A More Perfect Union

Hello, my friends.

I haven’t written on my blog in years. I’m sure that the things I wrote are trivial and hilarious to read… feel free to flip back if you want. But that’s not what this is about.

Please, read everything so you don’t misunderstand me.

It’s finals week. I don’t have time to be writing this. But I cannot sleep. I can’t get over the dread and anxiety I have over the state of the media, our nation, the world… and the fear I have for my future children. What will their world be like?

I’m getting ahead of myself.

There are so many debates going on all over this country. Let all refugees in! Ban Muslims! Gun control! A gun in every home! Trump! Hillary!

So much noise. So much anger. So much hatred. So much fear and bigotry and hate hate hate.

My heart is aching.

The words my heart whisper are things that you likely also believe. I like to think that most people who have been taught correct principles and who have allowed them to really sink into their hearts, regardless of race, status, culture, religion, or creed believe these things.

  1. Human beings deserve to be treated as human beings. Not as property, not as objects for us to act upon – but people. People with families, with desires, with dreams, with hopes and homes and plans and everyday struggles common to all men.
  2. “All men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of  Happiness…”

There are exceptions.

We both know there are exceptions. People abuse their spouses. Children are neglected. Terrorists perform heinous acts upon the innocent. Sociopathic serial killers take lives to satisfy their own desires. People lie and cheat and steal. People believe and subscribe to false ideologies that inform their poisonous actions.

But, for our purposes, let’s go with the assumption that you are not, in fact, a sociopathic serial killer. You are not neglecting your children, nor do you hit your husband in the head with a frying pan or beat your wife or bomb public settings with the hopes of destroying innocent lives. You don’t stalk people, you don’t kill them, and you’re not going to end up with a Law & Order: SVU episode based on your exploits.


Let’s also assume that you care for people even when you don’t know them. You mourn the loss of people who die in car accidents on the freeway. You hope peace can someday find its way into the hearts of those whose loved ones die of cancer, are killed in battle, or go missing and are never seen or heard from again.

When you read about the atrocities of the Holocaust, you probably become uncomfortable. Maybe you feel anger. If you were to visit a Nazi concentration camp, you would probably feel a deep and sobering sorrow as you walked through their barracks, through the furnaces into which their bodies were stuffed, through the gas chambers into which they were herded like livestock for slaughter.


Diagram of an African slave ship. Not exactly a pleasure cruise situation.

When you learn about millions of Africans ripped from their homes to be stuffed into ships and sold into slavery, your heart breaks. You might even weep, if you think about it too much.

You and I both care for people.

We want what is best for them. We are fiercely loyal to our own people and especially to the safety of our families, and we know that others are, too. We want “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” but not at the expense of others.

If we truly believe the reasons early pioneers of our nation attempted to “create a more perfect union,” then we do, indeed, “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Slavery is bad. (Duh.)

Naturally, we shudder at the treatment of Africans during the era of colonialism and slavery. Consider this thought by Thomas Carlyle, a proponent of slavery in the West Indies during the mid-to-late 1800’s. Speaking of African slaves’ emancipation, he explained:

Would the horses be next to be emancipated? [Carlyle] asked… It was only the white man who had given value to the West Indies, and the “indolent two-legged cattle” should be forced to work. The abuses of slavery should be abolished… The black African, alone of wild men, could live among civilized, but he could be useful in God’s creation only as a perpetual servant (196).

Carlyle later insisted that “more Africans” be brought into slavery to increase the economic output in such countries.

Painful to read, isn’t it? Surely such supporters of slavery and other vile treatment of human beings did not understand the worth of the people they were enslaving. They didn’t understand that just because the enslaved peoples were different from them, this did not make them bad.

We know better.

What was that, Mr. Jefferson?

In the United States Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “we hold these truths to be self-evident [not needing to be explained; obvious].

  • We might understand that to mean, “by virtue of being a human, the following rights are obvious and shouldn’t have to be explained.”

“[T]hat all men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable [unable to be taken away from] rights.”

  • Who is endowed with certain unalienable rights? Only citizens of the United States? Only white people? Only Christians? All men. All men. Everyone. All men. All: the whole quantity or extent of a particular group or thing. All men. The whole quantity of humans.

Yes, the exceptions can give up their rights. You can’t kill someone and expect to “pursue happiness” alongside the rest of society. A mother or father cannot neglect the safety of their children and expect to keep them in their home. Yes, we can give up our rights by our own destructive actions. But an important part of those rights is that no one can take them away from you unless you give them up by your actions that demonstrate that you yourself do not care about others having those same rights!

