Flowers are Brave

Flowers are Brave

I love gardens. Nature has a way of calming me, with its peaceful gardens and robust forestry. I’m drawn to the serenity, as if the tall trees’ resolute statures could cover me—keep me safe. So it came as no surprise when, earlier this summer, I fell in love with a flower stand.

img_20180818_084402I had decided to explore the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. Rested near the end of the line of vendors, was a flower stand with the banner: Sego Lily Flower Farm. Upon visiting, I was transfixed with the unique blend of colors and textures in the bouquets. They were simple yet striking. Peaceful yet wild. It wasn’t long after that I learned this flower farm was a family business led by Fawn Rueckert, who is a flower herself. I craved to see her farm in person. Then I learned it was in her backyard. What kind of life would allow you to LIVE in an Eden? How great would that be?

img_20181010_122921Upon visiting her garden, I was impressed with the planning and staging of her plots and their economic use of the space. They have a mix of produce and flowers. By the time I’m writing this, it is the close of the flower season, and her garden reflected the emptiness of selling living charms to the community. And yet, it was still beautiful. Dreamy even. Colors crawled out of the dirt in all shapes and sizes: Zinnia’s, Dahlias, burgeoning Celosias, among other flowery friends. The garden was stationed in ascending levels of plotted flowers and crops. It featured a picket canopy with dripping tresses of vines and produce, including a large zucchini dangling from the top. As we strolled through the little paradise, we both agreed that we had a girlish longing for the fantastical settings of “The Secret Garden” or “Anne of Green Gables”. The idea that someone could capture that in your backyard is conceptually delicious.

img_20180919_083102Her garden is her enterprise, and not without an uphill battle. A flower farmer, like anyone in agriculture, has to gamble with God. She explained: “My business partner is mother nature. The hailstorm this May hit me hard and I was just like ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna have dahlias.’ I could have planned all winter and done everything right and it could be gone just like that. I had a couple big crop failures this year. I had some snapdragons with tiny worms and my zinnias got powdery mildew. This is my second year selling, but last year was at a much smaller scale, just selling to friends and family. This is the first year at the farmer’s market.” And yet she’s still standing, marketing those beauties to a grateful community.

img_20180911_123335Fawn is a utilitarian farmer, hands sunken in earth, but she’s also an artist. It’s clear that her flower arrangements manifest an eye for design. She studied art, specifically color theory in college and is drawn to a certain aesthetic: “I like flowers that are ‘full and fluffy’. I look at balancing bigger and smaller flowers, as well as the different textures of soft vs. spiky flowers. I love garden roses, dahlias, peonies. My roses got way less likes on my Instagram, maybe people think they’re passé. I don’t sell them, because I love them. I want to grow and sell carnations next year and people tell me ‘you don’t want to do that’, but I want to try it and they smell great.” It’s obvious that these plants are a vibrant medium of creativity.

But who could do this? How did this come to be?

In part, she saw a need in the community. Upon relocating her family to Utah, she was saddened not to see flowers for sale in local farmer’s markets: :“I looked at blogs and I thought: I could do that. The idea of growing/selling to other people is new. 20 years ago the idea of growing a cutting garden was like—that would be the coolest thing ever! Growing your own flowers! It’s always been an interest. I’m surprised sometimes looking back I’m surprised that I didn’t come to that conclusion sooner because I love doing it and when I moved to Utah I was really sad there weren’t any flowers at the farmer’s market.”

But interestingly, the greater spark of her venture came from a place of loss, a drifting from the Self: “I was living sort of in a box of motherhood, where I didn’t know anyone outside of family and church. I was in this box and kind of depressed and I was trying to figure out who I am. I thought about what I should do when all the kids were in school. I’ve talked to my friends and they feel the same thing, sort of ‘lost’.” She decided to enroll in the Master Gardener program through the Utah State University extension service. She experienced a new kindling of confidence, an inspiration to dream bigger. “It was very new to do something that wasn’t really for my kids or my husband or my church calling, just for me. I didn’t know I was going to sell flowers. But deciding to start a business in my name was huge. I like that my kids are seeing me living my dreams.”

