THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS
Chapter One –This is Us – Our Childhoods
It’s strange to hear the telling of your own story. It’s jarring. It wakes you up and puts you in a dream all at the same time. It opens your eyes and makes them look at things you’ve maybe not seen clearly. It makes a picture out of fragments. It’s a little bit excruciating while at the same time a weird kind of hilarious. Maybe that means delirious. Life is just such a wild ride.
So a few days ago I watched the edited forest video of Marq and I talking about our childhoods for the first time since we were actually in the forest having the conversation. I felt while watching, and still do, too many feelings all at once to describe; so I just cry to let them all out. I like to name my feelings before they come out, but I don’t know what these ones are.
I was surprised at how it shook me to watch us tell those stories, how it broke my heart a little. I was surprised at how the next day I felt lighter, and started thinking about the things from our past that just make me laugh with awe. And cry with awe. I’ve learned that beautiful things can break our hearts as easily as painful things can. I have cried a lot today.
And as I was watching I also thought…come on kids, get on with it. Get to the part that is going to help people. Why are we talking about our history all the way back to the time we were kids? People are busy and we need to get to the point.
But you see, this is a story with parts that connect over years, like shoelaces that criss cross over each other to pull it all together.
We need to know each other a bit before we start sharing things that you’re going to have to trust us on. Things that lots of older people tried to tell us but I had to find out for myself. Things that we never could have prepared for, too. Things we’re going to have to trust you with.
So…here’s us in the forest, our first conversation we are sharing…where we tell you all about who we were before we met each other 27 years ago…
And if you’d like to listen to the rest of the CHAPTER ONE, rather than read it below, you can listen here at
And if you’d like to read it…and see a few photos too…this is what we didn’t say in our conversation about our childhoods..
So the ranch where we live, our home, is right down the road from where Marq grew up. Where his grandfather raised cattle and raised crops. His parent’s property and his grandparent’s property is a 5 minute walk under the big cottonwood trees all the way. I think about him riding his pony on this street, that used to be a thin gravel road. I think about him riding his bike, and building jumps, and having to get Bactine sprayed on his road rash before his mom bandaged him up. Him in his little Cub Scout uniform walking the street doing good deeds for everyone he crossed paths with. There are still neighbors on this street who knew him when he was just a tiny boy. One of our neighbors is always telling me that he was the most adorable little dimple cheeked boy, with his shiny black hair, the sweetest boy she’d ever known.
I often hear stories of how he earned his Eagle Scout award almost entirely when he was only 12 years old, and had to wait until he was 13 years old to actually finish the requirements. I hear all sorts of stories about this golden boy. And I also hear the stories about how he started working at a very young age and by the time he was in high school, he went to class for half the day and then had work study the rest of the day, and rushed to his job at a mint distillery. This enabled him to have the money for all of the wild toys he loved so much. One of his favorite stories to tell is about when he was 17 and late for curfew and rode home so fast on his motorcycle that the police who spotted him couldn’t catch up with him and called for backup…and a police blockade was assembled to catch him many miles down the road he was headed home on. Marq spotted them because of the police lights and he stopped and got off of his bike and they were surprised at this young and sweet boy who just outran the police, a boy scout. He didn’t want to get home late. He is kind of a contradiction that way…a good deed daily, going 100 miles an hour.
His mom has saved every single award he ever won, every photo, every certificate, every card he ever made for her. His grandfather (Pompie) was so fond of Marq and would tell me stories about him as a boy. Pompie was Marq’s hero and he took him out to work with him as soon as he was old enough to go. At only 4 years old, he came and spent the summer with them. Marq remembers going to the auction with his grandparents where Pompie bought him his first pony. Marq was the first grandson and I could tell by the way his grandfather looked at him and talked about him that he was also really special to him too. Pompie often told me the story of how badly Marq wanted to be included in all of the farm chores and activities and how he’d ask him…are you sure you’re ready to get up that early? Marq would get his watch all set to wake up, even though he was only 10 or 11 years old, and in the morning before the sun even came up, Pompie would light a big M80 (like a giant firecracker) outside Marq’s window to wake him up for farm chores. Marq wasn’t even late. He was never late, because he had set his watch and didn’t want to be late because he wanted to do right by his Grandfather. But Pompie loved waking everyone up with that giant BOOM…..Pompie was a big practical joker and loved telling that story. About how Marq would get dressed and run out there as fast as he could and work hard all day right beside him.