Proud to be an American.

Yes, we must be safe. Yes, we must be sound. But I submit you cannot claim to be “a real American” and reject the very foundation upon which this nation was created. You cannot claim to believe in God as the father of all who are living on the earth (“their Creator,” as Thomas Jefferson wrote) and claim that an entire religion ought to be banned from the United States. Does religious freedom only apply to Christians? What about Jews? No one wants to be called an anti-Semite, but how can we restrict the freedoms of peaceful Muslims? What about atheists? Surely they have the freedom to not believe, too.

“Real” Americans?

I find it interesting to consider what might have happened if the Native Americans had been strong enough to keep us out of their land — insisting that all white men are evil because of the insane acts of the radical minority — instead of being less technologically-advanced than we were, succumbing to small pox and muskets.

Many native peoples were enslaved, slaughtered and forced to the most remote parts of the country, in case you missed that fine print in history class. I am grateful for a free land, but I worry that when we suggest that an entire race or religion or group of people is inherently bad, we forget our own history.

You can argue that letting in “too many refugees” will give the same problem, that we will be overrun. They will bomb us until we are all gone. But are all Muslims radical jihadists? When there is actual unbiased evidence to support this claim, I consider that as a possibility. (You cannot site the acts of the radical minority and say that all Muslims are evil! That simply does not make sense. Correlation does not equal causation. Check out these hilarious graphs for illustration that just because two things are seemingly related does not mean one causes the other.)

Okay, this is my favorite one. I have to put at least one in here:


If correlation were equal to causation, the more films Nicholas Cage stars in would cause a proportional amount of swimming pool deaths each year.

Fact: all children murder their parents.

Claiming without evidence that all Muslims are going to try to kill us is a sweeping generalization with dangerous consequences. As sinister as some of them are, the following generalizations almost become amusing when we attempt to accept them as truth:

  • All young girls brutally murder their parents with an axe. (Clearly taught by Lizzie Borden.)
  • Each and every British man is a serial killer. (Thanks for the warning, Jack the Ripper.)
  • All Democrats are bleeding-hearted liberals who want to take away your rights as an American citizen to protect your family. Your taxes will pay for their family trips to Disneyland, cell phones, and a new Ferrari in every driveway. (No evidence for outrageous claims.)
  • All Republicans are bigots who hate everyone but their own back-woods, inbred family. Your taxes will pay for their bunkers in the desert, complete with a small yet military-grade arsenal. (No evidence for outrageous claims.)

I know what you’re thinking.

“But this is different. All Muslims really do want to kill us. Really. [This newscaster on my favorite station] told me so.”

I would invite you to ask a Muslim what she believes. Have you done research to make sure you weren’t being baited by that newscaster into watching more t.v.? Have you made sure to hear both sides of what a religion believes? Not what others say about it, but what its actual believers happen to believe?

I’m sure you wouldn’t want people to proclaim that your religion teaches something that they do not, in fact, teach or support in any way. I know I feel very frustrated and just plain yucky inside when people tell me Mormons “don’t believe in Jesus Christ”, or that Baptists are all idiots for thinking they’re “saved by grace,” or that atheists are going to “burn in hell.” Did you ask the atheist why he believes what he believes? Have you discussed the teachings of your Lutheran friend’s preacher, simply with the intent to listen and learn, to seek understanding?

Have you taken a step outside of your own box, out of your own home, out of your own world view to learn what that person you have objectified actually believes?

If the answer to that is no, I think now would be a great time to do actual, unbiased research. I know it’s hard, and it’s not fun. Finding unbiased sources is difficult. It’s so much easier to listen to Donald Trump say we should “bomb the sh*t out of them” because then it takes no effort on our part. Friends, knowing the truth is better than lazily accepting what a radical-in-a-different-way, business-man-and-alleged-politician has to say on the subject. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. THINK FOR YOURSELF.

In Conclusion… hopefully.

In case you have some beef with me, I want you to know a few things.

  1. I do not condone violent acts of any kind. Wartime, when necessary, is different. But it’s that “necessary” part that is, well, necessary.
  2. I firmly believe that all men have the right to what Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.
  3. Hopefully this is obvious — but do not misunderstand me. Those who could pose a threat to our nation should not be allowed to come here. Black, white, Muslim, Christian, tall, short, old, young. If you are a threat, you are not welcome.
  4. I do not claim to have the answers — I know there are problems that need to be solved. I don’t know enough about the research that goes into foreign visitors and immigrants, and I don’t know how our nation determines if refugees are truly refugees as they claim or if they are posing as such to enter our country and do us harm. I know there are hundreds and maybe thousands of people in this country who are mourning the loss of their loved ones because of extremists’ actions. I don’t have the answers.

