Monday, February 6, 2012

Setting the Record Straight - Warning, it's a long one ;-)

I have decided that it is time to explain some things and set the record straight so that I don't have to keep explaining to every individual person why I have done the things I have done and why my family feels the way they do. I was going to go to testimony meeting and do this, but my wise husband convinced me that it would be a bad idea and make things worse. I listened to his counsel but feel I need to do it this way. He said to tell everyone hello, so I think I have his approval. He knows how much this situation has consumed me and broken my heart and that I am doing everything I can to make things right.  I hope that by doing this it will put all of the rumors and gossip and assumptions to rest. All of that is toxic and no one should be doing it anyway, but the reality is that everyone, and I do mean everyone, does it even when they don't necessarily mean to be doing it. Anyway, here goes.  

A lot of this started way before it got really bad. A few years ago Dan was the High Priest Group Leader and was working 3 jobs and I had just been through some very bad health problems that have never gone away. Our son was diagnosed with tourettes and a few other things and had a severe reaction to meds they put him on and almost died. Our daughter was assaulted and a few other scary things happened. Anyway, Dan had asked to be released from his calling as the HPGL several times because he didn't feel like he could do it the way it needed to be done. This fell on deaf ears for a long time.  When he spoke to the stake leader he was told he needed to do more. There were people undermining him and what he was trying to do to make things better and he was trying to deal with things as best he could, but when it finally came down to it, he was really having a hard time because no one would listen to his pleas for help. He just kept getting told he needed to try harder and just deal with things. I mean, he had a lot of things going on at home he was handling and trying to do his calling and work, etc. No one would listen. How was having more faith and trying harder (he couldn't have tried any harder) going to help? When the Bishop finally changed, he listened to Dan and helped to get him released. The problem is that while this was wonderful that he did this, it was too late, some pretty big damage had already been done. During this time, was when all of the Prop 8 stuff was going on. Dan has ALWAYS, and never said or done anything different, been a person who doesn't live or teach this lifestyle, but will not tell another person that they can't choose for themselves. He believes EVERYONE has the right to choose for themselves how they live and what they do. He is able to look past what they do and see the person and what is good in them. This to both of us is a fundamental part of the Gospel. Everyone is a child of God. However, he has a sister who is married to another woman and we have several gay friends and family and the very bold unsolicited counsel we have gotten has been pretty much that he needs to shun people who live this way, and if he doesn't, he supports it. There is a difference between supporting a person and supporting their way of life. This is his sister, he shouldn't have to shun her in order to have a good standing in the church. If this was just one or two people, it would be one thing. It has been the majority and a majority of time people in leadership. Our understanding of the Gospel is that we are to love others and not judge and realize that everyone has a right to choose their own way. We have many gay friends, some who are or were members of the church, that are living the Gospel, except in this area, much more clearly than many of the active members we know. This is a huge deal in our home. It is in our family and we have taught our kids tolerance and love for all. Much to the dismay of many who actually keep their kids away from our kids and us because of it. So much for loving your neighbor huh?

Kyler is a unique individual who has a lot of issues and we know that sometimes he is simply hard to be around or understood. His experience through his life and especially teenage years has been one of his peers at school and church treating him as if he was an alien who was out to get everyone. Very few have tried to understand, and when it came to 16-17 year old boys actually throwing rocks and dirt at him he finally said enough is enough. He has a sickness. Just because you can't see it by looking at him doesn't mean he is faking it or that he should be treated like dirt. He has had a very hard life. He has been able to for the most part get past these things, but maybe the rock throwing and things like that have stopped, but he is still shunned by most of the people his age. How is he supposed to understand that it is a Gospel of love when he has never gotten any? He can't change what is wrong with him and sometimes he uses it, but parents and others making excuses for their kids actions aren't acceptable either. He is no different than the other boy in the ward who had a sickness. There is nothing he could do to change it, and neither can Kyler. But the treatment the other boy got and still gets is much different that what Kyler gets. Believe me, some days I can barely get through with him and what he says and does. But I have to remember that in most cases, he can't help it and I understand and know his heart. He is a good, loving person. All it takes to know it for yourself is a little understanding and sincerely trying.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the church's standing on politics is that we are to educate ourselves on the issues and vote how we feel is best. Isn't that what the leaders of the church tell us? Well, this is another thing that has been huge. We have actually been told by some that you can't be a democrat and be in good standing in the church. Again, if this was a random person, no big deal, but when it's leadership it becomes a little confusing. Also, politics is brought into many lessons and activities. It has no business being in church at all. There is a reason the leaders of the church say they have no political standing. We are to choose for ourselves. Again, back to the attitude of you know better and if you don't think the way I do, you are a bad person. FREE AGENCY is a fundamental part of the church. 

OK, so these are things that have been for a long time and really, they weren't causing much of an issue for a long time. Just started making us wonder why certain people were held to a certain expectation and others were allowed to get away with being contradictory to what they claim to be. 

In case there was any question, I LOVE DAN AND I LOVE MY KIDS, AND THAT WILL NOT CHANGE! Just because I may not like or agree with everything they say or do does not mean I don't or shouldn't love them.

So a little less than 2 years ago Dan bought a new fancy camera. He had been called as the historian for our ward for the Pioneer Trek. We had 3 kids going on the trek so it was really cool. Dan has always had a camera in his hand in almost every situation. He can see a picture in everything. We will have memories forever because he has done this. At this point, he decided that he was going to try and get some experience as a photographer. He had a nice camera and some friends who were photographers who were willing and happy to help him get experience and teach him. Where things turned were when he took some questionable pictures. Like I said before, he sees a picture in everything and sees most things in an artistic way. He took some pictures of some WOMEN and they were questionable, but he NEVER hid anything. He sees beauty and art in the human form. I capitalized the word WOMEN because he has never and would never take any questionable image of anyone under 18. He isn't stupid and has a head on his shoulders. For goodness sake, he is a Paralegal, he has a form that has to be signed and takes ID for all. Has parents sign and attend with anyone underage, to protect not only him but them too. Also asks all people to bring a companion.  This also makes it so no other person can take his images without his permission.  Now I am not making excuses, I may not even agree with it, but again, I have no right to tell him what decisions he has to make. Where the problem came is when some one didn't like these pictures and assumed he was hiding them from me and the church. This person, instead of coming to Dan or to us, printed the pictures and took them to the Bishop and said they were worried about Dan and that they were worried about me and the kids because they thought he was hiding stuff from me. Now the Bishop did a good job of just talking to Dan and not being accusatory and judgmental, but then this person apparently didn't feel that he was punished enough or something, so they went on the most public forum they could and called him a pornographer and more a child pornographer and said he was taking advantage of young girls and that they had lost all respect for him and felt sorry for me and my kids and that he should never call himself an upstanding member of the church. When this happened, things went insane. My kids saw this, both of our families, many of our friends, etc. Honestly, I may not agree with some of these pictures, but I will always defend the fact that he has always been honest with me and doesn't keep things from me because he respects me enough to trust in me. We have been married for as long as we have because of this. Dan takes a lot of pictures, some that I'm not so fond of, but he sees art and beauty in everything and so far I haven't seen very many that you could say are anything else. It is hurtful that people think he is hiding things. IF HE WAS TRYING TO HIDE IT, HOW DID ANYONE SEE THEM?? That is not who Dan is. I really feel bad about this, because he is a very talented photographer and many people will never see any of his awesome work because they have judged him. He is a very giving person and will always help out when he can. Many are missing out because of buying in to the rumor and gossip.  Anyway, when this happened, overnight he went from being a beloved, favorite YM President and HPGL, to a sick scumbag. Not many chose to actually find out what was really happening, the gossip and rumors and judgment went wild. I became a naive, immature person because I didn't leave him. Honestly, I have seen a lot things in my life and what he does I would not consider pornography. Pornography is a state of mind. It's what you think and feel when you see something, not the image. A person in a bikini may not always be tasteful, but it isn't pornography. People need to live in reality instead of in a bubble. If you live in a bubble too long, eventually when that bubble pops, you have no idea how to deal with life because you have never seen any other way. I'm not saying you should like or expose yourself or your kids to things, just that not everything is as "bad" as it may seem or some people think. Again, I didn't react the way many thought I should have, so now it means I'm supporting it. Also again, I support Dan, not always what he does, but it's not my place to say or do anything to make him do what I want. He has his agency. No one knows what he is thinking or feeling. Assumptions are not always fact.  None of us are any different than we have ever been. We are loving people who would do anything we could for people, especially the ones we love and care about, but some how it has happened that when it's thought that a mistake is made, shunning and discrediting people is the way to deal with it. I'm pretty sure that there is no where in the scriptures or any counsel that a General Authority or Prophet has given where it says if some one makes a mistake, shun them and treat them like they are the devil. Again, people have decided their kids aren't allowed here because we are some how going to warp them. All of this could have been prevented by this person simply talking to us or Dan, instead of making assumptions and inflicting ultimate damage. This has never gone away. Just in December some one refused to let their child go to my daughters birthday party because of their assumption of what we would be doing.  When we questioned this, we were told their child couldn't go because we needed to get our priorities straight. How this person even knew anything, is wrong. Either it was simply joining in the rumors and gossip, or some one said something that should have been kept in confidence. Either way, it's very hurtful. This particular person we have thought for a long time loved and cared for us. I don't know who to trust anymore. Dan is pretty much gone as far as church is concerned. He has always been not your mainstream member and has been treated very badly by many in the church his entire life. He is and always will be the loving, compassionate, caring, service oriented person people know and love. Just now he isn't "worthy" of this description in many peoples eyes. It makes me very sad, but the more this happens the harder it is for me and our kids to keep going as far as church is concerned. A persons worth is not defined by their actions, except when their actions are deliberate and hurtful. Anyone who has cared enough to get to know him or us, knows that he has a very deep knowledge and testimony of the Gospel, but can't condone many of the actions of the people. If you claim to represent Christ, you can't also be conceited and judgmental.