Marq’s parents have a lot of the same stories. He was truly the golden boy of the family.
And then I think about me growing up on my street about 60 miles from here, and the time in first grade when some visitors came to our classroom and told us about the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon. You know, when you get a quarter for every mile you walk? Somehow I missed the part about it raising money for kids in need. I just heard the part about the dimes, and the quarters, and the walking. Maybe I figured I was a kid in need. And I had skills, I walked all over the place, and rode my banana seat yellow bike with the giant handlebars and the daisies. I was going everywhere all the time. When I heard about the Walk-a-thon, to me it was the best idea ever. So I went home and duplicated by hand the walkathon form on some of my lined school paper. I didn’t have a fancy business name like March of Dimes so I just used my dad’s business name, Statewide Electric. It was the Statewide Electric Walk-a-thon. Of course, I didn’t tell my dad about it because he was at work. As soon as I was done making my forms, I hit the street and started going house to house asking people to “sponsor” me on my walk. I thought this was the most brilliant idea ever. I was 6. People would just chuckle at me the way they have pretty much my whole life. That chuckle that I now know means “if you’ve got enough grit to do this, I’m gonna say yes just because you had nerve to ask”. As I remember it, every house I stopped at within a 4 block radius filled out my form, sponsoring dimes and quarters for every mile I walked. Then I got to one of my dad’s friend’s houses. And he said…”young lady does your dad know you’re doing this?” …and I said “no”…and he said…”well you better go home and tell him.”
So I waited for my dad to get home. I stood outside waiting for him. I went over to his service truck, waited til he opened his door…then I stood between his door and him before he even got out of his seat…and I told him. I handed him the forms…all filled out by our neighbors. With his business name at the top of them. He was careful as he looked them over, and then he just looked down at me. For a long time. And then with the sparkliest twinkles in his eyes, he just started laughing so hard and shaking his head in amazement and disbelief. And said, “Melly, this is a really good idea, but you can’t do this.” Then he proceeded to tell me about how this was for charity, etc. And for a long time, every time one of his friends was around…he’d bring me over and have me tell the story. He was proud of me.
It wasn’t a surprise because a few years earlier I had been expelled from kindergarten because when I was bored, I would get up and leave, and the teacher couldn’t find me. I remember these times so clearly. My older sisters had taught me how to read, and do math and all of those things. The only thing I liked about Kindergarten was making the art. When art time was over, I would just walk over to the big giant door, look up at the big giant doorknob and turn it with both hands, push it open and feel exquisite freedom when I realized I was the only one in the hallway. Ahhhh peace and quiet. Then I would walk down the hall to the big double doors, push that bar with all of my might, and suddenly I was outside in the big world all by myself. It was the greatest feeling ever. It never occurred to me to ask if I could leave. I just left when I was ready to leave. Then I would walk around the neighborhood, or walk around on the playground, I’d make up songs, sometimes I would walk home where my mom was on the phone with the principal telling her that I had escaped again. After I did it several times, they said I couldn’t come back because I was going to give the teacher a heart attack. I never understood why she was so uptight about it when she had all of the other kids still there to play with. Of course, after I had children of my own, when they were kindergarten age…I was astounded that I did that at such a young age and finally understood why the adults were so wound up about it.
I had remarkable parents who built so much out of nothing. My mom was and avid gardener and homemaker. She grew everything and she canned everything. I was a challenge for my mom to try to raise. I feel bad about that. She often tells me that I cried so much as a baby that it would just send her up the walls. My older sisters took care of me a lot. I think I talked too much for her too, she often begged me to just be quiet. She had so much on her plate and so much to do, I think I just really frustrated her. And I wasn’t quiet and introverted like most of my other siblings were. I look back on some of the things I did as a very young girl all the way up to when Marq and I started our life, and it astounds me, the guts I had to try out the things I was constantly trying out. I remember being stopped by the police because I had ridden my bike a few miles into town when I was 6 or 7 years old, I was just riding around town and my mom had called the police and said I was missing. Again, I was so surprised that everyone was all uptight about what I was doing when there were so many other kids in the house. What do you need with me? I wasn’t trying to be a bad kid. I just had things I wanted to do, things I wanted to create and build and do and learn, from as far back as I can remember.