This bravery activated her life and uprooted her zest to the surface. She found an outlet that fed her active spirit: “I like the physicality of it. I was the girl with a bunch a brothers. So whenever there was a bunch to dirt to move or lawns to mow my brothers did all that. I got to mop the floors and clean the bathroom. On my mission I was doing a service project just hauling dirt around and I just felt like ‘I LOVE THIS, my muscles hurt but I love this.’ I like the challenge of it. There’s always something new to learn. I’m just drawn to plants.”

She takes a scholarly approach to her garden, it is her art space and her scientific experiment. “Wordy people love to read the dictionary, I love to read reference books about growing. I love plant identification. I love research. You really can learn anything from books or credible sources from the internet.”

As I mentioned earlier, this is a family affair. I remarked that it must be rewarding to see your kids learning business skills. Her eyes lit up: “YES. I like that they can learn with me. They’re learning skills and we talk about business and marketing…My kid knows all kinds of things”, she laughed, “like how to compost! My boys say when they start dating and get girlfriends they’ll be all set to bring flowers to them!”

But what if you’re like me and have a dark gift for serially killing plants? Fawn offers this advice: “The USU extension office has fact sheets on growing plants. Find a magazine you love and looks interesting in it…The best way to learn is to do it.” She recommended a book by Virginian flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler, titled “Vegetables Love Flower!” I told Fawn about my flower manslaughter and she generously responded: “Honestly, I’ve killed many plants, I would bet way more than you have.”

I ended my time in her garden with this question: “What does all this—the garden, the business, the pursuit—- tell me about you?” She thought for a moment, and answered: “I look at it like an act of rebellion. This choice of career is off the beaten path. I tell people what I do and they’re like ‘what?’ I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom. The logical thing to do would have been to work at my kid’s school cafeteria or work at Walmart or something. I’m a dreamer and a giant plant nerd.”

Can people really choose to please passions instead of paradigms? Maybe it’s okay to be brave. Maybe it’s essential.

Every time I’ve interacted with Fawn, I’ve sensed of her peace. She radiates grace. As I mentioned earlier, she is a flower. She has grace about her. Her shine is unobtrusive, but present. She is open to the world around her, symbiotic to other living things, and ready to burst. There’s a poised strength accompanied with the self-discovery of lessons learned: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to NOT WAIT. This business has expanded my circle to meet people. The gardening class taught me to think ‘why not?’ and to just go for it. You get this one life.”

A garden can make you feel like you’re in a wild or exotic place worthy of exploration, but it can also feel like home. I can’t help but feel like it is the same for Fawn. This business is a bold adventure but also a way she has come home to herself. Maybe the point isn’t to live in your own traps. Maybe the point is claw at the dirt and dust of your perceived limitations and plant a garden.






It was a greatly-anticipated Saturday of early summer. I don’t normally like summer, mainly because I dislike the heat and the sun, especially with my pallor. The sun shines but it also burns. But I decided to make nice and give summer another chance.

I began my day by walking my brand-new Sperry’s on their maiden voyage to the Farmer’s Market. I was still on President Nelson’s challenge to avoid social media for a week and I was also opting out of Netflix so that meant listening to LOTS of music. So as I walked I explored Broadway’s Frozen soundtrack. Oh Caissie Levy, your voice is both glass and the force that shatters it.

I couldn’t help but appreciate the conspicuous loveliness around me. My neighborhood has a sort of relentless perfection: every lawn is trimmed, every potted plant in full bloom. I never know if I should savor the ideal or distrust it. I wonder if that would be my first reaction to heaven: suspicion.