Here is what I do know.

  1. No one and no system are perfect. We will always be vulnerable to threats, inside and outside our borders. That is the world in which we live.
  2. We cannot fight hate with hate. We can’t smack our child across the face for hitting her brother and expect her to not internalize that the strong beat up the weak, and that she can use power to make people do what she wants.
  3. I love people. My goal is understanding and tolerance while maintaining my own values and the safety of my home, my life, my family, and my community.

I invite anyone who wants to know more about this topic to look to informed, unbiased sources. I do not have all the answers. What I have shared has been hurting my heart, keeping me awake, giving me nightmares, escalating my already intense anxiety. I have spoken my peace and now I will hold it.

Choose to love others. Choose to seek understanding. Protect yourself, protect your families, but not at the expense of others.

Pray for our world. Pray for world leaders. Pray for peace. Pray for understanding. Pray for your own losses and for the losses of others. Pray to know what you can do to make your own piece of this world a little better.

Let’s all work together, okay?




“Catch Those Spring Days… We’ll Be Okay.”



I have this on my mirror, and I look at it every day:

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
– Saint Augustine

Patience is quite the game. Making plans while practicing patience is fun… you’re waiting, and waiting, and waiting, but you also have to keep working and working and working… it’s quite the game, indeed.

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting — that is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow; that is patience.”

Here’s another great quote on patience:

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”
– St. Teresa of Avila

Life is good.

Welcome to Idaho

I love this song.

And I love Idaho.

And I really love Melba:

And I love long drives to nowhere (like Rexburg):

I love summertime lake sunsets:

And I love Sonic…. especially the one by the Idaho Center.

I love my road trip partner:

And I love driving with my sun roof open:

I love non-Dudebros.

I love patience, and guidance, and patience and patience and patience.

“How poor are they that ha’ not patience!”

I love Shakespeare (and Trajan).

And I love the idea I’ve been toying with of taking another Facebook fast and never, ever going back…. Ever.

And I love you.


That Fleeting Moment

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

“The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” –e. e. cummings

“I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

“The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.”

“Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” – D&C 64:33

Just a little collection of my favorite quotes & a scripture, too.

What are some of your favorite quotes? <3

Also… my favorite song, covered by Nataly Dawn. So perfect.

Ignition Sequence Commencing

Almost every day, I want to write a new blog post. I get up the courage (as in, I tell myself you actually want to read what I’m saying). I come up with an idea…. but by the time I’ve organized my thoughts I’m tired of that idea and abandon it and the whole “blogging” idea all together. It’s quite frustrating, because I really do love it! So you get one about every six months. Haha!

But I’ve been needing to write all this out for a long, long time.

Today, I will not give up.

I have been accepted to Brigham Young University-Idaho for the Winter/Spring track. What does this mean? Let me tell you:

This means I will be going to school for three semesters in a row (Sept-Dec at College of Idaho, Jan-July at BYU-I).

It means I am moving away from my family, friends, and any idea of a comfort zone or a sense of security.

It means I am moving to eastern Idaho (something I swore I would never do) in the dead of winter, when my whole heart and soul screams for hot weather 99% of the time. Except when I sleep… but I digress.

What else does my Winter/Spring track assignment mean? It means that in ten days, I will be on the road to the unknown, to snow, and to sorting out my transferring credits (or lack thereof) for the second time in as many years.

I have a lot to say on this subject, but I am probably going to break it up into separate posts. Today, I have some random thoughts about how I’ve acted about moving to Rexburg (AKA the Iceburg). That sentence was pretty convoluted. I’ve got some thoughts floating around in my noggin. Those thoughts concern my recent attitude towards my choice to move to Rexburg.

Here is a really great picture of how I’ve been acting lately:

If you know anything about me, you know I quite detest chickens. They’re ugly, and they make those freaky squaaaaaaaaacking noises, and they run around and sorta half-fly just to eye level, and they peck your feet and they chase you around like THEY want to eat YOU. But, as we know, being called a “chicken” is a great way to tell someone they’re a coward.

And I’m being a chicken. A big, fat, chicken-y chicken!