I think a lot of people in my life back then thought I was rebellious and as I look back, I don’t think I was at all. I was often misunderstood as a child and as a teenager, often treated like I was a troublemaker. I admit that I did shake things up when things didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t take things at face value, I wanted to know the deeper part of things, I needed to know HOW. More importantly, I needed to know WHY. I still do.
I’m gonna stick up for myself and say that I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t bucking the rules, I just never bothered to ask about the rules. I didn’t even know what the rules were. I didn’t understand rules. I still have a hard time with rules. I’m convinced that every soul alive was born with certain personality traits and desires and even a very specific purpose and mission to accomplish in life. The things I was born with, I think made me a difficult little soul to parent.
So I can understand what a challenge I must have been for my mom. I never let anything stop me from some idea I had and my mind was constantly going and going and going. I think I wore my her out. She had 9 children and I was the 6th one born. I came out of the womb asking questions because I wanted to know everything about everything. I wanted to understand. Especially people, all kinds of people. It seems like I was always getting in trouble for all of the kinds of people I talked to and hung out with.
My dad found great fascination in my antics. He answered all of my questions and often just started laughing his contagious laugh, caught off guard that I even thought of a question like that. He would explain things to me in a way that I could understand. When I broke a rule, he told me what the rule was for until I understood why the rule existed and why I needed to keep it. I could always tell that my dad saw who I was, and loved who I was. I was kind of a weird kid. I dressed however I wanted to dress. I had a wild imagination and lived in my head a lot of the time. He always listened to me, and I could tell he was really listening, and then he would ask to hear more. When I was a teenager, he would find time to have talks with me about some of the dangers of my free spirited behavior. I remember being shocked at some of the things he told me, how the world worked and what could happen to me. I looked mature and older for my age as a teenager, but I was really a naive kid inside. My dad was my hero and the reason I felt like I was okay just as I was.
He loved my mom so much I always wanted a love like that, wanted someone who loved me the way my dad loved my mom.
So, the boy scout marries the kindergarten (oblivious) delinquent.
The almost always rule keeper marries the rule questioner.
The perfect student marries the free spirit.
This has made for some very interesting adventures, let me tell you.
Knowing what those young kids have ahead at this point in their story, I have to wonder if they would do anything to change it. They have no idea what is coming. Those poor, sweet naive kids. I know you know what I mean…if you look back on all of the things you’ve already overcome, would you change it?
I think we forget all the things we’ve already overcome. I don’t know how many of us would willingly sign up for the life experiences we’ve had so far, given the chance as young adults to choose our future adventure. Thank goodness we don’t get to do that. We would miss out on so much, wouldn’t we?
As we are sharing so much from the past, you might be wondering how the present time is. It’s good. We are good. We will be talking about that more…but life is good.
Right now, he’s at his shop fixing his truck. He’s been there all week and we’ve hardly seen each other. As I write this story out, unravel the pieces and record and edit…I can’t help but think about how many lives we’ve lived together so far in my 45 years and his 49 years.
We both operate at full blast pretty much always.
We each have some huge project going almost all the time. We help each other with our individual projects whenever we can…and then we have our life together. He’s busy serving in the community at least half of the week, or serving his family, or his friends. I’m usually busy creating something…working. Usually under some kind of deadline. We have lots of events here at our ranch and we are working together then, we usually love that. And we make lots and lots of time for family. We also watch a movie together almost every night. We run errands together and we call each other 3 or 4 times a day to just check in. We have a rule that we kiss each other if one of us ever leaves the property. We hug and say I love you when we pass in the hall, or see each other somewhere outside on the property, or anywhere. We make a big deal of our goodbyes and our hellos. And there are a lot of them. He is the Scoutmaster of a phenomenal scout troop in the neighboring town and has been for years, and he takes his boys (including our boys) on a campout to somewhere amazing at least once EVERY single month, even in the snow.
And as in love as we are…we still drive each other crazy sometimes. It’s good that we both have things going on that take us away, because then we start missing each other and get our projects done so we can be together. Sometimes we do projects together, but we often drive each other nuts when we do. I change my mind a lot. And he wants a plan that we follow from beginning to end. And I just have a vision, not really a plan. And I wing it. And that drives him crazy. And I want the ability to change my mind if it “feels right”, so his incessant need for plans and schedules drives me crazy.