Still though, the beauty was certainly inviting. A modest wind flowed through the trees, with the light bouncing from leaf to leaf. The sky was empty, and positively blue. I ambled past the homes, persistent construction, the polished lake, and arrived at the market. I was surrounded by colors and smells and young eager families. There was something about the combination of supple produce and the life of local entrepreneurship that I found extraordinarily satisfying. Nature and its products make me feel peaceful and seeing local members of the community sell their goods made me feel a vicarious excitement for them. After absorbing it all I left, lavender bushel in hand, and happily trotted back home.

The day wore on in the heat so I visited the local pool. As I sank in, the water was crisp and glassy, a fresh covering to my sticky skin. There’s something about swimming that makes me feel child-like again—like I’m imitating a mermaid. I was only submerged a few minutes, enough to get cold. As I climbed out, I felt delightfully frigid. I love moments when I can feel truly cold in the hottest season.

At this time, I was in yet another stage of uncertainty. My career future felt murky and I was still navigating my seemingly perpetual singleness. I’m used to not knowing my future even months ahead, but it still costs a degree of mental endurance. This summer day was an opportunity to live in the moment and bring the “eternal now” to the foreground of my mind.

I’ve spent years with a hope that was either reluctant or nearly absent, unsure that God and I had the same goals for what my life would look like. Repeated disappointment leaves a degree of trauma and choosing to hope again can feel like going back to an abusive relationship. And yet, I had spent a weekend encompassed by the sights and sounds of God’s love in the little ways he knew I would understand.

The next day I went to church and sat in our women’s meeting as we were taught how to receive answers to prayer. I brought my new and old notebooks, full of recorded thoughts, promises, and blessings between God and me. As I listened to the lesson I also reviewed the assurances I had recorded of some of my most memorable moments with God. I realized with striking poignancy that God has already promised me what I hoped to know, I just didn’t have the heart to believe Him. Or I believed that I would get the hand-me-down version of my dreams. And for the first time in what seemed like ages, I allowed myself to hope.

Believing that my future is bright allows me to wake up and enjoy the present. I can thus accept my current reality with gratitude knowing that God’s goal of my happiness applies to both my present and future. I can trust the blessings around me and look forward to great things ahead. I’ve pondered this question for years:

How is it that I can radically accept my life as it is, and at the same time, hope that it gets better?

By believing that now and forevermore, he is on my side. Nothing and no one can hurt me more than he can love and ultimately bless me.

The same is true for you.



Waking Up

Waking Up

I imagine it’s like waking up.

You’re lying down. The eyes open, but the first sensation is what’s felt, not seen. As you’re lying flat, every stair-step of the spine is aligned, each branching nerve pulsates with memory and satisfaction. Sinew and muscle fibers lovingly wrap the bones into an eager range of motion. Your entire frame is whole, as if the constant arguments between joint, muscle, and nerve have finally resolved into harmony. For the first time in your existence, you have a body that is perfection.

You form a fist, and your arm respectfully contracts. You extend the fingers, then press on imaginary piano keys, and notice your forearm’s tendons dance in obedience. Your fingers touch your face. It is clear and smooth. You trace the surface—-nose, eyes, ears, more symmetrical. They are familiar, but different. You’re suddenly aware of your skin. It is somehow soft and firm; not as permeable as before. As a whole, your skin has no crevices or caverns, no erosion, more like a supple radiance.

Your hair is dense; the color is rich and fertile, not as lifeless as before. Your eyes are piercing, at once incomprehensible and captivating. The whites of the eyes are clear and glowing, worthy halos around the brilliant color. The lashes are active and the lids blink in disbelief.

You feel the flow of air pull in oxygen, shooting through open sinuses to inflate the swelling lungs and circulate to every cell. You feel your heart, the surest and strongest drum you’ve ever heard, a foreshadow of what’s to come.

You curve your neck and are surprised by the summoned power of your torso. It is lean and resolute. You prop on one arm, knees bent. You feel an engaged strength in all your muscle fibers, meekly responsive and yet formidable. You push forward and balance with lubricated joints eager to spring limbs upward. You rise, with feet curved and rooted to the ground. Fully upright, you sense a height not yet experienced, measured more by majesty than metrics.

