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NEW: Life Coaching

I am starting a new adventure of Life Coaching. I will only be doing it on a part-time basis but If you or anyone is interested in making things happen in your life please contact me. Click the "Life Coaching" tab above for more information.

Book Review: FORTIFY: A Step Towards Recovery

"...My favorite line in this book actually happens on page 5. "Our aim is to help you reclaim and become again who you are and always have been, even if you forgot that for awhile." At ANASAZI we believe every child has a seed of greatness within them. They just need to remember. Both philosophies mean that the strength to overcome negative behaviors lies within."

INSPIRE: music.service.hope

At INSPIRE we are determined to make our dreams come true! We want you to be a part of our success. Please take a moment to check out our website: www.inspiremusicservice.org, FB page, join us at our next service project, or come to one of our upcoming Musical Firesides in the Valley to learn more about us.

"Make It Happen"

"Make It Happen" is a collection of principles, blog entries, stories, and conversations had on couches, floors, kitchen tables, and at many single-adult gatherings. It is filled with practical ways to make changes in your life, find hope, increase faith, strengthen relationships, and build the kingdom."

I Am My Sister's Keeper

"I am my sister's keeper. It is my responsibility to hold her heart and be aware of her concerns. I may not understand why she decided to wear pants to church or why she wants to go to the Priesthood session, but I can certainly learn about her cause and concerns before I demonize her."

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Open Letter To Mormon Feminists


Dear Mormon Feminists,

Don't leave. Please don't leave.

In hearing the news of Kate Kelly my heart hurt. I had this overwhelming sinking feeling for all the Mormon Feminists I know who are barely hanging on or are already standing on the precipice. I just wanted to grab them, one by one, and ask them to stay. I am not a feminist but I love so many of them and I could almost feel their hearts breaking. Sure enough popping up all over FB were the dreaded words I hoped I wouldn't see, "I am out", "I am done", "I am leaving".

Please don't leave.

Don't leave because your questions matter. Don't leave because the way you see the gospel is needed. Don't leave because you change the dialogue. Don't leave because I am better with you.
"Reasons to stay: The value of your diversity: If you experience the pain of exclusion at church from someone who is frightened at your difference, please don't leave [or ] become inactive. You may think you are voting with you feet, that you are making a statement by leaving. [Some may] see your diversity as a problem to be fixed, as a flaw to be corrected or erased. If you are gone, they don't have to deal with you anymore. I want you to know that your diversity is a ore valuable statement." (Chieko Okazaki, "Cat's Cradle", 1993)

Last week in church my sister,  Chelsea Shields Strayer, a prominent Mormon Feminist, taught a beautiful lesson about women in the Old Testament. It was powerful, and at the end she bore a very strong testimony of the need to talk about women in the scriptures—I wanted to stand up a applaud.

Don't leave because the way you tell the stories matter. Don't leave because you are helping things change for the better. Don't leave because while we may not agree on everything we DO agree on a LOT of things. Don't leave because in my diversity I feel safer knowing you are fighting the good fight next to me.

I need you to know that while you may be an outlier in the Mormon Church so are those who speak negatively about your cause. They are also outliers. I imagine the silent majority is neither here nor there. Which means there is so much potential for positive alliances.

So you being in the Sunday School classes, Young Women Lessons, Scouts, Girls Camp, Relief Society, Sacrament Meetings—it matters. You have a story to tell. You have a history to teach. Your questioning heart and mine belong side by side.

Please don't leave.

But if you do, I am sorry for your pain and loss. I am sorry you didn't feel a sense of belonging. I am sorry your heart is broken. I wish you love, joy, and peace.

Some Bishops will hear you. Some church leaders will work with you. Some women and men will learn from you. Some children will have different choices/experiences then you had as child b/c of you. Some policies will change. Some will understand.

Stay.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

School Shootings——What Should We Do?




Another School Shooting. This one hits close to home as I lived very close to Reynolds High School and had many friends who graduated there.  Whenever the school shootings happen there is so much debate about how to help things go differently—and yet there doesn't seem to be much solution focused energy.

