Why Are We All Dumping Buckets of Ice Water On Our Heads?

ice-bucket-challenge-tw-user-coverA few days ago, my wife and I had a discussion about the ice bucket challenge. We thought it was funny that so many people were doing it, but I couldn’t really comprehend how dumping a bucket of ice water on your head was supposed to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease. Naturally, the cynical side of me laughed when I saw the following meme start to circulate around FaceBook.

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That being said, I could see that the challenge was obviously raising awareness of ALS. I even found myself Googling about the disease so I could try to sound slightly intelligent when the topic inevitably came up around friends.

[Let me save you the trouble: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. You can read more here]

Eventually my Googling also led me to this fun fact: As of August 20, the ALS Association has received $31.5 million in donations. According to the ALSA website, that’s almost a full $30 million more than last year during the same time period.

And then it dawned on me. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen celebrities, former presidents, CEOs, football teams, kids, and neighbors dumping buckets over their heads, but what we haven’t seen is that many (if not most) of the same people pouring ice water on themselves are also opening their wallets for the cause.

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But what is it about the ice bucket challenge that has drawn so much attention and participation? In order to make sense of the virality of the ice bucket challenge, I decided to break down the reasons why I believe it is so popular:

  • First, the ice bucket challenge is funny. We all want to see videos of our friends getting cold water dumped over their heads. This is why the challenge had already been circulating across social media prior to its adoption by the ALSA.
  • Second, the ice bucket challenge is easy. You don’t have to have an amazing camera or a lot of props à la Bill Gates. All you need is a phone and a bucket of ice water. There’s literally no excuse not to do it if you’ve been challenged. It’s not like we’re challenging each other to run a marathon. (Now there’s an idea…)
  • Third, the ice bucket challenge applies the right amount of peer pressure. We all succumb to it, celebrities included. It’s the same reason why most of us stuck our tongue to a frozen pole when we were younger. It’s the reason why some of us still stick our tongue to the flag pole every winter. (And just in case you think you’re too cool for the ice bucket challenge, I triple dog dare you to do it.)
  • Fourth, the ALS ice bucket challenge has an amazing origin story. Sure people were already dumping water on their heads long before ALS adopted it, but how could you not want to participate after watching SportsCenter’s segment on Pete Frates. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it here and then go dump another bucket over your head.
  • Fifth, the ice bucket challenge is a call to action. We can’t all be scientists, but we can all fill up buckets with ice and water and dump them over our heads. (Granted, some do it more gracefully than others…) The challenge is your way of showing your support. It’s how you contribute more than just money (although there’s plenty of money being contributed too). By playing along, you are giving up your comfort, a little of your time, and a lot of your compassion.
  • Sixth, the ice bucket challenge satisfies our need to share what we’re doing with friends on social media while still allowing us to be personal in our charitable giving. We want our friends in on the action. That’s why we post everything to FaceBook. But, charitable offerings is kind of a personal thing. Now we can have both. “Hey guys, I’m supporting ALS!” Hey self, I’m supporting ALS. It’s the best of both worlds.

[Side note: To the millions of unoriginal, snarky comments "concerned about the environment", I’m pretty sure the earth is going to be ok. If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t turn on my sprinklers this summer. My grass is dying, but all of the water I saved should make up for the thousands of people who have yet to participate and donate. You’re welcome.]

So, in closing, who cares if it’s gimmicky? This is your chance to participate in something great. A thread in a tapestry. Embrace it.

As proof of my participation, here’s my video (also be sure to check out my sweet farmer’s tan, Missouri style):


UPDATE: If you’re still wondering why we dump buckets of ice water on our head, then you should watch this (skip to the 2 minute mark):


‘Don’t Kick Puppies’ and Other Noncontroversial Stuff

DSC_0008If you’re looking for a fight then you may as well pack up and go home. No controversy in this post. Sorry to disappoint.

[Side note: Ok, if you really need someone to detest then I'll throw you a bone. When I did my taxes, my accountant was surprised that I still pay on my student loans. He jokingly said, "I thought everyone was just defaulting on those things." His words, not mine. Can you believe the generalization and condescension?! If you need someone to hate then hate him. But he's really a good guy once you get to know him.]