I have been dealing with chronic pain and a ton of health problems for over 5 years. In that 5 years, we had Dan's parents in our home, Kyler diagnosed with Tourettes, BiPolar Disorder, Depression, insomnia, and then later a auditory processing disorder. This means his brain doesn't process more than about 3 words of what are said to him. This explains a lot of why people think he is ignoring him and why some of what he says is way out there. He has to try and figure out what is said to him and then move on. A lot of what seems like lying is simply trying to make sense of what he thinks he heard. Not all of it, just a lot of it. Megan was assaulted and the person was never even really slapped on the hand. Just recently, Aubree was diagnosed with severe depression and we spent a lot of November and December on a suicide watch. We filed for chapter 13 because of medical bills, and many other things. I freely admit that I am not a real optimistic person, but when I ask for help to try and get through what has seemed like several of the hardest/darkest times of my life almost always what I am told is to simply change my attitude and that if I had more faith and a better attitude these things wouldn't have happened to me. So basically, it's all my fault. That I should simply paste a smile on and things will magically improve. No one should assume I haven't spent more hours on my knees pleading for help than you could imagine.  No one has spent a day or any time in my shoes, ever. Telling a person who is desperately trying to hold her family, health, and life together that it's all her fault it is happening and that she needs to just be happy does not help. I don't ask anyone to fix my problems, just help me get through them. I know being around a person who is negative isn't easy, but again, understanding is the key. I have really been treated like I am a horrible person and literally shunned because I haven't handled my life the way others think I should have. I know of at least 2 families who have moved from this ward because of the judgment and treatment they and their kids were getting, and they are all doing much better now. We can't move, or would have by now. Besides, we like our house and most of our neighbors. 

We put our 3 oldest kids in Karl G Maeser Academy a year and a half ago. We did it in the hopes that it would help them. It has done just that. Things are so much better for them there, especially Kyler. He has found acceptance and understanding there he has never had before. As far as church is concerned though, this has become a double edged sword. The Young Women especially have shunned our daughters. Even telling them that they can't be a part of their "group" because they aren't at school and stuff and don't know what they like and what's going on with them. It does get worse though. My daughter is in the Laurel presidency and has been shut out basically at every meeting. She is doing her best to promote unity but the other girls don't want to let her or other specific girls in. It's hurtful that this seems to be an allowed, even taught way to do things. I'm not saying the leaders are teaching it. I'm sure it's the parents, because most of their mothers are doing the same thing to me. My daughter suggested that during an activity they play a game so that they have to talk to people that they normally didn't talk to, so that they could all get to know each other. The others basically said no way. They didn't want to have to talk to others. Then recently she went to a camp meeting where the question was asked as to whether they should assign cabins and people or let them girls pick. The answer one of the girls came up with was that it wasn't fair to make them be friends with people they didn't want to. This is completely wrong! You are supposed to encourage unity and love and include everyone, but it appears that the cliques and conceit are encouraged in this case. My daughter doesn't even want to go to activities anymore because she ends up either sitting alone or with the leaders, who don't like that she's hanging around, because the other girls won't even talk to her. They talk about her and are rude. What is she supposed to do. She has tried everything. I feel so bad for her. I have felt the same way and experienced the same treatment. This daughter is one who LOVES girls camp. She has always loved it. This year she refuses to go with this ward because of the treatment and humiliation she experienced last year. She has an auto immune disease that takes all of her thyroid hormone produced. Because of this, she has a very hard time controlling her weight. There was a leader who humiliated her several times while at camp in front of others. Telling her to sit down that they only wanted the skinny people, etc. This was hurtful on many levels. She can't do anything more about her weight than she already is and it is NOT OK for anyone, especially and adult, whom she thought loved and cared for her to do. It didn't stop there either. This person has continued on throughout the year. The same person has started to get very ornery and mean whenever I have tried to speak to them. Also, this is the same person who will no longer let their child come here and think Dan and I's priorities are in need of straightening. Our other daughter has just come through a very hard part of her life where she contemplated ending it a few times. She has been shunned just like the other one. Also humiliated and publicly called a liar because she stripped the color she had put in her hair and made it very close to her real color. The other girl didn't like it, so she called her a liar. These seem like dumb things, but once you get all of them together and they repeat over and over again, it's time to just remove ourselves from the toxic environment. Oh yes, then there is the day that Jake and Megan went to church by themselves because they thought it was important, which happened to be fast Sunday. Well, during church that day the person who was so mean to her was put in as a camp leader again, and an adult brought candy to primary and handed it out. Jake ate some and got told off by another boy loudly in primary for eating it on Fast Sunday. Now come on!! It's ridiculous that kids think they can act like this, but that is what seems to be accepted. Even when they are 11 years old, they are taught to make everyone choose the right, not matter what!! Really, no responsible adult should be bringing candy to church on Fast Sunday. I'm not blaming them for causing a problem by bringing it, just that they should know it's going to cause a problem. They are kids. Our kids have been taught that they should fast on Fast Sunday, but that they can choose. If an adult brought it, they figure it was OK to eat. It's also very hard to not have anyone to talk to about these things. I have made my feelings known before to a leader and I became the tattle tail complainer. I certainly can't talk to my leaders now. They wouldn't believe what I told them. 