In your magnificence, you suddenly burst with memories. The mind is unhindered and vibrant. There is no interruption in mental commentary, only an even, rational flow. Your persona is intact. You know what is coming. Your new body, now whole and complete, mobilizes with surety. You are clothed; you are ready. The arbitration has begun. You have the trepidation but above all, you await a familiar Face.




It seems we’re living in a time when women are feeling a universal spotlight and we’re figuring out what to do with it. Our suffragette forbears fought for us to have an equal legal and governmental voice. For so long women have fought to have what the men already have as they’ve ruled the echelons of the world for ages. And there’s still so much work to do. Sexism is alive and well. The inequities abound, both passively and aggressively. Many countries are even blind to the evils of rape, the necessity of education or other essential rights.

Unmistakably, whether consciously or not, the subject of rights morphs into a discussion of identity. In the United States, where equality has arguably progressed a bit further, there seems to be this persistent crisis of identity. The definition of WOMANHOOD changes from country to country, minute to minute, and culture to culture. A woman living in Ethiopia in the 1970s is going to have a different definition than a woman in modern-day Nebraska. I wish I could say that we can just abandon definitions altogether. But the truth is, our brains are going to generate a definition regardless, so it’s wise that we give them a good one.

I grew up in the 90s, and it’s overwhelming to think of all that has transpired in the discussion of gender, equality, etc. Everyone is affected by it and eventually comes to terms with it in their own way, and I am no exception.

As a young girl I was very drawn to the martial arts. I can’t explain this as neither of my parents went out of their way to promote this idea. I just remember admiring it, longing to learn more, and pouring into a book on martial arts. I loved the physicality and the inherent strength. I don’t remember being a particularly aggressive kid—to this day I’ve never been in any kind of fist-fight, I just found martial arts fascinating. (Side note, as I’m writing this, I’m watching Mulan on Netflix and remembering that this was the first Disney-princess movie I saw in the theater. Maybe Mulan’s epic character piqued my interest).

I BEGGED my mom to enroll me in Karate. She had originally signed me up for ballet, but it was evident early on that I was not patient enough to hold my arms and feet in rigid, suspended positions. So she let me quit. She finally compromised that I could do Tae Kwon Do, because it was cheaper than the Karate place in town. I threw myself into it as an 8-year-old and earned a black belt in two years. I broke boards with my hands and feet, sparred with kids older and bigger than me, took my first punch to the gut, did the splits, and learned about perseverance.

To my parents’ credit, there was NEVER a moment where they took me aside and said “this is not a girl activity; it’s not feminine and you need to do something else”.  They understood, consciously or not, that a woman is capable of sensitivity AND strength, and that my desire to do martial arts was no indication that there was something wrong with me.

Now here I am 16 years later, punching in the clock day in and day out with the persistent nagging thoughts of “Am I really living up to my potential?” “Is this really what I want?” One of my best friends recently asked me: “Do you think long-term you want to be a career woman with kids or be a stay-at-home mom?”   I don’t know. I want to end my work-day feeling like I’ve helped someone, made a difference, acted creatively, and solved problems. And a little appreciation would be nice too. Isn’t that what everyone wants? I think you could find that satisfaction (or the lack thereof) within a career or staying at home. Neither scenario is going to be fulfilling all the time or without sacrifice.

Back to the spotlight. What do we want? Who are we? What does it mean to be a woman?

Our society thrives on definitions. Our brains need it to make sense of the world. We observe countless details and analyze what makes a “man” and what makes a “woman”. And if someone or something doesn’t meet that constructed definition (i.e. women can’t be aggressive, men can’t be sensitive, etc.) then we ostracize them at least a little. I believe as a society we’re finally starting to validate the idea that HEY, WE’RE HUMANS AND WE’RE A BIT MORE COMPLICATED THAN THE SIMPLE BINARY OF MASCULINE VS. FEMININE, as if they’re mutually exclusive. As a side note: I personally feel like we’ve since accepted that women CAN be tenacious and physical, BUT it’s still hard for us to stomach a man being truly vulnerable. We’ve got to fix that and teach our sons to be emotionally intelligent, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Maybe our identity crisis is driven by a heartache to understand ourselves and to be understood. We’re still figuring out who we are. Maybe we don’t fully comprehend our power.