When I started my blog, I wanted to make it a social experiment to see if someone with no blogging experience (me) could get really popular really fast. Answer: Yes. Well kind of. This last week I accidentally published a viral blog post that circulated around the LDS Church. (I purposely published it. It accidentally went viral.) The post had over 147K hits on Saturday alone despite almost an hour and a half of downtime due to server overload.

There were people who literally never left my site from Friday afternoon until I finally closed the comments late Saturday night. You know what I did on Saturday? I ate a hamburger at Red Robin and rented a red box with my wife and friends.

One lady who called herself “mom” really sticks out. I think she commented on almost every other person’s comment to promote her OW agenda and call me bad names. You know what she didn’t do? Thank me for giving her a platform to reach out to hundreds of thousands of people without censoring or removing any of her comments. (Similar to how I respectfully reserved the opinions and comments of everyone else.) I bet she would get more signatures if she passed around the manifesto clipboard in RS now. You’re welcome.

I really couldn’t win on either end of the pew. The Mormon blogosphere also labeled me a bully on timesandseasons.org. I’m not calling it self-serving, but it turned out to be an excellent opportunity for the lady who posted it (and who quoted me out of context) to promote her daughter’s anti-bullying video. (Which I saw and it was amazing. Here’s the link.)

We live in an interesting time. It sometimes almost feels like it is no longer “politically correct” to share your thoughts (even jokingly) unless your opinion represents and even promotes a minority group. (Perhaps it’s because we all grew up on Rocky movies. Small guy, good. Big guy, bad.) We have to be careful not to offend anyone.

For example, when someone says that saying the pledge of allegiance in schools infringes on his kid’s religious (or non-religious) rights, he gets unlimited news coverage. Meanwhile people who try to voice an opposing argument are labeled by the media and others as bigots and bullies. We see it happen all the time.

[Side note: the pledge of allegiance thing was just an example. No controversy in this post.]

Here’s the thing, I may come across as extremely opinionated in my posts, but it was always in good fun. I never even saw the movie Frozen. (Of course, that still doesn’t change my opinion that wellbehavedmormonwoman was a little “cray-cray” in her post.)

[Random full disclosure: I am Republican but I pray all the time for Obama. I want him to be happy and healthy and receive inspiration as he leads the country. Why would any American not want his/her leader to be successful? I would find no joy if he ruined our country. And I don't think he will. (Again, no controversy.)]

Given my laid back stance on it all (and the fact that I don’t get paid to do this which makes my thoughts worth even less than two cents), I think it’s best to leave the controversial stuff to the Glen Becks and Matt Walsh-i of the world. I think anyone who is actually reading this post should go ignite change by arguing amongst yourselves on their blogs.

It’s obviously too late, but it was never my intent to offend anyone. I  am sorry. My average blog post takes me about 35 minutes to write and I don’t always think about every angle while I type. I will be more careful about the things I joke about in the future. (And I will never write a blog about how to be a mom again.) I have even hired my social worker wife to proofread future posts and I have given her both editing and veto-ing power. I recognize that my blog may be really boring from now on. I am happy to go back to the 10 views per post life I once knew if that is the consequence.

As my first act in the glamorous, unpaid, noncontroversial world of personal blogging, I want to leave you with the least controversial piece of advice I can think of:

Don’t kick puppies.

[Whispered: I know I didn't say anything about cats but you probably shouldn't kick them either.]

Some LDS Women Want The Priesthood? Well LDS Men Have Some Requests Too

photoI would like to thank the New York Times for breaking a story yesterday that highlights one of the biggest problems in the LDS Church; i.e., gender inequality. The article talks about a group of about 1,300 women who signed a manifesto for female ordination. 1,300 signatures. That sounds like a lot. In fact, if I write the number out with all caps and bold it, then it sounds like even more signatures: THIRTEEN HUNDRED. Wow.

[Side note: Truthfully, it's probably about 1,249 more than the number of people will read this blog post. But my blog has less than 70 followers on FB and only 50 followers on BlogLovin. So getting 51 people to read this post would actually be really good.