I am one who absolutely hates it when people accept callings and then just don't bother to do them. Really, if you don't intend to give it your best, say no! It's so much worse to accept it and give the impression you are going to do it, but then don't. People are counting on you. I admit, I am very serious about this stuff. Right down to when I was in the hospital 5 years ago learning how to walk again, I sat in my bed on my computer with my hymn book planning the music for Relief Society for the next 3 months, or when I was recovering from major surgery on my stomach I was in ICU in my bed on my computer coordinating dinners to be taken to one of the ladies I visit taught who had just had a baby. It's the right thing to do. In this household service is taught from birth basically. My kids will do just about anything for anyone. I'm very proud of that. Recently, I coordinated over 30 block captains and set up an email for information regarding Orem City. Trying to help make sure people were prepared in case of an emergency and watching out for my/their neighbors. I have put A LOT of time and effort and work into this. I have been told no less than 20 times that no one cares if I do anything or not. Again, this has a majority of the time come from leadership. If I have no support from my leaders, how am I supposed to do anything that needs to be done? I have literally had to stand in an office and pretty much beg for approval, just to be able to do something I was asked by those same people to do. I was told the same thing when I was doing music in Relief Society, that no one cared except that I had actually made people leave because I asked them to sit in a section different than where "their chair" was for practice for the Christmas program.  I have said it a lot before and will continue to say it until it sinks in. If you tell a person what they say or do means nothing, or that they are worthless enough, they start to believe it and become worthless and don't try anymore. There is a line from a movie that says, something like, once you're told you're not worth it enough, you start to believe it. I have recently been put back on medication for depression. The counselor I see tells me that he can't believe I made it this long before doing it. That most people would have lost it long ago. I didn't want to feel weak, but when I look at the last several years of my life, I realize that I deserve to have a little help trying to get through. I am not getting it from those I would have counted on and expected to be there for me, so this is the only way I can try to help myself. I HATE that I have to take them, but feel that it needs to be this way so I can be a decent wife and mother. Personally I think I have done pretty well trying to handle everything that has been thrown at us. I don't know anyone else who has had so many years in a row of constant trial. I am really trying to get through it with a little dignity. Hard to do when others are smearing us and not allowing us to forgive and forget and move on. We are told all of the time that we shouldn't get offended and need to forgive others. Well there are two sides to that. Those doing the offending have a responsibility to quit offending and in order to truly forgive, we have to be able to forget. If the thing you are trying to forget or be forgiven for is constantly thrown in your face, how are you supposed to get past it? Plus, how about when you are expected to repent and watched like a hawk for things you never did? Only what people think you did. Hard place to be, and it gets tiring being there all of the time. We are so watched that when I wore sunglasses to church to prevent a headache, I was asked what I was covering up. What happened? I'm tired of having to explain things. I had a few people who wore theirs as well in support, which I really appreciated, but honestly, it's ridiculous that I have to explain things every time I do anything. Where's your husband? Why aren't all of your kids here? Why is Dan working on Sunday? Really?? No ones business. This isn't concern, it's a way to tell me that we aren't doing things right. I really wish I could believe it was concern. I remember a time when this ward was so close like family that we were praised all over. People would have done anything for anyone.  Wondering what happened. I haven't shared everything that has happened and been done to our family, but figure this is long enough and hit some main things. Just needed to set the record straight with some things so hopefully the assumptions will stop. 

Really wishing I could go back to my ward and feel comfortable and accepted, but I can't and won't until things are made right for my children and for me. Honestly, if this is happening to us, there are certainly others and I don't want anyone to feel the way we do. Until people realize and fix their own attitudes and start within their own families, nothing will change. That's what we're trying to do. We don't claim to be perfect, just different. Hoping for a better day!