All day long, every day, I have a million thoughts running races around my brain seeing how fast they can freak me out. Most of them are completely absurd – funny even – but freaky nonetheless:

What if I don’t make any friends in Rexburg? What if I slip and break my face on the ice and something weird happens where they have to cut my face off and then I have a John Travolta/Nicolas Cage situation where someone goes around being crazy with my face on their body and no one believes that it’s really not me? What if I get attacked by a gang of miscreants? What if no one ever, never, ever wants to marry me and I’ll be destined to just die a fat old lady all alone, or what if I’m not alone but it’s because I have a bunch of cats everywhere? What if my friends forget all about me and even when I come back home they don’t care to see me? What if my favorite little gang of Johnson grandkids forgets who I am (and that wild little girl who will FINALLY give me hugs and be my friend doesn’t even want to talk to me anymore? What if I lose my creative soul that makes me want do all the weird stuff that makes me, ME? What if I wake up and I’ve turned in to a Molly You-Know-What?

I could keep going, they just get more and more ridiculous and funny… but they also get freakier and freakier.

So what is the point of all this? The point is that I’m going anyway.


I can feel with all of my soul that this is the right choice for me right now, even if it is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I know, a lot of people tell me it isn’t scary. But to me, it really is. I know that I’m starting a new chapter of my life by making the choice to head off to the Iceburg. That also means I’m closing an old chapter. I worry that I’m leaving behind my only chance(s) for happiness. That my current friends will move on and I’ll fade into memory, and that I’ll never find any friends as true as them again. I worry I’ll never meet anyone who understands me and truly adores me and really loves me for who I truly am. I’m worried that I will not be able to get through the graphic design program… that I will fail… But guess what….


My best friend in the whole world, Kayla, is one reason I’m especially sad to be moving away. It’s hard to picture being without her; we lived together at C of I last year and saw each other almost every day this year. Not only that, though. She is the truest friend I have ever had.

And let me tell you, I am kindof a hard friend to have sometimes… that’s not mean to be self-deprecating, it’s just true a lot of the time. I lose my possessions almost every day (for example, I currently have no idea where my car keys are). I’m scatterbrained and SO forgetful, even though I try really really REALLY hard to remember the things I’m supposed to be doing or bringing with me or whatever. I’m pretty emotional too, and I get really discouraged sometimes or freaked out or sad. Time doesn’t really mean anything to me even though I desperately want it to… I always overestimate the amount of time I have to do something… so I’m late to a lot of things.

But she is always there for me. Even when I lose my keys so we can’t leave; or I can’t find my phone and we have to wait; or I need to go back to my room to turn my straightener off; or I can’t remember what I’m doing at all… Even though I’m sure it frustrates her sometimes to always be waiting on me to do that one last thing I forgot to do, or to assemble my backpack at the very last minute possible, or to lose track of time and make us late, or that she has to say “Phone? (yes) Keys? (yes) Book? (Ah, I KNEW I forgot something!)” before we leave my room… She is always there, always supportive, always true and kind and helpful to me.

She also knows me. She knows that I will need something of a survival kit… which is exactly what she gave me for Christmas this year:

How to Survive Rexburg Without Your Best Friend:

OCP’s, Extra Butter popcorn, and Grape Drank (Fierce Grape Gatorade). These are our treats of choice, our go-to artery cloggers. Necessary for survival, and for not forgetting how awesome it is to eat unhealthy treats in the middle of the night.

Good-smelly-lotion, in case my new roommates don’t have lotion on their desks like she always did (that I always used).

“Valentine’s Day” for the time we were on a double date and saw the most intense (and only) girl fight we’ve ever seen. “Fired Up”…. because it’s “Fired Up,” and it’s hilarious!

The Glee Volume 7 CD because we can’t watch Glee together anymore… which was one of our FAVORITE pastimes.

Not only am I just straight up pumped that I have all this stuff, but it really will help me survive the change. Survive my fears. I am so thankful for Kayla, and that she has always been SO supportive and kind to me. I just love that girl…. and I will miss her. Thank goodness for Skype!

SO THE MORAL OF THIS STORY….. we make choices every day. I made the choice to go to Rexburg several months ago, but lately I have been whining and complaining and almost wishing I could just stay home…. and I could stay home…. but I know that is not what I’m supposed to be doing. I am CHOOSING to go to Rexburg, because I know it is the right choice for me. I can CHOOSE to feel bad about it, and be afraid, and freak out, and complain about the weather…. but the truth is, I know it is going to be a blast.


That’s me. And my CHOOSE bracelet I made at the last Brave Girl Camp. And I wear that every day to remind myself that I make choices every single day, and it is my choice to be happy.

Merry Christmas my friends, and I hope you can choose happiness like I am.


“You jump, I jump, right?”

It’s been over a year since I posted here. Yikes. I hope none of you were holding your breath for me to put something up…… if so, PLEASE take a breath! And don’t hold it again, I’m making no guarantees about when my next post will be. I’m hoping it will be soon.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I am thankful. Family is in town, friends are home from college (some with new husbands in tow), the weather is hot and the fireworks are cool. I will get my first good sunburn of the year, I will eat my aunt’s delicious orange salad, I will see some of my most favorite people in the whole world all in one day, and I will get to see the amazing Melba Fourth of July fireworks that I know are the most incredible in the valley. In honor of how thankful I am, here are a few things I am thankful for that sortof relate to the Fourth….. and some that sortof really don’t.

Fake Tan That Doesn’t Turn You Orange

Yes, that’s right. Some of us aren’t blessed with skin that tans very well. In fact, some people have to get a wicked sunburn before we can tan. Being one of those people and also being someone who doesn’t want skin cancer, I am in love with this spray-on tan. I’m just being real, people: I’m white.

Bubble Baths

If you haven’t taken a bubble bath recently, I recommend doing so immediately. Go, right now. Get a fancy glass and pour in some Dr. Pepper. Turn Eva Cassidy Radio on Pandora on your phone. Grab an uplifting book. Fill up the tub with hot water and a million bubbles. Relax. Read. Drink Dr. Pepper. Enjoy.

AMC’s “Titanic” Marathon of Sorts

First of all, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. A young Leo, tragic & true love that never dies, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, elegant dresses and hats and jewelry and dinners…. it doesn’t get much better than that. Second, it has played for TWO nights in a row on AMC for a sweet little “Can’t Get Enough Titanic” marathon…. and I agree. I can’t get enough Titanic. I could watch this movie over and over again. I love it every time Jack tells Rose he’s going to jump into the ocean after her. The OCEAN. The FREEZING ocean. The freezing ocean IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. It’s like reading Romeo & Juliet: it just gets better every time. I mean, come on! Try not to love this:

Third, Rose is a brave girl. She says goodbye to her mother & her fiance, faces what seems like certain death to avoid parting ways with Jack, and at 101 years old is still kickin’. She rocks. Something else awesome about this movie: the abusive, womanizing, rude, icky jerk of an antagonist LOSES.

Or is the iceberg the antagonist? I always hope a little bit that the ship will miss the iceberg so Rose and Jack can live happily ever after…

Freedom of Religion

I’m just saying, America is awesome. Sure, I am not really a fan of people who wear American flag t-shirts and talk about America as if we’re the only country on Earth and who act like they’d like to punch anyone who isn’t American. But what I DO love about America is that we get to pretty much worship whomever and whatever we want. I feel so lucky that we live in a country where we can choose our religion freely. Missionaries from any denomination can spread their message however they want, from LDS guys knocking on doors to those dudes in the Warped Tour parking lot who give you books and ask you to donate money. I heart missionaries.

I hope you all have a wonderful Fourth… I’m planning on doing so! See you all in the traffic jam heading out of Melba.

love, JL

Brave Girls Club, the Essay.

Just a little preface… for my English 102 class at Boise State University, we had to pick a theme upon which our papers would be based. At the last minute I chose art therapy, thinking I would at least get to read about art and might be somewhat interested. Suffice it to say this was a perfect topic for me to pick, and my other two papers (including the OTHER paper I was writing while at February Brave Girls Camp!!) have included bits about BGC. This, however, is an ethnography–I had to observe a community. What better art therapy-type community to observe than Brave Girls!! I hope you like it… xoxoxo


Brave Girls Club: an Ethnographic Adventure 

To call the following experience a mere ethnographic observance would both be a massive understatement and would do no justice to it. I experienced something while observing, attending, and working as staff at the February 2010 Brave Girls Camp (BGC). As I sit here to attempt inscribing the remarkable experience that is BGC, I am trying to feel a small piece of the atmosphere created there. I am browsing the Facebook pages of my fellow staff members and of the guests, telling them how much I’m thinking about them. My “Brave Girl” playlist is singing to me from my trusty computer, Eleanor. Several artifacts from my BGC experience are scattered about my bedroom: a wooden figurine from the first BGC is wearing the charms that graced our goblets around her neck; my apron, designed by me and sewed by my dear friend Camille, hangs outside my closet on a thumbtack; and a 16 oz. bottle of glossy Mod Podge is sitting next to Eleanor on my desk. Alas, I cannot recreate the feeling one has while attending Brave Girls Camp. What I shall do here, however, is attempt to portray and explain that environment to you. 

Brave Girls Club is an artsy women’s organization created by artist Melody Ross and her sister and business partner, Kathy Wilkins, to enrich women’s lives in a heartfelt, long-lasting, and meaningful way. Being “brave,” as the group’s name suggests, is a major theme of the Brave Girls Club and their quarterly art & life retreats. However, defining Brave Girls Club or even coming up with a sufficient description of what it is can be tricky. The Random House online dictionary defines brave as “possessing or displaying courage; able to face and deal with danger or fear without flinching,” (“brave”). To Kathy, being brave means: “doing HARD things with grace and dignity and growth and joy and yes, even with humor. [It] is having the courage to be your 100% authentic self.” Melody’s definition of “being brave has meant getting up every day, whether I want to or not, and making at least one thing in my life better than it was yesterday,” (“Brave Girls Club”). While each Brave Girl’s definition of what it takes to be brave is different and unique to them, we can surmise that the following quote by Georgia O’Keefe encompasses the feelings of each woman: “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” If that is what being brave means, how does that apply to Brave Girls Club? First, let’s take a look at what actually happens during each Brave Girl Camp. 

According to their advertising, BGC is a “four-day, all-inclusive retreat […] offering both beautiful cabin accommodations and meaningful art projects and instruction,” (Wylie). In an attempt to shed light on what makes the Brave Girls Camp experience so unique and special, let’s break down the preparations the staff attends to in order for the guests to have a truly life-changing experience. The term “staff” is used here loosely, as all involved in preparing for and running the camps are the founders’ family and extremely close friends. 

In the weeks before BGC arrives, Kathy, Melody and their staff hold “Brave Girl Work Days” to make sure things are in order for the upcoming retreat. Gifts for the guests are made. Journals, complete with little Brave Girls Club labels on the inside cover, are covered in Melody’s designer paper. Paper gift boxes are made by hand. For this camp, Kathy’s daughter, Chelsea, lays out the new schedule she designed to help ease the standing-time of staff members working in the kitchen. Recipes for the hand-prepared meals are discussed and staff members’ mouths water at the thought of a week of such delicious food coming up soon. 

“The set-up,” as in the day before guests arrive, is quite an experience for a staff member of BGC. It begins with a caravan of stuffed-to-the-rooftop vehicles heading up to wherever the cabin is for that particular camp; this time, the caravan heads up to a tiny town in the Idaho mountains—Crouch, Idaho. A couple minivans, Melody’s husband Marq’s pickup, a few miscellaneous vehicles and a designated BGC trailer full of supplies needed for the upcoming retreat are stuffed: multiple shopping carts worth of soon-to-be gourmet, hand-prepared food; tons of collected, bought-in-bulk, and donated art supplies from various sources for the guests and staffers; and boxes upon boxes of vintage, funky decorations are just some of the things driven up the windy road to BGC.  

Once the destination—the enormous cabin—is finally reached, the staff members of the retreat never seem to stop moving; little does that cabin know, it is about to be transformed from an admittedly beautiful facility to a funky, artsy, fabulously healing safe haven for women. 

The staff members separate into teams: the Kathy team, to help with the setup, organization, and cleaning of the kitchen; the Melody team, sent to the giant art room to set up the supplies and etc. for project time; and the décor team, to be dispatched throughout the house to do decoration and bedroom setup. Melody’s Bose stereo is plugged in upstairs and happy, catchy music blares throughout the house; everyone sings along with Frank Sinatra, Eva Cassidy and Ingrid Michaelson, creating a constant yet pleasant stream of noise no matter where you go. 

The kitchen team, Kathy’s team, gets busy unpacking the kitchenware: a medley of new kitchen appliances, like a Bosch bread maker and a Kitchenaid mixer, and vintage dishes and goblets collected in the months previous to camp are set up in their new cupboard homes.  Silverware both new and vintage is piled into one giant silverware drawer much to the delight of those scheduled to do the dishes later throughout the week. The hook on the back of one of the staff bedrooms serves as an apron hook; when the staffers finally resign to bed much, much later, their personalized aprons hang there waiting to be snatched up again only a few hours later when morning arrives. 