Full disclosure: my number of blog readers was a little higher until I wrote my last post about moms not playing the victim. After a post like that, I was just happy to see that my house wasn't set on fire. It probably would have been if any of the 1,300 women who signed the manifesto would have read my blog.]

But what does 1,300 signatures really represent? For ease of math, let’s round the number up to 1,500. According to mormonnewsroom.org, there are 15,000,000 LDS members in the world. Some simple math (on a simple calculator) tells me that the 1500 signatures represent 0.01 percent of the Church. But, you might say, men shouldn’t be included in that calculation because they aren’t the ones who are being oppressed (at least not in terms of receiving the Priesthood). So, for arguments sake, let’s cut the number of members in half to represent the split between men and women. Crunch the numbers and we see that the number now becomes 0.02 percent.

In the spirit of fairness, I decided to look and see how a comparable petition would fair with the US Government. And it’s not terrible. There are 313.9 million people in the United States. According to petitions.whitehouse.gov, in order to cross the threshold and be reviewed, a petition must receive 100,000 signatures in the span of 30 days. Unfortunately 0.02 percent of the United States population only equates to 62,780 signatures. In other words, it was a valiant effort but this petition gets rejected. I’m not saying the petition system is perfect, but it doesn’t seem to miss the important ones; e.g., the petition to deport Justin Bieber that reached the threshold in January of this year.

Other than the fact that Obama wouldn’t care (see what I did there?), we now know that these women only represent a small (dare I say teeny) portion of Latter-Day Saints. Loud? Yes. But small just the same. Doesn’t this make you wonder why the New York Times cares about a petition that doesn’t have enough signatures to make it to paper in the US Government? Let’s save that topic for another day. (Believe me, I have lots to say about the media targeting Latter Day Saints. Like, why is every other episode of DateLine about a Mormon who murdered his spouse or defrauded his entire congregation? Does that really only happen in Utah?)

So I propose that instead of focusing on such a bitty group of loud individuals, we should really start to consider the needs of the quiet majority. I’m talking about men. I believe that there is some gender inequality in the Church. But I don’t think it’s a one-way street. So I’m starting a list of requests that we, men, have all noticed, but until now, have been quiet about. (If you have any to add, then put them in the comment section)

  • How come there’s a mother’s lounge but not a father’s lounge? Women get to nurse and feed their baby in a dark, quiet room while fathers have to walk around the Church looking for an empty classroom or use the “stand-and-sway” method to put babies to sleep. Even if we find an unused classroom, we don’t have the rocking chair.
  • We want padded seats in our meeting room too. Do you know what men have? We have cold, hard, metal chairs. Are not all bottoms created equal?!
  • Male enrichment night. After we graduate from scouting, we get one, maybe two, activities a year for men. (Typically a shooting guns activity with BBQ.) But we want monthly activities like the women. Let’s even up those budgets a little huh.
  • Nursery for Elder’s quorum events. Women get the youth to babysit when they have an activity, but it’s expected that men should go to an activity without help. Do you just assume that our wives are always available to watch the kids when we have an activity? On the flipside, are you saying that men are incapable of watching the kids when the women are away to their activities? Either way, it sounds oppressive.
  • We want a nice table and podium in our room. Sure, we’re not known for our table decor when it comes to Sunday lessons, but we couldn’t even if we wanted to. We only have a small table with skinny legs. How am I supposed to display my tackle box and Singing Bass wall mount in style when I give my “fishers of men” lesson?
  • Finally, I want to propose an every-other-move ordinance where the Elders Quorum and the RS split all of the new move-ins and move-outs in the Ward. Your argument: men are stronger and can lift more. My counter-argument: women are more likely to show up and “many hands make light work.”

Again, I would like to thank the New York Times for pointing out the gender inequality in our Church. We have a long way to go, but I believe we can get there. One padded seat at a time.

[Update: There is no way to respond to all of the comments that have been made on my blog. But I would if I could. If I had the time, I would respond to all of you, including the person that said that this is the dumbest post that he has read in months. (To which I would reply, "You must have read a really, really dumb post a few months ago.")