But when we need to work together…
Right now my closet is a disaster. Sometimes it’s not but it almost always is. I have suitcases in my room that have not been unpacked from trips last month. I have stacks of books and legal pads and pens and boots all over our bedroom.
His closet is color coordinated and absolutely organized. He can tell you how far over his orange t-shirt is from the closet door. He knows how many pairs of socks he has and schedules his laundry days (we each do our own laundry, a story for another day). He folds his pants before he puts them in the dirty clothes hamper.
He never mentions my closet anymore. It’s on the other side of our bedroom, as far away from his as it could be. There are things we just keep separate. Because we love each other and we want to be happy and some of our habits haven’t changed much since we got married.
But we’ve both changed in tremendous ways too.
We often say that in the 27 years of being together, we’ve been married to at least 10 different versions of each other. Some of those versions of ourselves were better matches for each other than others have been. This is a good year. We are a great match for each other currently. Life is good and we are happy and we haven’t had a heated discussion or an argument in a couple of years. I don’t know if it’s because we are older and a lot more relaxed about things. Or because we trust God and trust life more than we used to so we don’t feel stressed and afraid when things are going wrong. I’d like to think it’s because we spent so much time away from each other during the hell time that we don’t want to waste any of the time we have together right now bickering or playing head games.
I remember having dreams of he and I being on either side of a thick and barely frosted glass wall. It was 4-5 inches thick. You could pound on it and try to yell through it…but it wasn’t going anywhere. I remember looking at him in the eyes through that glass. Both of us so desperate to get to the other side. We could see each other but we couldn’t get to each other. There was nothing I wanted more than for that wall to drop.
I think that’s why we don’t waste time bickering.
These days, the best thing in our life is the tiny humans that came from our own kids. Because we got married so young and had children when we were so young, we have the amazing gift of being young grandparents too.
Our 3 oldest children are married to wonderful people. They have blessed us with 3 grandchildren so far.
We just have our 2 boys left at home and they are in high school and they are just such very good people. They have been easy to parent and a joy to have around, almost always. All 5 of our children have very strong and very individual personalities. Marq and I love being their parents almost always. Later on in the story we will tell you more about them, and you’ll also be hearing from them about the impact that our shared family experience has had on their lives.
We have no idea what’s around the next corner, but life is good right now. We have learned to just do our best every day, to serve each other and everyone within our reach as often and as much as possible…to be grateful for every single thing, to enjoy the good things and to learn from the hard things…and most of all to trust that we will always be okay no matter what happens.
We love our life.
We still have challenges, we still have struggles…and it’s been a long road getting to today, but goodness gracious, we love our life together.
We hope you’ll join us for the next part of our story…where we will be talking about how we met.
It’s hard to talk about these things sometimes…thank you so much for being beside us as we tell this story. Pretty soon…we’ll be getting to the juicy parts and sharing our maps through the most difficult places in life.
We love you,
Melody and Marq Ross
ABOUT THE FOREST CONVERSATIONS
Melody Ross is the co-founder of Brave Living and Brave Girls Club. Melody and her husband Marq have built this business together along with Melody’s sister Kathy, who is her business partner.
The Brave Living story started long before Brave Girls Club came to being. This is the story of how and why it came to be. This is the story of two people who have had to overcome so much.
These stories are told on video through conversations between Marq and Melody, with supplemental writing to go along with them to fill in the pieces that aren’t discussed.
You can watch the videos and read the blog posts, or you can watch the videos and hear Melody reading the blog posts on their podcast, The Forest Conversations Podcast.
The videos of the conversations between Marq and Melody start in the first chapter, after the introduction. Please don’t skip the intro, there are important pieces that you need to know if you’re going to listen along to this remarkable story, told so bravely and generously by Marq and Melody.
We know you will enjoy this series. We hope you will share it. There are so many people out there who will benefit from this story. We don’t know how long it will take to get through the whole story because it is a long one. Each piece is being edited with love and care.
We will be releasing pieces of it week by week until it’s done.
We promise you aren’t going to want to miss it.
The Brave Living Staff