Melody’s team, meanwhile, is busy in the basement-turned-art room. Several pieces of visqueen have been laid down as a base for the art area, taped together into one enormous sheet, and wedged between the carpet and the baseboards to protect the rented cabin’s carpet. A paint-splattered painter’s canvas is laid down on top of the visqueen to prevent the plastic from ripping and for further carpet protection. In one section of the developing art room, art tables and chairs are set up and covered with white paper, upon which guests will work on their projects. A sewing machine is set up against the wall, complete with scraps of vintage fabric for the guests to use. Staffers hang up their artwork from the first camp, so the guests can get ideas for their own projects and see how individual each project really is. The area of the basement opposite the guest tables is used to set up more tables, this time for the art supplies. More than a dozen plastic boxes of designer paper and ribbon are arranged by color—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—for easy access by guests. Squeeze bottles of paint, tiny plastic Martha Stewart glitter shakers, and baskets full of vintage-style stickers and brads and pieces of chipboard are set up on the other tables. 

While the kitchen and art teams are hard at work, the décor team swoops about the house to deck the cabin out in true Brave Girl style. Vibrant, joyful colors of green, red, blue and yellow are central to the design theme both on the website and in the décor. In the living room, bright green tule is strung around the window frames, and then surrounded with faux foliage complete with tiny white flower buds. White Christmas lights are hanged around the tuling to give night time in the cabin a warm, cozy ambiance.  A dozen or so pictures deemed significant by each guest and sent in before camp are finally clipped to the lights, making the guests feel at home in their new surroundings. During an email interview about her experience, Cheryl Waters said this about the pictures hanged on the glittering lights: “I could feel the love.  When we walked into the cabin . . . there were photos of our family and friends we had sent.  We were still connected to our family back home but we also had a new family,” (Waters). To complete the living room a giant red shag rug is rolled out in the middle of the carpet. 

More lights and tule are hanged throughout the house, including in the art area and around the doors to the bedrooms. Original, mixed-media paintings by Melody are hanged throughout the house; many of them are inspirations for the art projects the guests will be doing in the following days. Amid the set up of the cabin, Melody is found painting messages like this on the tops of mirrors: “Hello, brave girl. You are a beautiful, cherished work of art.” 

Throughout the week, all staff members become part of the décor team, changing the arrangement of the various bird sculptures, flower arrangements, and pictures placed throughout the house in further efforts to show the guests each day is a new, fabulous, loved beginning for them. 

Not to be forgotten, Marq and some of the other husbands are out in the garage organizing the boxes from the BGC trailer. Box after box after box is unloaded, tables are carried out two-at-a-time, and more artwork is carefully set aside. While the sight of only one refrigerator in the cabin was at first a worry, the February weather in Crouch allows for the garage to be turned into one giant refrigerator and pantry; the snow-covered back porch a freezer. Marq, the master of organization and a relentlessly hard worker, is busy arranging the boxes according to exactly when and how they will be needed: canvas books go here, extra supplies go there; fruits and veggies on this table, drinks underneath that table. Though the other men helping with setup had to leave to attend to business at home, Marq was able to stay through the week to help around camp and give the women a safe feeling that, if something were to happen, at least one man is around for protection. 

Setup continues into Tuesday, even minutes before the guests arrive. Marq heads down the mountain to meet the guests in Eagle, Idaho. Guests follow Marq back up to Crouch in a chartered minibus, where they have time to get to know one another and experience the dazzling Idaho Mountains. About the ride up to BGC, Lisa Stanton said she felt “the sense of being with women in for a very special experience,” (Stanton). When Marq calls to alert the staffers that the bus is within minutes of arriving, what seems like a million things happen at once. Everyone cheers, squeals, and dances in excitement that the week they’ve all been preparing for is finally here. Décor team members quickly finish hanging their pieces of decoration; those working in the kitchen do a quick check to make sure dinner is on schedule and no dishes are left out; several art team members rush downstairs to make sure everything is in its place and set up properly for the guests. Those who happen to be empty-handed at the time Marq calls rush to help those who need it. Melody walks out to the end of the road to meet the guests and give them a short welcoming speech: Worries Are for the Birds. Each guest receives a bag of birdseed to represent their worries about what is back at home, and all at once their worries are scattered to the wind. Simultaneously, staff members wait on the porch to greet each guest individually as they walk up the stairs to BGC. 