I just wanted to say one thing. I realize that my post is dismissive to the topic of female ordination without showing any empathy. Sometimes feelings get hurt when a person tries to be funny about a topic that is dear to the hearts of others. The ironic part is that I was purposely avoiding discussing my opinions about the Ordain Women movement because I didn't want to say anything that would offend anyone. I do not promote blind obedience. Those women have every right to ask for the priesthood or whatever else they want. And we all have to accept the answer that is given. Whether it be yes or no. Let it be known that I would never encourage you to leave the Church because you feel oppressed. Let's be constructive and figure out what we can do if priesthood isn't an option. (Aside: I was a ward executive secretary once. I had to be at Church from 6AM to late evening on some Sundays. It was awful. I would have gladly given that to anyone who wanted it.)

One thing that I have definitely learned from all of your feedback is that there isn't really a forum where we feel like we can civilly express our differences of opinions concerning this or anything else. Hence all of the comments on my blog. (Anonymity probably helps.) So, by all means, continue to comment. I won't close my comment section even though some of you have called me a moron, an obnoxious a**hole, and other names. In the spirit of Stephen R. Covey's 8th Habit, I encourage you to express your voice. Continue to be respectful to each other even if not to me.** As for myself, I probably won't say much more about it because it kind of feels like beating a dead horse. (Crap, now everyone thinks I promote the beating of dead horses.)

PS: You can always move your debates to twitter. #datelinesucks

** Sorry Brother Covey. (RIP) There's just too much hate for this conversation to ever be productive.

Are you still reading this?  You should really read this.]

Real Monsters: Why Seemingly Good People Do Terrible Things

DSC_0092Everyone grieves differently. Writing this article was my way of doing so. I don’t get paid to write on my blog. I am not a reporter. And I am not a psychologist. 

I was 18 years old when Elizabeth Smart was abducted. I had just graduated high school and was working in a factory for the summer. I remember seeing her face and story on CNN during every break. Having grown up in Utah, I thought to myself, “This isn’t the kind of thing that’s supposed to happen here.” I used to pray for her on my knees every night before bed and I would often have dreams about finding her. Sometimes alive. Sometimes not. I cried for her and begged God to bring her back safe. When she was found the next year, I knew that God had answered my prayers.

No other kidnapping has ever had as much of an impact on me until last week when Hailey Owens was abducted only a couple of blocks from her home. I got the Amber alert on my phone and then saw the story on the news. Similar to before, I thought, “This is Springfield, MO. This isn’t supposed to happen here.” And again I prayed, as did my wife, for Hailey’s safe return.

Hailey’s abduction brought a flood of emotions: panic, fear, and sympathy for the family among others. It’s different when you have a daughter of your own and there’s a monster out there snatching little girls. Not to mention that this happened only about 20 minutes from our home. We, along with the rest of the community, continued to pray for Hailey while holding our own little girl a little tighter that night.

Then came the devastating news that Hailey was tragically murdered. Authorities found her in the home of Craig Michael Wood. And the first question that filled my mind was: Why would this man, seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly snap and commit the most heinous crime imaginable?

Craig Michael Wood shocked a lot of people, not just me. Except for pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance almost 25 years ago and a misdemeanor for illegal hunting 13 years ago, he really had no other criminal history. He was a substitute teacher, a teacher’s aide, and a middle school football coach. I saw an interview on the news where one of his former players described him as the most patient and understanding coach he had ever played for. How do you go from a role model to a murderer?

As I contemplated that question, I remembered a book that I had seen in a book store a few years ago called The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D. I decided to start there and checked it out from the local library. Here’s an excerpt from page 3:

You [the sociopath] do enjoy jobs that afford you a certain undersupervised control over a few individuals or small groups, preferably people and groups who are relatively helpless or in some way vulnerable. You are a teacher or a psychotherapist, a divorce lawyer or a high school coach

Not to say that all coaches are sociopaths, but in this case, there was a blatantly clear connection.