If we go back to the Christian beginning, Eve was the “mother of all living”. A definition like that makes me think that a woman can be universally described as a creator of infinite capacity. But does that mean men can’t be creators? Does a definition of womanhood have to be something that DOES NOT apply to men?

Maybe it’s deeper and more eternal than that. Maybe our finite minds keep trying to attach a worldly status to something that may be less finitely tangible. It’s hard to pin down something so nebulous. All I’ve got is my faith.

My dream is to have a man and a woman stand side by side fully respecting each other’s abilities and gifts and having an equal voice in all things. Men shouldn’t tyrannize or patronize. Women shouldn’t have to claw their way to dignity and respect. Neither should they speak degradation against men as a sort of passive-aggressive revenge. Neither gender should apologize for their greatness. Men and women need to accept their inherent gifts and equality, step it up, and be who they were born to be for each other.

I make sense of the world with my religion, in which motherhood is revered as the holiest calling. Yet, is motherhood synonymous with womanhood? Yes and no. Sharon Eubank, my personal hero, and a woman currently with no children, defined motherhood in this way:

“Charity, or the pure love of Christ, is motherhood in a very practical and real way—sacrificing so that others might thrive and seeing beyond present circumstances to the way things really are. This motherhood is part of my covenantal identity. My mother-work will come directly through the whispers of the Holy Spirit. And it is no less real for being unrelated by blood and bone.” (Reference below).

If we go back to the beginning, we see the divine progenitors of our current, human roles. I love that my religion purports the concept of a reigning Heavenly Mother; I just wish I could see what that looks like. How does she communicate? How does she lead? How does she create? What are her responsibilities? What’s her superpower? Part of me feels that if I could just see Her, up close, I could come home to myself in the way I’ve always yearned.

I’ve never heard it better articulated than this:

“Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.”
– Glenn L. Pace (Reference Below)

Until that moment, I’ll keep trying to find echoes of my Parents in all the noise. This post is a bit scattered. I don’t have all the answers. I won’t stop trying to figure it out. I believe men and women need each other and always will. I believe we were always supposed to be a team. And I think my Heavenly Parents feel the same way.






Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936.

Eubank, S. (2018, May 11). The Idea of ‘Mothers in Zion’ Made Me Mad—Until I Learned What it Meant. Retrieved from

Pace, G. (2010, March 6). The Divine Nature and Destiny of Women. Retrieved from

Knowing God: The First Vision

Knowing God: The First Vision

Once as a young teenager my uncle and his family traveled from Utah to my home in California to give a spiritual message from the history of my church. My uncle is Steven Harper, a college professor and historian of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He came and spoke to our church’s youth group about the First Vision and the events leading up to it. Overall it was a compelling lecture-sermon, but there was one particular point that struck me with powerful force.

Steven began by recounting Joseph Smith’s family history with religion and the divine breadcrumbs that guided them to the restoration of the gospel. He went on to set the scene of the Sacred Grove, starting with Joseph’s prayer and then of Satan’s dreadful, reciprocal influence. He recalled that in the pivotal moment of climax, Joseph made an active choice—a choice that ultimately encapsulates his character: he called out for God. And then miraculously, Joseph’s God appeared to him and called him by name. Then for a moment, my uncle paused to make this statement:

“God knows your name.”

I doubt that was the first time someone had ever said that to me. It’s already implied whenever your Sunday-School teacher mechanically rings out the Christian mantra: “Jesus loves you!” But it’s said so often and so ubiquitously that it can sometimes seem trite or impersonal. When my uncle declared that idea, it impacted me deeply. God knew me. In a time of my life when I felt so small and inherently wrong, God knew my name and knew my story and loved me.