For things to change we can't do the same things that aren't working or look at the picture the same way we have in the past. We need to be innovative, preventative, and solution focused. We have some of the most brilliant people in our midst and I can't help but wonder if they could look at these awful shootings in a different light and help come up with some solutions instead pointing fingers at what seems to be causing the problems.

The Problem
Human behavior is an interesting thing. You know how when a child falls down and hurts themselves in a minor way but you, as the parent, don't really see it or the doesn't think you do and they brush themselves off and go back to playing? That same child, if they notice you saw them biff it, will pour on the dramatics and wail and moan.

We don't seem to grow out of that phase much as we grow up as teenagers and adults. Things matter more or become more dramatic in shared experiences. You don't throw water on a grease fire and you shouldn't put more emphasis on a negative behavior—we know this, right?

Some Examples of Change
In my experience as an adolescent therapist if I have a teen, who I know is attention seeking, and they have a panic attack. I don't fall all over them and rush to get people, etc. I work with the teen, move them to a private space/room, and talk them through the panic attack. The less drama, peers, etc. the more the teen can focus on themselves, their breathing, the cause of the attack and less on the attention seeking. It is amazing ho the less attention the teen gets for that behavior, in this case attention seeking panic attacks, the less frequent the behavior happens.

Another example I saw over an over while being a Wilderness Therapist at ANASAZI was when a YoungWalker would run away from his/her group or choose to sit instead of hiking. Both choices are power seeking negative behaviors. So the Staff have a really two choices act or react.  To react is to negatively punish the sitting or running student, to be punitive, to take away their shoes, or have the other kids "attack" the sitting kid to "make" him/her hike. The other choice is change the situation entirely. 

If we had a sitter then the TrailWalkers just changed their plans. They turned sitting time in journal time, skill making time, letter writing time, etc.  Thus knocking out all the power and wind in the sails of the kid who decided to sit. For the runner at ANASAZI we just took the approach of running with them. Eventually (mind you we are in the Tonto National Forest, 5th largest in the nation), they get tired, hungry, cold, or realize they didn't find a house or road. Then after how many miles of running they are faced with two choices: stay and weather out the night or go back to camp. Thus, they put out their own power struggle. They never run again-they didn't get what they wanted.

One more common example: If a child reeks havoc in the grocery store b/c they want a candy bar them mom/dad can either give the child what they want or they can walk out the store. It only takes a few times of walking out of the store before that child stops asking for the candy bar. I believe, to some degree, we've put ourselves in a similar situation. If I want revenge or I'm full of hate, or self loathing, or any number of reasons I can either hurt myself or others. Why hurt myself or others on a small scale--where a few people might hear about me or talk about me—when I murder a mass amount of people and die in infamy. Either way I'm going to die. School shootings are devastating and that isn't going to change but removing the power, the infamy, the global attention—I believe, over time, this will change things.
All these examples are to say that there are different ways to deal with power struggles,  attention seeking, payback, and general negative behaviors—it just takes work and changing the entire situation.

What Doesn't Work
I don't need to share with you any statistics because you already know this but focusing on gun control doesn't stop school shootings. Focusing on mental health doesn't stop school shootings? While they are helpful anti-bullying programs or things like this don't stop school shootings. Focusing on better parenting doesn't stop school shootings. 

In fact, it would seem the more we focus on these different potential causes of the rapidly increasing school shootings the more elusive the solutions seem to get. People are stunned at why this keeps happening at at a loss of what to do.



Suggestions/ Solutions
I am just one person here in the big world of ideas but like the examples above, and from what we already know through experience, it makes sense to me that in any situation where there is negative behaviors being exhibited then we don't want  give that person/situation power or control. So the solution, in some ways is anticlimactic.  We as the audience or the people need to let go of our need to part of the show. We need to walk out of the room or in the case with school shootings we need to stop enshrining malicious negative attention seeking behaviors.