The author introduced me to a world where four percent of all people on the planet have no conscience and no concept of right and wrong from a moral perspective. That’s one in every 25 people. Even with an understanding of social customs and rules, sociopaths break the rules of the social contract because they have no emotional connection to other people. As a result, they are manipulative, controlling, liars, and murderers.

Undoubtedly, police were bound to find something amiss in Wood’s home. And they did. They found a binder full of child pornography. Pornography is an obvious choice for someone who cannot form real relationships with emotional attachment. Not to mention, it’s just another illegal thing that he was “able to get away with.”

[Side note: As with most things in Psychology, the root cause of sociopathy goes back to the classic debate of nature vs nurture. The research shows that there are definitely people who are predisposed to certain conditions that signal antisocial behaviors; e.g., small kids who can blow up frogs or kick dogs with no remorse. But one line stuck out to me: "One important link in the neurobiological-behavioral segment of the chain may consist of altered funtioning in the cerebral cortex of the sociopath." The cerebral cortex (or frontal lobe) is the area of the brain that controls and moderates our pleasurable stimulus including sexuality and even eating. Science has proven that pornography overuses pleasure centers causing the cells that produce dopamine to be overworked and essentially shut down which causes shinkage in the cerebral cortex. You know, the same cerebral cortex that is linked to sociopathy; The condition that allows you to guiltlessly murder little girls. Still think pornography is harmless? Is anyone surprised they found child porn in Wood's house now?]

Sociopaths go through life treating it as a game. Because they don’t have any concept of guilt, they use other people as pawns however they want but they are careful not to get caught. Their freedom leads them to believe that they are above their morally-obliged, lesser peers. This explains why Wood had the gall to abduct Hailey in daylight with witnesses around. In his own mind, he thought of himself as “Super Craig.” This is also the reason why Wood’s entire basement was soaked in bleach when he was apprehended. He was covering his footsteps because he honestly believed that he would get away with murder. And the worst part is that if he had gotten away with murder, he would have guiltlessly continued living his life secretly laughing because he was “winning”. Wood would never feel remorse for his actions. And may even act again. (Who’s to say he hasn’t acted before?)

But what about the football player that said that he was so patient and understanding? How can someone with no emotional attachment portray such a caring demeanor? Sociopaths are natural actors. They may not have a conscience, but they do understand the power of emotions to control other people and master techniques similar to an actor in a movie. Crying, empathizing, modesty, and other traits allow the sociopath to break boundaries that would otherwise limit his ability to manipulate or control situations and other people.

If there is any doubt about whether sociopaths exist or if Wood actually falls into that category: I would point out that after being caught with Hailey in his basement, Wood still pleaded not guilty.

It’s scary, right? Sociopaths don’t look like the monsters in movies. They look like and mostly behave like normal people. And the absolute worst news of all is that, unlike other psychological disorders, there is no cure and really no way to treat them. You can’t counsel a person into having feelings. The best you can do is try to make them follow the social structures despite their inability to understand them.

So what can we do?

Well, the first thing we can do is stop believing that these people don’t exist. It’s a horrifying thought but there are people out there who have no feelings and will control, manipulate, and even kill you given the right circumstances without any guilt. The author of The Sociopath Next Door says that the number one way to detect an otherwise unrecognizable sociopath is to look for the “pity play.” Sociopaths want others to feel sorry for them. Remember that everything they do is so they can continue playing the game of manipulation and pushing the envelope. If a sociopath can convince you to feel sorry for him then he can get away with more.

Secondly, we have to speak up when we feel like we encounter these people. I’m not talking about a witch hunt. But I am saying that we shouldn’t be afraid to say that something is not right. (Think of the Emperor’s New Clothes.)

And finally, we have to have the courage to walk away… scratch that, we have to RUN away from identified sociopaths.

Only God knows his greater plan amidst this heart-breaking tragedy. But I have seen His love in Springfield radiate through the members of the community as we have all mourned the loss of Hailey. It has been evidenced by the porch lights, the purple and pink clothing, the thousands who gathered for a candlelight vigil, and countless other acts of kindness and selflessness. My prayers and love go out to the Owens family.