That’s all I have ever really wanted: to know God and to have him know me.

I want to be with him and I want him to want to be with me. This is why I’m a member of this church. I’m convinced that my membership will help me know/remember him better and thus be more like him.

The First Vision encapsulates what I love most about the gospel: revelation, the God-to-child relationship, opportunity for growth and change, hope, progression, being a part of something bigger than yourself, being with God, knowing him, and him knowing me.

The First Vision is the most intimately documented record we have of God the Father making direct contact with a human. Some of the biggest secular criticisms of God the Father from his own children are that he is distant, inaccessible, and unfeeling. The First Vision breaks down those walls. We’re blessed to have countless examples of the Son of Man reaching out to bless, succor, heal, teach, and sacrifice everything for the welfare of mankind. The First Vision shows us that God the Father is, of course, equally interested in our ragged humanity. He traversed space and time to personally answer a farm-boy, his young son.

His Only Begotten Son had already come to the earth and performed the unthinkable, incredible sacrifice and established the path leading us back home. But then that path gradually faded away in the deaths of those who had sustained it. All that was left was darkness and confusion, just fragments of truth with the occasional spark of light. Apostasy, the governing entity of that phase in human history, is hell in a mortal timeline. How many tears had led to this Restoration? How many of the enslaved, beaten, or abused had cried out “Where is God?” How many had suffered under tyrants both political and religious? How much affliction had seemingly passed without notice?

This was his answer: his soul-saving gospel first executed, and now restored by the Son he was willing to sacrifice for our benefit. After millennia of waiting, the time had finally come.

Now in addition to being accessible, he was tangible. An exalted God, beyond description, yet in a human form—His form. A being who is not dead, but alive, active, involved, glorified, and communicative. His first action was to lovingly call out his son’s name, and introduce him to his Heavenly Brother-God, the only one who can bridge the gulf that separates them:

“Joseph, this is my beloved son. Hear him.” JSH version

To which the Son answers:

“Joseph my son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” 1832 version

How like the Son of God to have his first expression be that of mercy. It suggests that beyond answers, Joseph was quietly seeking forgiveness. And the Christ, astutely and lovingly perceptive of his sibling’s needs, initiated the conversation by tearing down the only breach between them, because that is the nature of both God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. The Father wanted his children back, and so he acted in perfect unity with and through his Son.

The Atonement is mind-boggling and difficult to grasp and universal and intimate and lonely. It’s staggering to think that God the Son could suffer intimately and infinitely for all human beings ever created. In this particular moment, God is reaching out to Joseph, the one child. A scene like this is a little easier for my mind to comprehend. Even though the Restoration had implications for all creation, the discussion began with a very intimate affirmation of Joseph’s personal, honest desires. Jesus then went on to answer the other question of Joseph’s heart: where could he consistently go to know God?

The First Vision teaches me that God knows me and will go to extraordinary lengths to connect with me. When I go to him, he doesn’t just hear my fumbled words. He reads my neurons like a map and anticipates everything I could ever do or say, but still loves to see the sparkle of my eye as I say it. The First Vision teaches me that God won’t answer a question like a crystal ball. He will teach me about him and about myself, and then endow me with a challenge of purpose: “can you be what I created you to be?”

To conclude, I’ll share my all-time favorite quote on prayer below:

“Throughout his life, Joseph Smith would turn to God in prayer to seek the help and guidance he needed. A Church member recalled hearing him pray in Kirtland, Ohio, at a time of great personal difficulty: ‘Never until then had I heard a man address his Maker as though He was present listening as a kind father would listen to the sorrows of a dutiful child. … There was no ostentation, no raising of the voice as by enthusiasm, but a plain conversational tone, as a man would address a present friend. It appeared to me as though, in case the veil were taken away, I could see the Lord standing facing His humblest of all servants I had ever seen.’”

The purpose of life is to know God. The miracle is that we can. 



