They’re no longer Sunbeams, but they keep shining

In a prior post, I shared my experiences working with Sunbeams at church.  That was written shortly after I finished working with that particular group of children back in 2010.  They moved on to new classes, and I moved on to different callings, but in the ensuing six-odd years, we saw each other off and on.  Here I deliver a follow-up report.

The Mormon nuns remained delightful.  I always made a point of waving at them when I saw them in the halls.  Many times they would avert their eyes to avoid having to look at me.  One Sunday in 2013, I passed by a classroom, where they happened to be sitting with the rest of their Primary class.  I waved.   Autumn waved back.  Cara physically spun around in her chair so she could turn her back to me and face the wall behind her.  I thought to myself, “Let the good times roll.”  (In their vigorous defense, I should say that much of their shyness wore off as they got older.)

As is the case with (I believe) the rest of his classmates, Paul was baptized.  As part of the service, two priesthood holders are required to be on hand as witnesses.  Shortly before his baptism, Paul’s father reached out to me to let me know that Paul wanted me to act as one of the witnesses.  It was a heartbreaker, but I had to decline due to a scheduling conflict with grad school.  It really was an honor to be considered.  (When I next spotted Paul at church, I pulled him aside to express my gratitude, and to let him know that it’s kind of a silly excuse for an adult to say that they couldn’t come to a baptism because they had to go to school on a Saturday.)

And then there’s Karen.  My wife and I moved to an adjacent stake in 2015, and Karen’s family moved into our ward shortly thereafter, so we found ourselves back in the same ward again.  It was fun seeing her at church.  She frequently got giggly and silly when I saw her in the hallway, which I think is understandable – look, it’s my Sunbeams teacher and I’m all grown up now lolz!

And then came the fateful mid-September Sunday, our last in the area.  We had to relocate due to a work transfer, with the movers scheduled to come pack us up the next day.  When we went to church, an announcement was made asking for last-minute volunteers to teach Primary.  Among the classes needing a pinch hitter: Sunbeams.

Teach a bunch of squirming three-year-olds with no prepared lesson, no treats, armed only with my wits and – God willing – the Holy Spirit?  Sign. Me. Up.

It was a completely different group of children, of course, only one or two of whom I had ever met.  Didn’t matter.  All of what I remembered from teaching Sunbeams before still applied: nonstop energy, interrupting statements with no relevance whatsoever to the lesson, attention spans lasting nanoseconds.  Ah, the good old days.

At the end of class, I hovered in the doorway as parents and older siblings came by to pick up their preschoolers when, right on cue, Karen happened past.  Look, Sunbeams – one of my former students, a satisfied customer!  She bowed and curtsied.  And, given that it was our last Sunday, I took the opportunity to tell her goodbye.

She was quite surprised.  “What?  Really?  You’re moving?”  Yep.  Adiós, sayonara, TTYL, et cetera.  But it’s okay, I told her – we may very well end up moving back soon, and there’s always Facebook.  Adhering to recommended Church guidelines for men interacting with children, I gave her a side hug and wished her the best.

A few minutes later, as I was searching for my wife so we could go home, I stuck my head out the front door to the chapel to see if she was in the parking lot.  I spotted Karen’s mother, who was near her minivan.

“Karen’s sad!”  What?  “Yeah.  She’s disappointed.  She says she’s going to miss you.”

Well, then.  I walked to the minivan and opened the sliding door.  “Come here, sweetie,” I said.  I gave her another hug – a proper embrace this time.  And I told her something that I don’t think I’ve ever said to a child to who I was not related:

“I love you.”  Quickly followed up by something I’ve told countless children: “You be good.”

I don’t understand people who think Primary is some sort of backwater where bishops stick the people who aren’t good for anything else.

Patrick Ryan Boots: in memoriam.

On February 15, 2017, my father passed away after a lengthy battle with dementia. Following is the eulogy I delivered at his memorial service. [Read more…]

The Obama era: a perspective.

Thoughts on Obama's presidency

An acquaintance of mine posted this yesterday on Facebook.  He gave permission for posting elsewhere on the condition that he not receive credit.  I share it here, for the ages.   [Read more…]

Coming full circle

First, let me post the TL;DR version right up top: Shirly and I have suspended all efforts to adopt.  We have closed our old site,, and have deactivated our account on  I’m sure this is disappointing and even heartbreaking to our friends and family, who have held out hope and prayed for us and with us as we have sought the blessing of posterity.  We’re simply at a point of spiritual exhaustion with respect to this matter, for reasons that should be abundantly clear in the course of this post. [Read more…]

Belkin B2B128 and macOS Sierra: how to get them working again

I’m fairly militant on keeping my electronics running the latest updates – security, stability and all that.  Which made it frustrating that, after I installed macOS Sierra on my MacBook Air, my Belkin B2B128 Ethernet adapter stopped functioning.  The USB outlets seemed to work fine, but the Ethernet functionality – which is of course the main reason I bought the thing – was AWOL.