In short, one of my suggestions is to start there, to maybe start passing legislation that states it is illegal to print, film, etc anything to do with the school shooters. People use to grieve local tragedies with their neighbors and their clergy, and they survived. Now negative attention like school shootings  are a global affair, money is raised, media goes on for days, weeks, months, debates are had, articles are written, and infamy is formed.  I am not suggesting we don't care. People have phones, family, churches, friends, etc. They will find a way to get the help they need but we need to start taking the crying child out of the store. The less focus on the shooters=the less enticing it would seem the mass violence would. 

This is not to say that school shootings will stop but over time, I believe, they won't have as much power or control. Like the kids that run away from ANASAZI, the more attention given to that event the more it seems to happen. But I have been at ANASAZI for LONG periods of time where it wasn't even thought of to run away. It was like that option didn't exist-it was amazing. And then some kid, as they do, used their gift of choice to run away, and it was up to us how we reacted in order to help things go right for the future.

I know it doesn't sound like much but I am all for doing things differently then we have  been doing them. I am all about looking at the picture in a different way. I wonder if you have any other ideas or solutions/suggestion you've thought of about this topic??

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Permission Granted


Often when I decide to write something it comes from questions friends or family members asks me and after some time to think I decide to put my thoughts out in the blogosphere. So here's some of my thought on a few of these questions,
"Why did you wear pants to church if you aren't a feminist?" or "Why did you go to that SSA Conference if you don't struggle with SSA?" or this is a good one "Can you actually help teens who struggle with substance abuse if you've never struggled with it yourself?
To me there is an inherent problem with these types of questions. They are from US versus THEM standpoint rather than from a WE perspective. In my mind when I get asked these questions I almost immediately think, 
"If everyone knew the women that were feminists in their individual wards then no one would have to wear pants—they wouldn't need allies—they'd be surrounded by Christians who understand and loved them" or "If you knew how many people around you, male and female, were struggling with their sexuality then you'd be at that conference (or something that would educate you on LGBT issues) too. or this is another thought I have, "How often have you tried to listen and understand a teen that is struggling with addiction instead of judging them?
After these questions start swimming around in my head I then have these next thoughts. What about all the other things I do or have done in my life where I don't actually have the skills, qualifications, or personal experience. Does it really matter in life if you have the specific skills, experience, etc?  For instance,
  • I started a business/non-profit without a business degree.
  • I taught youth ages 15-17 music, performance, etc. with out a music degree.
  • I became fluent in American Sign Language with out being deaf or having anyone in my family being deaf.
  • I dedicated years of my life working in adoption and foster care without personally being adopted or in foster care.
You get the idea. If we only did things that we had actual personal experience with the world, I believe, would be a very different place. 

And so I wanted to write this post for one main reason. I wanted to give people PERMISSION to follow their hearts. PERMISSION GRANTED to go out of your comfort zone. PERMISSION GRANTED to to let your curiosity get the best of you and to delve deeply into something or someone that you can't relate to at all.  PERMISSION GRANTED to start something, to write something, to live a dream, to love the unloveable, to help those in need, to look beyond yourself and your circumstances. PERMISSION GRANTED to become an ally, to be a fighter, to be a lover, to listen. PERMISSION GRANTED to see the world and Its people from a WE perspective instead of a ME or US versus THEM. PERMISSION GRANTED to wear pants to church, to attend an AA meeting, to go to an LGBT Conference, to build a house, to become a mentor, and do so many other things you can't personally relate to or even really understand. PERMISSION GRANTED to be...

In mulling this idea over and over in my mind I came across this awesome organization that embodies these same ideas.  They are called Ashoka. Ashoka's Theory of Change: "Ashoka's job is to make Everyone a Changemaker™. To help create a world where everyone has the freedom, confidence, and skills to turn challenges into solutions. This allows each person the fullest, richest life. And a society so constituted will evolve and adapt faster and more surely than any other." Isn't that amazing!!

PERMISSION GRANTED to be a  Changemaker.

I imagine a day when we don't have to have women lining up and waiting, to have their voices/ hearts desire met or wear pants to church to feel unity. I imagine a day when leaders don't have to go to seminars to learn how to help youth who are coming out gay or where they feel the need to end their lives.  I imagine a day when Christians will understand what it ACTUALLY means to be a Christian.

Until then I wish with all my heart that more people could feel empowered wherever they are in their lives to get outside themselves and love more, listen more, learn more, and in exchange become more.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Would You Date Someone That...


I don't know if it's because I'm getting "older" and still single or if all singles get asked this question but the older I get the more I get asked, "Would you date someone that...?" That ... is filled in with these kind of examples:

  • Would you date someone that has been married before?
  • Would you date someone that has children?
  • Would you date someone that can't have children?
  • Would you date someone that has same sex attraction?
  • Would you date someone that is addicted to porn?
  • Would you date someone that has a substance abuse problem? etc?
It's as if the older I get being single the more I am suppose to "put up with", "deal with", "accept" someone else's "baggage". I don't understand it. When I look around at my friends and family who are married they chose to be with their companion because they were fiercely attracted to them and love them completely—the good and the bad! Why would getting older change any of that?

And yet, I continue to find myself, more and more, in conversations where people ask me the would you be willing to date... questions. So I thought I would address it here.

Even though the above situations are all very different I have the same answer to all of them. Yes. Yes —but not just someone. Let me explain. I would date a specific person based on who they were, how they were handing any of the above, and if they were in a healthy place in their life.

To me it isn't about where you've been or what you bring into a relationship but more about your heart and what you've learned. I know that sounds cheesy but I am looking to date and eventually marry someone who is a healthy whole person. Let me share an example to illustrate.

Years ago I started dating a guy and after a few months he told me, "I have a pornography addiction." I listened as he explained some of his past to me, how he was currently working with a great therapist, and that he was attending an addiction group. when he finished pouring his heart out he looked over at me and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

This was not the first time I had dated a guy with a porn addiction. I said something along the lines of that's great that you are working through things and would you like me to come to group with you. He was shocked—as this is the point where his previous girlfriends walked away. Once he could relax we had an honest, and I think healthy, conversation about our relationship and his addiction. I let him know that I had faith that he could get the help he needed, trust me with his struggles, and still maintain a good relationship. I also let him know that I would support him in any way that he needed. And vice versa. I was no perfect person. I needed his love and support also. 

Here's where things got sticky. I felt that as long as he treated me right and was willing to be open and honest about things—and I did the same for him—that we were in it for the long haul. However, that isn't what happened. He started lying, he got really aggressive, rude, and he was filled with shame and self loathing.  He started blaming and then he started taking things out on me. That was not okay. It was no longer a healthy or loving relationship. 

We broke up, not so much because he was addicted to porn, but because of his addiction he couldn't maintain a healthy relationship. At the time, he couldn't work on his addiction AND be in a serious relationship—and that is how I feel about all the "would you date someone that..." situations.

Each person and situation is so different. Timing plays such a huge part in relationships. How you feel/treat yourself is essential and key to a healthy relationship. Just as much as how you allow someone else the opportunity to be their authentic self. Addictions, feelings, "baggage" past relationships, things that happen to us or that are outside our control, trauma, grief—these are things and situations they aren't us. They only define us if we let them (or we let others define us).

And so, I would date someone that...
  • I couldn't help but laugh with them
  • Allowed me to be vulnerable
  • Created a space of safety
  • Helped me feel my very best 
  • Recognized my weaknesses and loved me anyway, etc.
Would you date someone that...?—Yes, yes I would!




Monday, June 2, 2014

I Am My Brother's Keeper


This past weekend I was invited to present (twice) at the First Inaugural North Star Conference. The theme for the SSA LDS Community that gathered was, "At Home in the Gospel of Christ".  I was nervous. I don't usually get nervous speaking to people. It was just that I didn't know how I would fit into the whole conference??

I  have many gay friends both in and out of the LDS church and I love them all.  This is a topic I have strong feelings about that I rarely share in public forum such as this. However, I thought I would share some of my experience and my feelings as I attended the North Star Conference.