Through the breakdown of just the setup of Brave Girls Camp, we can see several themes present in the attitudes and actions the staff members emphasize and display. Firstly, unconditional love: if the Brave Girls Club staff members did not love each and every one of the guests coming to the retreat, it would be extremely difficult to spend hours and hours making sure every single detail was attended to; it would be almost impossible to spend that time making sure each guest felt safe and at peace while at camp; and surely the staff members would succumb to thoughts like, “Is all this work worth what’s going to happen this week?” 

Secondly, hard work is a major mind-set of a Brave Girl staff member. Setting up Brave Girls Camp is a flurry of nonstop movement, of detail-oriented, sometimes tedious work to make sure each guest knows exactly how much they are loved. Despite the fast-paced and physical work that is setting up BGC, each staff member’s face shows the same level of excitement and love of serving the guests throughout setup. 

When outsiders ask what Brave Girls Club is about, or what Brave Girls Camp is, those who have experienced it firsthand often come up with a variety of answers. Artist, mother, and Brave Girl staff member Camille McClelland describes BGC as “life-healing retreats for women.” When asked to further explain her definition of Brave Girls Camp, Camille went on: “[While at Brave Girls Camp,] we learn how to self-examine and see who we are and what we are worth. Once we know [how to do] that it is easier to put whatever personal trials and struggles we might be experiencing into perspective and have a better understanding of how to get through them in one piece,” (McClelland). 

Learning to self-examine and especially seeing one’s self worth are further major themes of the Brave Girls Club camps. Melody Ross, the artsy side of the BGC founder duo, helps guests to do this by giving meaningful, useful art classes once daily. And yet, while Brave Girls Camp is described as an art retreat, it was not actually created for the purpose of creating art. The purpose of the art projects taught at BGC is to help women find the tools to succeed in doing “hard things,” making difficult and often life-changing decisions, or in coping with situations in life they would otherwise be unable to. As Camille said in her e-mail interview about her experience, “Brave Girls Camp does not solve all life’s problems, it just gives a woman the insight to be able to live through them,” (McClelland). 

Each day just after sunrise, Melody and Kathy led those who chose to go on a nature walk in the area surrounding Crouch. The crisp, early morning allowed women time to talk, time to reflect on what they felt their purpose was both at Brave Girls Camp and elsewhere, and time to get to know one another further. Dawn Blackstead called the morning walks “A time away to relax and get fresh air and get ready to begin our day with a clear mind,” (Blackstead). 

Another major part of the Brave Girls Camp experience was the meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks are all hand-cooked and specially selected by those working on the kitchen shifts. Guest favorites included Chelsea’s husband Luke’s Tri-Tip Steak, caprese salad, and crème brule. In the preparation, service, and quality of the meals, we can again see the hard work and love put into the retreats. Staff members on kitchen shift spent a majority of their time chopping, browning, baking and otherwise preparing the meals for the camp. The vintage dishes used were in a different arrangement every night, again suggesting to the guests that with a lot of hard work and even more love, even the smallest details can make a difference in their lives. 

The tear-down of BGC is much like the set-up, only staffers have gone on about half the sleep they normally would and have to do it all over again. The work is hard: tables need to be carried back up the stairs, couches need to be moved by exhausted staffers; an immaculate cleaning of the cabin needs to be done; decorations need to be carefully taken down and (somehow) fit back in to the box it came in; Marq immediately gets to work planning the packing of the trailer that the staff will be doing in the coming hours. The staff members are exhausted from the few hours of sleep they got each night during the retreat; their cheeks are still wet with tears from seeing their new, Brave sisters drive away on the bus; carrying the tables and moving the couches makes their brows sweat and their muscles ache. Yet no one complains, no one leaves slack for others to pick up, no one sits and watches while others work. In fact, there is still the cheery aura about the house full of music and laughter (even if it is sometimes laughter from how silly it seems that you’re able to carry a table when you’re that exhausted). Why? A worn out Brave Girl staff member needs only think of the change they saw in the women waving goodbye in the windows of the bus, many of whom came to camp heartbroken and left full of joy; she needs only think of a breakthrough a guest shared while working on her projects; she needs only remember the love she feels for her Brave Girl sisters to make it all worth it. 

Such an experience is difficult to put to writing; this observation and staffing of Brave Girls Camp changed my life forever. Seeing the hard work, love, and dedication put into such an organization simply because of the love the founders feel for others is awe-inspiring enough, let alone when combined with meaningful art projects and newly formed lifelong friendships. While not everyone will have the opportunity to experience such an event, I believe everyone should have a chance to feel what the women felt there—unconditionally loved.