I put up with it for a while and got by with WiFi – grudgingly, I might add, since our router is right next to my home office desk – but now that I’m on a consulting assignment with a different client whose WiFi is less than reliable, matters came to a head.  I need Ethernet on my notebook, ASAP.  So I jumped on a chat with somebody from Belkin.  His response: sorry, it’s broken, we no longer support it, you’ll have to get a replacement.

Seriously?  This thing cost me around $50 last year.  It worked fine until the latest macOS update.  This is a software issue, not a hardware issue, meaning it’s easily remedied.  I griped on Twitter, which yielded this response:

Thankfully, Tom’s Hardware came to the rescue.  Seems that, in cases like these when a software update breaks something (which seems to happen with USB 3.0 hardware), you’re better off checking with the chipset manufacturer, which in this instance is an outfit called Asix.  I went here, downloaded and installed their latest driver (compatible with macOS 10.12, AKA Sierra), and I’m back in business.

Hey, Belkin?  Get with the program.

The undelivered eulogy

On June 18, after many years of struggle with drug addiction, my youngest brother Chris was found dead of an overdose.  At the funeral service, a close friend to Chris and one of our brothers spoke.  For my own healing process, I elected to write a eulogy of my own.

Let me repeat here what I have personally told my brother and Chris’s friend: nothing about this blog post should be considered an attempt to “set the record straight,” or to somehow clarify or articulate more effectively anything either of them said at the funeral service.  One or both of them covered what follows here; they truly did an exceptional job honoring his memory.  I wrote this to help my own mourning process, simple as that. 

I should also say that they have earned my respect.  It’s taken me literally months to write what they turned around in just a few days.

[Read more…]

A sincere request: please help me answer this question

So I’m filling out adoption paperwork for our latest attempt at a home study.  Those of you who have gone through this experience know something of how probing these forms can be.  This is one of the questions it asks:

How would others describe you?

I have an idea of what people might say about me.  But different people have seen different sides of me: those who know me in a professional setting are likely to say something rather different than my friends who have only seen me at church.

Because I prefer not to speculate if I can help it, and because I am sincerely desirous to know, I ask you who know me to please answer this question.

Really, I’m serious.  This isn’t a bait-and-switch, or an attempt to determine who my “real friends” are.  If you know me, how would you describe me?  Feel free to go into as little or as much detail as you want.  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings – if you think I’m insufferable, by all means, let me have it.  All I ask is your complete honesty.  And if you prefer to remain anonymous, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email via the contact form.

Unstoppable force versus immovable object: dealing with crying toddlers in public

Well, this caused quite a little shoving match on the intertubes last week.  Up to a certain point, it was fairly pedestrian: parents take toddler to restaurant, toddler gets wrapped around the axle about something and starts crying.  And then, the wrench in the gears: the restaurant owner comes out and, well…

Naturally, there are a couple of different perspectives of precisely what happened; mom’s version of events is here.  Look, we’ve all had to deal with somebody else’s cranky kid at one time or another.  I find it especially delightful on airplanes, but that’s just a personal preference.  I’ve also found Reasons My Son Is Crying quite amusing, which virtually guarantees that we will end up with a child who considers going thermonuclear a genre of performance art.  But what if that’s the only way we can really learn to cope with toddler meltdowns?  This account suggests that “there is only one guaranteed cure for getting annoyed by it: having a kid.”

For non parents, a crying child on a plane will provoke feelings of rage. For people with a recent memory of parenting, that same crying child will provoke feelings of sympathy for the parent—and perhaps a little relief that it isn’t their problem this time.

It’s like a vaccination; once you’ve had kids, you’ve heard so much relentless crying, your brain has developed an immunity. That’s probably why the allegedly inattentive diner parents didn’t even hear what so vexed the diner owner.

While I’ve worked around enough toddlers that their crying doesn’t quite set me on edge as much as it once did, I’ve heard this from a few parents: that once you have your own, hearing a child cry just doesn’t provoke as it once did.  It almost sounds like Harry Potter after he had destroyed the fragment of the Dark Lord’s soul that had attached itself to his own; once it was gone, he could no longer speak Parseltongue.*

In any event, once we have a child of our own, I do hope to be considerate and remove the child if he/she starts getting fussy.  But as in the case of this story, there are circumstances when taking the child elsewhere just isn’t an option.  So let’s hear from you parents.  What do you do in such a situation?

*Yes, I just compared having a child to battling Voldemort. #sorrynotsorry

MBA: check.

Ryan graduated from the University of Texas

Hook ’em Horns.

A long, complicated story preceded this picture. I hope to start telling it soon.  For now, it’s enough to say that a goal more than three years in the making has been accomplished.  (In the meantime, read this.)

“Hello, is this thing on?” (taps on microphone)

Shirly with a new little friend

[Read more…]