well. It’s pretty funny and I chuckle everytime it comes on even though I’ve seen it at least ten times.

Anyway, it’s resolution time, and I, like everyone else in America, am ready to declare 2014 as the year I accomplished…fill in the blank. For me, those blanks include:

1. Well, the first one is easy as I already declared it on Facebook. On New Year’s Eve, I wanted to do something nice for my kids since we would be abandoning them for our own party. So I asked where they would like me to go and get dinner for them. I knew the answer before they responded, but I still had to ask. And I was right. TACO BELL.

Now, Taco Bell and I have what I would describe as not a love/hate relationship, but rather a I’ll put up with you/hate relationship. I don’t know what it is about the Safford Taco Bell, but more than 50% of the time, something gets left out of our order or something about what we received is wrong. To be fair, my kids hate the sauce and onions in the bean burritos so we order them without which seems to be the real sticking point here as we more often than not get sauce and onions in the burritos anyway. Regardless, the drive-thru at Taco Bell is always a gamble I’m destined to lose.

So, this past Tuesday, with trepadation in my heart, I set out for the Taco Bell Drive thru. As I pulled up, I could see I was about 8th in line. Not a good sign. Especially when the line doesn’t move at all for five minutes. Long story short, it took me over 30 minutes to get 5 bean burritos, three nachos (where they don’t even put the cheese on themselves) and a quesadilla. (I also ordered one of their new stuffed nachos that had been advertised over the last week because it actually looked pretty good on TV. What I received in no way resembled the item advertised on television. I think I asked for the right thing, but…who knows. It’s the Safford Taco Bell for heaven’s sake.) It was misery. Because once you are in the line at Taco Bell, you aren’t getting out. It’s fast food’s version of the DMV. So as I sat there, with minutes of my life wafting away, never to return, I resolved for 2014: No Taco Bell, no matter how much my kids beg.

2. Is it worse this year than normal, or am I just paying attention a little more? I think I saw a minimum of 49 weight loss program advertisements over the last three days, and I actually did not watch that much television. Either way, I, like so many of my fellow Americans, am committing this year to not be part of the growing obesity epidemic in our country. This resolution will of course commence once we have rid ourselves of all the sugary and unhealthy food items that entered our house during the holiday season. Now some might say we could throw it all out, but that just seems wasteful. So I expect this one to kick in some time next week. Lose weight and eat healthier. (I would include my actual weight loss goal here, but…that’s more information than I am willing to share.)

3. This past year has been so exciting for us. One of the reasons why was the publication of my book, THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER (Shameless plug alert: Still available on Amazon.com and wherever LDS Books are sold – except for Bookworms in my hometown of Thatcher, AZ for some inexplicable reason. Nonverbally, I am shrugging my shoulders and rolling my eyes and then breathing deeply as I prepare to move on.) It has been everything I had hoped it would be and more. But now, it is do or die time. (I don’t know why I say that, I have no intention of dying if I don’t accomplish this particular goal.) Finish my second novel and start the process all over again of seeing if anyone will publish it.

4. After the 2012 election, I committed to walking away from politics for a while. And I did. And you know what, it was awesome. I felt happier than I had in months and my view of the world improved. But as 2013 progressed, I allowed myself to get dragged back in to political interest and, subsequently, political commentary on this blog. And my mood darkened accordingly. So, I am once again ridding myself of concern over things I have no control over at a national or state level. I will stay informed and try to look at every issue with an open mind, but I’m done talking about it. No politics on this blog for 2014. (We’ll see how long this lasts.)

5. I love to read. But for some reason, I realized a few days ago how few books I read last year. Not good. I must do better. Read at least 12 books in 2014 (one a month) with at least two of them being non-fiction.

6. For Christmas, my 14-year-old daughter wanted a few key things. One was a Tom Brady jersey which she received. (It made my heart hurt to purchase that particular item as it felt as if I were selling out my soul to the devil, which in the case of Bill Belichek, may very well be true.) The other was a complete overhaul of her makeup. When she was younger, Shannon bought her some basic make-up that could only be described as training make-up. Not very expensive and not very good, but who cares, she was twelve. But now, she was ready to handle the good stuff. My wife, on the other hand, said her main Christmas wish was to travel to Mesa and spend the day with Abby, just the two of them, where they would get makeovers and just spend the day together. And she didn’t want a price limit. (Ouch!!!)

So on Tuesday, the two of them left early, before the rest of the house woke up. (Oh wait. The baby woke up just as they were leaving, so I got to get up even though I wasn’t leaving on any cool trip. Sorry, I digress.) They went and had a great time. And at one point, I received a text with the following picture. Abby Make upThis did not make me feel good. She looked way too old. Right then and there, I decreed: Make time for each and every kid weekly in 2014. I have a feeling some weeks this may be impossible, but being aware and trying is better than not. I can’t believe how little time I have left with this girl. And when you take that time and subtract all the time that she’s gone/being a typical teenager/mad at me for not letting her do something, I have precious little time left. That makes me sad.

7. Finally, Be happier. I have a pretty amazing life and even though there are always things that could be better, I have to admit, things are pretty darn good.

So, to any and all friends and family reading this, thanks for a great 2013. It was truly a momentous year in my life. I appreciate everyone who supported me in any way, whether it be purchasing THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER  or just being a good friend who put up with my occasional moaning about life’s inconsequential frustrations. I appreciate you and look forward to a fabulous year going forward.

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