Human Connection

Human Connection

There is no substitute for human connection.

I could pray, I could read, I could prophesy. But no measure of solitary piety can piece back another’s fragmented mind unless they join hands.

I have walked uphill for so long and martyred myself against reaching hands. My independence became my isolation. Then I would ask God why I was abandoned. He answered me with human connection.

No one can be fixed but they can be loved, and then they are mended by the only true Healer.

Religion is fought in the mind but won with external embrace, and that is what humans were built to do.

The arms bend—every crook and corner folds symmetrically across the complementary human form. Palms press. Fingers imprint, their nerve endings calculating every sensation.

Lungs quiver in hesitation, then rest in synchronized waves. Hearts beat in bursting speech, coming home to the other vessel. Both lungs and hearts swell together. This is active. This is life.

This is best handled with tightness, after long absences, every muscle strained and yet relaxed in the peace of the other. The neck curves the head that it may repose on the other’s ready shoulder.

There is no selfishness in this, only the purest longing for home to be satisfied in the most heavenly terms.

Inherent in their composition: bone, muscle, fiber, and vessel are anxious to connect, to come home. This was their true purpose. Together they comprise the most magnificent creation established: the house of a Child of God. And there is nothing more godly than loving.

The two humans form the shape of an answer. If God stood here right now, he would embrace you. Until then, love his children.




Photo Credit: Mark Mabry,

Why is America Obsessed with Chip and Joanna Gaines?

Why is America Obsessed with Chip and Joanna Gaines?

I’m on the phone with my mom, self-proclaimed HGTV enthusiast, about home decor and she asks “have you seen Fixer Upper?” No I have not. “It’s this husband and wife renovating houses; I think you would like their style”, she offers. Who is this couple? I hear about them all the time. I see people referencing their greatness on Instagram. Magnolia this. Magnolia that. During the 2016 election my cousin says “I just wrote Chip and Joanna Gaines in the write-in for President” and he says it with a completely straight face. What is the big deal? What the heck is shiplap?

I don’t own a TV and haven’t watched cable for years. I’m not a huge fan of reality TV in general. Then in late 2017 I bought a home—a process that certainly raises one’s awareness of the real estate business. I can’t remember how the Gaines entered my world but when the time finally came, they paraded in with a vengeance. Basically what I’m saying is, I have now purchased-several-items-of-the-Magnolia-brand-from-Target-bought-all-issues-of-the-Magnolia-Journal-past-and present-watched-various-clips-of-fixer-upper-and-interviews-and-I’m-seriously-considering-starting-a-farm-but-wait-I-live-in-a-townhouse-and——-I’m-hooked. How did this happen?

Chip and Joanna Gaines are arguably some of the greatest phenoms to come from reality TV. I’d like to deconstruct why America loves them, or at least why I like them.

I believe they represent the American dream. These are two people who are young and smart and ambitious and attractive. They began as plucky entrepreneurs, survived considerable obstacles (specifically the historically volatile housing market), and have never stopped dreaming. They are simultaneously humble and ambitious. They are decent people living on faith and hard work. They’ve triggered massive  economic momentum for their beloved hometown. They exercise their unique skills and derive immense satisfaction in the fruit of their labors. They make great money doing what they love. They utilize opportunities to serve others. They’ve achieved all this while raising a happy, healthy family.

Isn’t that literally what every decent American wants? People inhale this Magnolia brand to borrow that addictive creativity for their living spaces. They soak up details of C+J’s lives searching for some secret recipe of happiness and success. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We need examples. We need true stories of imperfect people who have “made it”.

The problem is to think that you can somehow mimic their happiness by buying Joanna’s favorite lipstick. One can’t cheat the pathway to success through a brand. I’m not saying people shouldn’t purchase their product (I certainly won’t be stopping), just to pay attention to why they’re doing so. Maybe I should try believing in the untapped potential within myself. My inner creativity. My dreams.

The question is, can I get off my butt and do something great with my own life?



Photo Credit: