Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm being stalked

I'm being stalked by the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or, more commonly known as Mormons. Now, if you don't know the details of my life in the church, you can click right there on the side bar on the label "religion". I think it was even the first post about religion that I wrote. The story in a nutshell - I was Mormon and Bill was not. I was told to choose The Church or choose Bill because I couldn't have both (because we couldn't get married in the temple). I left The Church and since then have become very anti-organized religion, ultimately resulting in my agnostic beliefs.

Since leaving The Church, I've been tracked and followed all over the country. I left The Church when we lived in Vegas and never contacted them from that point on. We moved to Portland, Denver and two different houses in the town we live in now. In each place, I've had members of The Church (Home Teachers, Visiting Teachers, Missionaries) come by to get me to come back. It's partly my fault because I haven't had my name removed from the records, so technically I'm considered "inactive" in their eyes. It's been about 12 years since I left and just last week I got a letter from a clerk in the Ward I "should" belong to.

This letter tells me what time services are being held in the ward and it came with my Individual Ordinance Summary attached - basically all of my personal information relating to the church (my maiden name, date of birth, place of birth, baptism date, confirmation date, my parents names and birth dates, Bill's name, and various addresses I've lived at). The kicker was the quote inserted from the current Prophet, Thomas S. Monson from the April 2008 Conference:

"Change for the better can come to all. Over the years we have issued appeals to the less active, the offended, the critical, the transgressor - to come back. Come back and feast at the table of the Lord, and taste again the sweet and satisfying fruits of fellowship with the Saints.

In the private sanctuary of one's own conscience lies that spirit, that determination to cast off the old person and to measure up to the stature of true potential. In this spirit, we again issue that heartfelt invitation: Come back. We reach out to you in the pure love of Christ and express our desire to assist you and to welcome you into full fellowship.

To those who are wounded in the spirit or who are struggling and fearful, we say, Let us lift you and cheer you and calm your fears. Take literally the Lord's invitation, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'

I put the letter down on the kitchen counter and sighed. Really? This can't be serious. Were they calling my bluff 12 years later? First I was told to make a choice - I did and now they are pretty much saying "oh, never mind - come back. It doesn't matter what choice you made (we'll help you change that choice)". Clearly they know Bill is not a member and that unless he converts (which he will not do), we will never reach The Church's ultimate goal - being together forever in the Celestial Kingdom.

What a bunch of bull shit.

Honestly, I think their membership numbers are dropping. I made a facebook status update half joking about being stalked, when really, it's pretty true. I've been followed for over 12 years without me giving them any information. Kind of scary, really. And I will never go back. My life is honestly so much better without being under the control of The Church.

I can say what I want to say, wear what I want to wear, eat and drink what I want to drink, watch the movies I want to watch, pretty much do everything I enjoy without having to repent because I drank coffee at breakfast or had a beer at dinner. I can be the independent free-thinker that I am and not have to be subservient to the leadership of the Priesthood. I can teach my children to be critical thinkers and not just to accept what they are told. I can accept my friends (or family) as who they are, different religion or different lifestyle. I don't have to constantly proselytize trying to convert non-members that I come across. I won't have to tithe 10% of my income (which is extortion, really - pay your tithing or you will not have your temple recommend and you will not achieve salvation).

Not only do I have free-will, I have freedom.

And that's just the surface. I've studied the scriptures for years. I've read them all - Bible (both new and old testament), Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Convents. I've read hundreds of other Church publications, been to camps, seminars, gave talks during Sacrament meetings and tried my best to be a missionary, spreading the word and trying to convert non-members. I know enough to know that this is not the "One and Only True Church".

I don't believe that other people will live out their Eternal Life in purgatory because they believed something different, or that their interpretation of God is not the same. I don't believe that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I don't believe that there is a Prophet, or that leaders in The Church are inspired by God. I don't believe that a person's salvation is dependent on the actions (or inaction) of others. I don't believe in hereditary religion.

I believe that organized religion, in general, is corrupt.

Really, I could go on with this forever without even getting into the technical theory of it all. But, I think it's time I get on it to remove my name from their records before I have to have this conversation, again, with The Church members.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Parent-Teacher Conference

Last week Logan's preschool had their first parent-teacher conference. I was actually a little nervous. What was he doing while he was on his own? Was he being respectful and listening? Or was he dishing out the sassy attitude that he gives me when I pick him up from school?

I sat at the table with me on one side and Logan's three teachers sitting on the other. They smiled and handed me a pile of items - his bright green school shirt that I had ordered and a stack of papers that listed skills 3 1/2 year olds are learning and what they were doing in school. "Well, our first parent-teacher conference. Nothing like that to make you feel old!" I joked.

The teachers said that Logan was doing great and there was really nothing to talk about or be concerned with. They said he has a lot of friends in the class and got into the routine very easily. They laughed about how much he likes dinosaurs and race cars, telling me that he growls like a dinosaur on the playground, gets the other kids to play dinosaurs together and talks about them so much that some of his classmates are asking the teachers why he talks about them so much.

God, he's the weird kid, isn't he, I thought to myself. They assured me that he wasn't excessive or disruptive and that they were impressed with how much he knows about them. I laughed saying that I'd get him to expand on his interests and hopefully he'll have more to discuss on the slides.

I looked over his report card where skills were rated as R = Ready, P = Progressing and NY = Not Yet. He was doing quite well with most of his sheet filled with R's. He got a few P's on "carries on a conversation with an adult" (not a big surprise), "holds a book correctly" (which is a shocker since we read every night at bedtime), "situates self in space: in-out, over-under, front-back, etc" (which I figured because he's always been this way). At the bottom there was a space for notes where the teachers wrote that he especially enjoys building toys and outdoor play. Sounds like Logan to me!

The whole meeting lasted about 5 minutes with another 5 minutes of chatting, mostly about my restaurant review blog since one of the teachers is a big fan and reads often (I did not know this!)

It was a fun meeting and I'm so happy that Logan is doing well in school. I'm also still in shock that he's old enough to be in school and have parent-teacher conferences. Wow....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It never ends

Sometimes I think that Bill and I are the hardest working people...when it comes to marriage. We certainly have not had the picture perfect relationship and have had our fair share of troubling times. It's the stereo-typical roller coaster of sorts - a lot of highs and a lot of lows, twists and turns, drops that make you feel like you're going to throw up, not to mention the arms in the air and screaming - sometimes for fun and sometimes not. It's always a wild ride in our life.

Despite thrills that rival the Colossus, we have never stopped the ride to get off. Maybe we're crazy, since I think many people would have given up long ago and really, love can only take you so far. Craziness however, that will make you do some insane things.

I think that we're still in it for the kids. Now, we're not staying for the kids, we're working hard for the kids. There is a gigantic difference. I think having a family has motivated us to make it work, and fortunately, it's motivated both of us (because if one won't do the work, we would fall apart quickly). We do the work, we have the uncomfortable conversations, we go to our marriage counseling sessions when we need to, we make the changes in ourselves that need to be made to make our house a happier home. Seriously, we are the hardest working people at marriage.

And it never ends.

Over the last few months, we were going through some twists and turns that would make anyone get off the ride and puke in the garbage can right next to the Cotton Candy stand. It had been about six months since our last marriage counseling session. We were able to get back on track right before our appointment, but we still went. Rather than being in a crisis mode, we were working on ways to become closer - which was a nice change. Our counselor, who regularly declares us as favorite clients, said that we are in a nice spot to be working on making things amazing rather than getting out of a hole.

Last night Bill had mentioned getting a boxing game for the Wii. "That way you can virtually punch me when you're mad rather than throwing things at my head from across the room, " he joked. "But, there's no reason for that now," he said. I shrugged my shoulders. "No, there's not. It's nice."

It's nice to be able to enjoy the view and maybe next time, I won't scream so loud at the intense G-force drop. After riding a few of those, they aren't as scary anymore. But, I've never been a fan of roller coasters anyway...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Carter's first hair cut

We're finally all healthy again! Well, Logan and I never got sick. Carter's rebound was real - he only has a 24 hour virus. Bill took an entire week to recover. We wonder if he really did have H1N1. Who knows though, because they aren't testing adults here unless there are complications.

So, since we were germ-free - it was time for the boys to get their hair cut. We are getting our family portraits taken this week, and some of us needed a little cleaning up. This would be Carter's first hair cut!

I took Carter to the same kids' salon that Logan got his first hair cut at. Carter is just a tad older than when Logan got his first cut, but he didn't fare as well. The minute I put him in the race car, he cried. We switched chairs so that he could sit on my lap. He squirmed and climbed up me, despite trying to be comforted. The stylist did a great job of getting it done with him all over the place.

Afterward, Carter looked like a little boy and not a baby anymore. Sigh.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everyone's getting it now

Remember when swine flu was this horrible disease from Mexico that was hyped up so much, claiming that people were dying left and right? Remember how schools closed down and there was talk about closing International borders? Remember when people were freaking out about getting a vaccination readily available? Yeah, I remember all of that too. Craziness.

Now, months later, I've known a handful of people who've had H1N1 (as it's now referred as rather than swine flu). Nobody has died. And while it's crappy to be sick with the flu, everyone recovered as quickly as they would with the seasonal flu. Last week Bill and I were talking about the propaganda that goes with new diseases - avian flu, SARS - remember when everyone in China were wearing surgical masks everywhere they went and now, years later, it's nothing but a "remember that" moment? H1N1 will be the same way.

At this very moment, we're getting the round of flu throughout the house. It started with both Bill and Carter. Bill woke up yesterday feeling like crap and said that he thought he was getting the flu. Carter woke up a total grump. He didn't have a fever, so I thought it was teething. After two doses of Tylenol and him still crying non-stop (from 7am to 11:30am), I figured something was wrong. After a few hours, he got a low-grade fever and only wanted to be held. Then he got that glazed look in his eyes that made me think he was going to blow chunks at any moment. But he never did. THANK GOD.

He was listless and lethargic for the day. Bill was getting worse too and needed me to pick him up early from work. All day today they've been recovering, but Carter was quick to spring back. He woke up fine, no fever, nothing. Just like his old self again (maybe still a little clingy). Which is good because his Doctor wanted him to come in to get treated with Tamiflu if we thought he had H1N1 (which is a scary medicine, let me tell you). Bill still has a fever and is shoving Kleenex up his nose to stop it from running. He's having a harder time recovering.

Both of them have the seasonal flu, but H1N1 is making it's way around town, around preschool, around daycare, around the gym, around MOMS Club, around every where we go.

Logan and I have been spared so far. I've been snapping at Logan to keep things out of his mouth, to keep his hands away from his face, to wash his hands - pretty much being a germaphobe. I've been sleeping with Logan since Bill still has a fever. I'm not going to do anything to increase my chances of catching crap - so I'll bunk with the 3 1/2 year old. I really do hope it ends with Bill and Carter.

Wishful thinking, I suppose.

Monday, October 12, 2009


It's been about two months of our "at-home immersion therapy" to help Logan overcome his extreme fear of dogs. I'm able to say that he's officially cured of his phobia.

It's taken a lot of constant reassurance, hand holding, explaining, and encouraging him to face it (or rather the dogs) head on. It started with working with Therapy dogs at activities around town. Then we worked with him being comfortable around our friends dogs while they were gated and separated. Then we went to one of Bill's co-worker's birthday party where they have two small dogs. On the drive over there, we had a conversation in the car with Logan about the dogs and told him that he would be fine. "I'm scared of dogs, but if you hold my hand I won't be scared," he told us. We got to the party and he was a little wary, but slowly warmed up to them. Then another co-worker brought over his two Labradoodles and they ran around, and another co-worker brought her dachshund. There were five dogs with free reign of the yard there.

And Logan did fine.

After he warmed up, he got so comfortable that he wanted to be friends with a Min Pin, talking about how cute he was. I helped to remind him how he has to hold out his hand and get down low so the dog would come over to him and sniff his hand. The dog was more interested in barking Holy Terror at the neighbor dog through the fence. Eventually, I caught Logan running after the Min Pin growling at it like a dinosaur (which I quickly grabbed him and reminded him that WE DO NOT GROWL AT DOGS). The last thing I want is for him to get over his fear then get attacked by a face-biter because he thought it would want to play dinosaurs.

It's gotten to the point where Logan talks about us getting another dog. We're not even close to being ready for that yet. However, it's a huge relief to see that Logan is over his dog phobia and that he can comfortable enjoy the winter months at friends houses with our furry friends along side.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mrs. Clean

When I was pregnant with Carter, I put in an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to barter personal training for house cleaning. At the time it was a necessity. I physically could not clean our house being pregnant and sick with HG. I went through three different people before I found the one we have now. She's been coming to our house three times a week (once to clean and twice to train) for over a year now. Actually, a year and a half.

Last month she needed a surgical procedure that kept her recovering at home for an entire month. I was on my own with the house cleaning. At this point I had no physical excuses, I am completely capable of doing it, it's just finding the time. And without her here those three days a week, the house just wasn't the same. She's pretty much a part of the family now. We've gone out for lunches and will continue to do so. She came to our rescue and brought food and formula for the kids when I got really sick with the flu and Bill was at work. She came over to watch the boys when Bill and I went to the vet hospital to put Buddha down. Her husband (who I also train) is going to dress up like Santa for the kids this year. These two are like surrogate Grandparents for the kids, bringing them stickers when they visit.

This week she got the all clear to workout and clean again. While it's been nice to have a clean house that I didn't have to put the time and effort in, it's been even nicer that they are back in our home.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A narrow escape

Over the last few weeks I've really begun to appreciate and pretty much take advantage of the good times while they last. Because they won't last for long.

When Bill and I first got married, we were on the fast track to success. Both of us had great jobs and we were getting paid pretty well. We were working our way up the ladder. Then it all came to a halt after 9/11. The domino effect that happened after that lasted for years. About four years to be exact. We pulled up our boot straps and tried the climb again. Just as we were getting to the top, the ladder got kicked out from under us and we were right back at the bottom, working our way up again. That was right around the time I got pregnant with Logan. We are now recovered from that kick and back on top again, four years later.

I've been telling Bill that while I don't want to sound pessimistic, I'm just waiting for the rug to get pulled from under us again. It always happens. I suppose if I expect everything to be taken away, I won't be too shocked if it happens. It almost happened a few weeks ago.

Some things went down at Bill's office and some people (one of Bill's closest co-workers) were fired. Things were unstable that day, it was unknown who else was going to get the axe and it seemed to be total chaos. I was just waiting to get the call about Bill finding himself unemployed and what we would need to do to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. Again.

Fortunately, Bill's job is secure and there will not be any pulling up of boot straps.

But over the hours of that day, I really thought about how everything we have can be gone in an instant. How one day, we could lose a family member and the happiness that we know now can quickly become misery. The other shoe could drop at any moment, so enjoy it all while it lasts.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Moving on

Friday was the day. The day we once again, met with Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju with their counselor to figure out where to go from here. The time-out had lasted an entire year without any action on their part, except phone calls to Bill becoming far and few between and the words "I love you" were not said any longer.

Even after a restless night, I wasn't angry with Bill for lying to me about the ambush session. I still don't know why. I should have been. He lied to me again, I was tricked and it was for a sensitive situation. I had every right to be livid with him. Maybe it's because the gloves are off and I'm not taking any more crap from his family. Maybe it's because I have faith in myself that I'm not going to let them push me around anymore and will say what needs to be said because I just don't care at this point. Maybe it's because Bill hasn't tried to do any sneaky things in this year time-out and I've had the proof that he will have my back. Maybe it was because I needed the entire year to heal from the stress they caused. Whatever the case, this was a different situation.

Friday morning I dropped the kids off at the drop-in center so I could get my hair done. I hung out at the salon for a few hours. It was fun and relaxing. I wasn't even stressed about the upcoming appointment. It wasn't until on the drive over to the office that I started to have anxiety.

I picked up Bill from work and we drove to the session. He seemed indifferent about the whole thing, not worried if we got there on time or what happened. This might have made me feel better, knowing that if crap hit the fan, he wasn't going to try to push me into anything. We got there and just like the last session, sat in the waiting room while the three of them chit-chatted about stuff like nothing was wrong. This time I just flipped open my phone and surfed facebook.

We got in the session and the counselor took a completely different approach than the last session. Rather than hashing out the four plus years of events, she started with the ultimate goal (which for Bill is some kind of normalcy) and systematically wrote out what steps we need to take to get there. It was very structured, there was no room for misunderstanding. It was very black and white - exactly what I need in these tumultuous situations and exactly what Grandma L needs to get a clue.

At the beginning of the session I stated, just like last time, that I was there for Bill. Unless there was going to be different action from his family, I had no interest in participating and I was fine with the way things were. The counselor respected that and said that I could jump in at any time. The first thing she asked is what is the first and most important step that needs to be done before any baby-steps can be taken. Bill didn't quite get what she was going for and I knew exactly what she was asking. I quietly sat and observed.

She re-worded the question and got the ball rolling. Bill got it and said that an honest and sincere apology to me needs to be made. There were so many things that needed to be addressed, that they picked two instances and worked with those - the time she called herself "Mommy" to Logan during their visit last year and the time she called me "Little Bitch" and cut me out of the family a few years ago.

The counselor turned to Grandma L and told her exactly what a sincere apology sounds like, the reasons why it's so important and that even though she just put the words in her mouth, she needed to find her own for this situation. She was telling Grandma L that she needed to take responsibility for her part in the problem and that giving me the chance to let go of ill-will was critical.

Grandma L's apology was weak, but I didn't expect anything more. What was important was that she was facing the music. There was no more denial of situations or sweeping them under the rug as if they were unimportant events. I sat there quiet and emotionless and let them do what they needed to do. She cried about how she didn't want to be their mom, just their grandma and that she had no idea calling herself mommy would insinuate otherwise (gee, go figure).

When she attempted to apologize for calling me names and cutting me off, she began to justify her actions saying that she felt attacked. The counselor stopped her and redirected her back to the goal, telling her that she was confused in the moment and rather than asking questions to understand the problem, she mixed-up her confusion with anger and lashed out. She still needed to resolve the act of her confusion. Grandma L begrudgingly apologized. Things were moving in the right direction.

Then, Aunt Ju-Ju pipped up and asked about their apology. Just as we were taking steps forward, she was taking us two steps back. The counselor said that it wasn't going to happen, that it was too big of a step at this point. Bill then interjected. "Kristin has apologized. Sincerely. The phone call that she made to Mom where Mom hung up on her. I heard her apologize for her tone and jumping to conclusions." Grandma L began to lie, saying that she didn't hang up on me. This is where I opened my mouth, "Yes, you did," and the counselor quickly got us back on track. She told Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju that they will have to take Bill's bookmark reminder that there was an attempt at sincere apologies and that if they push it any farther, we'll stalemate and leave right back at square one. The counselor recognized how important Bill's input was and thanked him for this information. Grandma L rolled her eyes, shook her head and sighed, "Fine. Move on."

We accepted that this was all they were able to do, we tackled the two events and moved on to the next step which was discussing comfort levels of a meeting. This is where I added my two cents saying that I would compromise with a public meeting. We were not going to their house and they were not coming to ours. We agreed to meet for an hour at the park. We discussed boundaries - where Grandma L was told that crying would scare the kids (and I was SO GLAD the counselor brought this up because this is one of her main tools for emotional manipulation). Aunt Ju-Ju asked all of the boundary questions for Grandma L - what was acceptable and what wasn't. This really rubbed me the wrong way because it's common sense, but then I had to remind myself that this is the problem - they lack common sense and they have no concept of boundaries.

So, we went over actions like, hugging was OK, holding the kids was OK, taking them off somewhere else was not and when I asked for my children back, I expected to be respected and not argued with. Aunt Ju-Ju pipped up again, "No, what does it look like. We're not getting back into the past." But the counselor saw that they needed to know what not to do just as much as what a perfect meeting looked like and took over with that. "So, no taking the kids from your arms, no taking them out of the playground."

With this agreement to meet for an hour at the park, the counselor wrapped up the session quickly before anything could go wrong and screw up the massive baby-steps that were taken.

At the car, Bill hugged me and thanked me. He knew that I was doing this for him. After an hour of keeping up The Stone Wall in the session, completely emotionless, I let it all out on Bill's shoulder, tear-staining his shirt. In some way, I was able to move on because I felt like there was some justice being done. That people were facing their actions that caused hurt (no matter the intention) and this is one of those core issues for me. I need justice.

On Sunday afternoon, we woke up to rainy weather. We had to go with an alternate plan because the park wouldn't work. Bill tried to suggest they come over to our house and I quickly pulled the breaks on that. We decided to meet at the mall play area.

We got there and a million unruly kids were running around. Grandma L and Grandpa L greeted the kids and hung out in the courtyard until Logan pretty much told everyone that it was time to go play. So we made our way in. It was the perfect place for this first meeting. It was an absolute madhouse in there and I spent the entire time wrangling the boys, making sure Logan was sharing the slide and that Carter wasn't getting trampled over. There was no constant one-on-one interaction, just brief conversation with the kids before they ran off to play on something else. An hour was all Carter could handle and Bill recognized that he needed to go home. I didn't have to say anything. He wrapped up the play-date and we went home. It was relatively painless. There was no gabbiness, no teary emotional guilt trips, no excessive paparazzi photo shoots (which we did not address and I was concerned about it). It was quick, like ripping off a band-aid.

The plan of action is one more hour-long public meeting (I'm assuming sometime around Christmas). Between then, weekly brief phone calls with Logan on Sundays are OK and then we meet with the counselor again to asses the next step. We'll see what happens...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Insomniac ramblings

It's 1:00am and I'm as awake as I would be at 8:00pm. Half of this is due to the side-effects of the asthma medication that I'm almost finished with, the other half is due to the sucker punch from earlier this evening.

As I was writing a restaurant review to post in the morning, Bill informed me (apologetically - and we'll get to that later) that we have an appointment to meet with his parents in a counseling session at 4:30 the next day. I was stunned. Not angry. Not livid. Not terribly upset. But utterly stunned. I did not even have the words to say a single word.

To back up a bit, half of the writer's block going on over here was due to some turbulent times between Bill and I. Every marriage has rough patches and God knows we have our fair share. It was bad. Very, very bad and there was damage. A lot of damage. Nothing that couldn't be undone, but there was some serious hurt that needed (and still needs) to be healed. We made it though the eye of the storm, changing our course and getting back on the right path, slowly but surely - trying - and then... this.

When Bill said that we needed to talk, that old familiar sinking feeling crept into the pit of my stomach. I closed the laptop and he held my hand. Sitting next to me and being the most sincere he's ever been, he apologized for all of the pain he caused over the last month or so. It was heartfelt, honest and real. He said that he made this appointment weeks ago during the horrible time and regretted it the instant he hung up. He assured me that he has my back and always will.

I still don't know what to think.

Even as it sinks in, I'm still not angry. I don't know why. We even laughed and cracked jokes. As my throbbing head pounded all ability to think from my brain, I told him that I thought I just had an aneurysm. My brain had just exploded. And I laughed. Why? Beats me.

I have a day to sort out my thoughts and clear my head. 4:30 marks the end of the year-long break away from the in-laws (which was oddly a post I had been thinking about writing next week).

I'm off to take a sleeping pill...