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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:, 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."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dont Fix Me

There are some moments in our lives that seemed to be etched on the inside of our eyelids or in the walls of our hearts. Moments that change us—maybe we don't know it at the time but they are transformative. The first time you fall in love. The first time you come to intimately know Death. Your college acceptance letter and then graduation.

For me, there are so many.The moment I realized I was entire fluent in ASL. Standing on the balcony overlooking the City of Old Jerusalem. Sitting on the Piazza De Spagna steps in Rome. The day I adopted my piano. Holding my very own book and looking at my name on the cover. Reading bedtime stories to my niece. Playing trains with my nephew. Standing by a river I never knew before and feeling the ground move from underneath me.  Getting the 501(c)3 status of my non-profit. And one seemingly ordinary teenage moment when I was about 17.

I remember I was crying on my bed in my room. I was complaining to my mom about how making right choices didn't always mean that good things happened. I had chosen not to drink, have sex, do drugs, etc and as a result I quickly stopped getting invited to anything. And so I sat night after night, in my room, all alone. I was contemplating this whole idea of living righteously. I was in a very egocentric and negative place.

I remember my mom sitting next to me on my bed and just listening. Looking back I am sure it was agony for her to see me making good choices and suffering so much as a result. After letting me vent for a bit she rubbed my back and just sat there while I cried. She didn't say it was going to be okay. She didn't feed me any platitudes of blessings to come. In fact, I don't remember her saying much of anything. She just let me be in my pain in a close enough proximity that if I needed her all I needed to do was ask.

I am still learning from that moment.

I think more often than not when people are in pain we have this innate desire to fix the pain. We want to help. Most of the time we have no idea what that help looks like so we do our very best. The thing is most of the time people don't need your help or need to be fixed. They just need you.

Recently, I opened up and was vulnerable to a friend of mine. He sat and listened, while I made a mess of myself, and gave me enough signs that I could continue. I spoke some hard truths about myself that I know he knew were true. He didn't coddle me, try to fix me, or even really try to comfort me—and yet I felt loved. He let me sit there, tears coming down my face, in my stuff and just be. It was amazing.

Once again I learned a powerful lesson.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I Love You, But...

I don't—or haven't yet met—anyone who wants their love quantified or qualified.

No one wants to hear, "I love you, but..." "I accept you if only you will..." "I love everything about you but are you going to change...""I love you as a person but..." and so forth. Love, though at times complicated, is pretty simple. Either you love me or you don't.

The Sassover Rebbe said that he learned the meaning of love from overhearing a converstation between two villagers. One asked the other, "Do you love me?" The second replied, "I love you deeply." The first asked, "Do you know, my friend, what gives me pain?" The second protested that he could not possibly know. "If you do no know what gives me pain," lamented the first, "how can you say you love me?" (Rabbi David Wolpe, "Making Loss Matter", 1999)

I don't understand, and at times it has caused a lot of internal turmoil, the many facets of conditional love—it baffles me. People are complicated, messy, incredible human beings and because of this they love out of fear, passion, desperations, a need for connection, to leave a legacy, for romance, and so much more. Even the hardest and darkest of heart want to feel whole and accepted. 

Years ago I was dating an incredible guy and things were going really well. We hadn't dated that long and he asked if he could come over and take me for a walk outside. I was excited and thought it was a romantic gesture (boy was I wrong).  We held hands and walked for a while sometimes talking and sometimes just walking in silence. I loved it and thought that things were just as they should be.

He, on the other hand, was thinking about other things entirely different. At one point he stopped and we sat on a park bench or something and he launched into this diatribe about how he had been talking about me to his dad and thinking very seriously about us...I thought that was a bit intense (remember how we hadn't been dating very long). And then I had one of those life changing-turning point moments.

He said something like this, "Kylee, I really love you and I can see myself marrying you but there are a just a few things about you that I'm wondering if they are going to change?" I braced myself and actually thought, Kylee, don't shut down, listen, maybe he will be spot on about some things you need to work on and this could be good for your relationship. After taking a deep breath I said, "okay what things are you wondering about?"

He had a list—let's just say that it's never, ever, a good idea to have a list about someone else's faults. He started asking me if I was always going to be so happy (unrealistic in his mind), loud, talkative, optimistic, passionate about life, empathetic to everyone (he didn't like how much time I used to listen to other people's problems—and this was before I became a therapist), need to be the center of attention, etc.

It wouldn't be until years later during the movie, "How to Train Your Dragon" that I would get the right words to describe how that moment felt. I wanted to say to him, "You just gestured to all of me." How can you love me and yet want me to change all the things I value about myself. I looked up at him and he was serious. I said, "I am clearly not what you are looking for." Then I walked home by myself.

I thought a lot about what he had said. I was too talkative, too loud, to gregarious, spent too much time listening to others, and so forth but I was working on those things. God was aware of the desires of my heart. Him poking at my weakness and strengths hurt but it also allowed me to dig deep into who I wanted to be and it gave me a change to really think about love.

Since that moment I have had many dear friends change the dynamics of our relationship. Some have left the Mormon church, come out as gay, become Mormon Feminists, had severe depression, anxiety, bi-polar, gone to prison, etc. Each time I have thought to myself, does that change the way you feel about them or love them? and each time without fail the answer comes resounding back, no! you don't love them for what they do, how they change, how you met—you love them for who they are at their core.

And so tonight I want to be more like Lucia in Max Lucado's book, "You Are Special" where the dots and stars (the marks or qualifiers people place on us) don't stick. Where I am free to be loved, all of me, and in return I am welcome to love others, all of them. 

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.


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.