As silly as it sounds I entered the North Star Conference feeling a bit like Quasimodo. You know, the disfigured character from Disney's, "Hunchback of Notre Dame" (taken from the original book by Victor Hugo). Deformed from birth and locked away in a tower. All of his life he spent his days watching the people of Paris, feeling like an outcast.


Not that I am like Quasi but I have been around or been a part of both North Star & Voice(s) of Hope since their inception. I am continually amazed at how many strangers have come out that they are gay, for the first time, to me. I am humbled at how many LDS members of the church I have sent to speak to other LDS members of the church (or outside the church) who struggle with SSA or being gay. I have loved every single one of those opportunities but I, myself, don't struggle with these feelings. So, sometimes I can't help but feel like an outsider or a fraud. These were some of my feelings as I walked into the conference to hear the first Keynote Speaker: Ty Mansfield.

As I listened to him and others speak I kept thinking...what do I have to offer?

The first Break-Out Session I attended was part of the Women's Track at the Conference. I walked into the room I right away I noticed a friend of mine. She started crying. This was her first time to anything like this. Her first time letting people know she struggled with SSA. She told me later that she had worried the entire time driving to UT that, "What will happen if I run into someone I know??" and then she did.  I smiled and sat down next to her. She softly asked me if I was there for me or presenting. I told her I was presenting and we turned to the speaker. Half way through that workshop she leaned over to me and said, "I guess if I had to bump into someone I knew here--I am glad it was you." My heart filled with love. For my friend this conference was, in her words, "Life changing"

I didn't agree with or love everything all the presenters had to say BUT I sincerely felt their love and authenticity. I went to each Break-Out Session with the intent to learn, grow, and to challenge anything I didn't believe was true (and I did ask a few challenging questions). The thing is each  time I left a workshop/class I had this incredible feeling of safety and love. A belonging place--even for an outcast like me.

When it came time for me to do my workshop/presentation on being single all I could think about was how I hoped that some people would show up.  It wasn't lost on me that the majority of the conference were men struggling with SSA and here I was a female, who doesn't struggle with SSA, presenting some ideas about how to be happy and single. HA! People came, we had some great discussions, I felt that I could be vulnerable (I don't do this well) and others felt the same. Our hearts connected and I didn't feel like an outsider at all. I felt deeply loved and in turn felt an abundance of love for those in my class.



I tried to attend a Break-Out Session from most of the different Tracks available. I think one of my favorites classes was the class I was the most worried about. I attend a class for Ecclesiastical Leaders about how to help those with SSA in your propinquity. I feared there would be talk or conformity, or tough love, or maybe some ideas around this complete idiocy phrase "hate the sin--not the sinner". To my utmost surprise (I shouldn't have been surprised) the entire class was filled with honest questions about helping those who are struggling with SSA or feeling they are Gay in the church. I thought the two therapists leading the discussion did a great job of moving the class along and facilitating difficult but true situations. I found myself so badly wishing there were more leaders in attendance listening. 

Being that often the male leaders of the church are where many youth end up going to talk to when they have questions about their SSA feelings or sexuality--it is so important that they understand that sacred ground of helping teens to navigate in or out of the church (whatever is in their best interest). I left that class feeling that maybe some things will change for the better in the church for those with SSA--at least for those who talk with the leaders in attendance.

While I know there are many who will disagree with me, In my experience,  this conference was a haven for those who came desiring to stay in the LDS church and reconcile their feelings in some kind of healthy manner for themselves. I left the North Star Conference feeling better, lighter, loved, strengthened. I made many new friends and found myself renewed to love better, be kinder, and listen more.  

North Star and conferences like this aren't for everyone and I'm grateful for other resources, friends, opportunities, and places for people to go when they no longer feel safe or loved in the LDS church or in their homes. Please know you are loved, you are awesome, and you matter!

I welcome your feelings/thoughts about the North Star Conference and any rebuttals also.