My Love Letter to Los Angeles: why we went, stayed, and left

Growing up, my happy place was Southern California.
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Like most people from Arizona, we grew up going to San Diego for vacation, and occasionally Orange County for theme park visits, but only once ventured up the way of LA, just so we could say we did it. And like most Arizona people when they finally make their way up to Los Angeles, we had no idea how to navigate the city and found it to be mostly stressful and not nearly as beautiful or relaxing as San Diego. However, all of that changed when we spent a week in Hawaii with some wedding clients and their Los Angeles-based wedding guests, because once we made friends in LA, going to visit was an entirely different experience! 
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We discovered that LA is a lot more fun to live in than to visit. We learned how to navigate traffic to lessen it’s effects, and we discovered that some of the beaches are less busy than the Orange County beaches we grew up going to! We found out that the best parts of LA are the things you have to be invited to, or places you have to know about… all of which are not found on travel sites. The fun lies in the day to day life and revolves around the extraordinary people you get to know.
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Daily Life in Southern California….
There’s a TV commercial I see air in Arizona advertising trips to Southern California. They joke about how people in Southern CA are just “regular people with regular lives” but all the while you see them in amazing places, doing amazing things. That’s really what it feels like to live there! I often wanted to pinch myself when I looked around and thought, “is this my real life”? I mean, when I walked out my front door, I was on the beach!
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We took daily walks down to the pier to watch surfers, or to the marina to watch the boats. 
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My daughter learned to walk on the boardwalk!
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We had annual passes to Disneyland, Pantages Theater, and (accidentally) Universal Studios.
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From our house we’d walk through the stunning Venice Canals to Abbot Kinney which was once named “The Coolest Street in America”.
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Then we’d spend the afternoon on Abbot Kinney, enjoying world-renowned coffee, art, fashion, or cuisine. Well, we’d at least look at all those things… the only one we could afford was the coffee!2016-02-14 16.40.42On the rare occasion that we couldn’t walk or bike to our destination, we’d drive ten minutes to meet friends on Main St. in Santa Monica to enjoy the quirky shops, food truck nights, or to just sit in the grass and listen to music while watching the pony rides at the farmers market. 
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In the summers we’d ride bikes along the beach to sit in the sand with some wine and cheese while we enjoyed free concerts at the Santa Monica pier. We’d spend our weekends watching the waves while either having deep conversations with our closest friends, or partying it up in matching themed attire.
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Whether we were watching a musical and theming our clothing and meal to it, celebrating Japanese culture that we actually knew nothing about, remembering the beauty of the Gatsby 20’s for a Birthday party, or ringing in the summer solstice with Argentinian 80’s culture… whatever our LA friends did, they did it with costumes and flair. And usually with a celebrity or two in the mix. This is the kind of stuff that made up our “normal” life in LA.
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It’s all about the “Once-in-a-lifetime” experiences….
The daily life is awesome, but it’s the utter abundance of “once-in-a-lifetime” type of experiences in LA that REALLY make it special! We were lucky enough to have some incredibly generous friends (especially Rich Payne who was the benefactor to many of our very special and free LA experiences! Thanks Rich! And thanks to ALL of you who gave us these types of opportunities!). Rich gave us box seats at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodgers Tickets, and stays at five star hotels we could never afford!
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Other friends gifted us with free massages, private tours of movie studio lots, VIP tickets to TV show filmings, Coachella tickets with vendor privileges (aka not using those general admission bathrooms!), and had lunch dates with us at Google and Youtube (which I thought was super special!).
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Living in LA is about working hard and playing hard (and often doing both together!). Being photographers always provides us with special perks, but being based in LA for our job (and the friends we made through it!) stepped this up big time! We had the opportunity to do things like see free private performances by John Legend, Neil Young, Sting, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Patti Smith, Tom Morello and more! We got to work on set for McDonalds and Disneyland commercials (including going behind the scenes at Disneyland!). We scored free VIP tickets to the Chelsea Lately Show.
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At different points, my husband and I separately got to be the private photographer for Sheryl Crow, Holly Robinson Peete, Jay Leno, and others we aren’t allowed to name. We were regularly able to stay at the Ritz for free (thanks to Harriet for getting us that job connection!) and that sometimes included bonuses like free food and drinks for our entire stay, a personalized chef’s tasting dinner, and free massages in their spa! We traded photography for private Pilates instruction and physical therapy (when either of us were unfortunate enough to need it). 
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We were invited to the kind of wedding industry networking events where the moving dessert table was actually a woman dressed as Marie Antoinette with desserts placed on her giant moving skirt.
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(Although every time I see this, I think of “The Capital” in The Hunger Games!)

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We booked jobs through LA friends that involved free trips all over the country for us. Scottie filmed a music video that ended up on MTV, as well as several other pieces of work that were played for celebrities, network executives, and many others in an industry we were not qualified to produce content for… but got to do so anyways!
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Venice Beach…
The great thing about LA that most people don’t know is that it’s really a big city that’s made up of small towns. You pick the little village that suits you and live your life in that self-sustaining community. Driving to work is often the only time locals venture into LA traffic, since it’s only worth it if someone is literally paying you to do it. We chose Venice as our hub because we were looking for community, and the beach lifestyle of being outside and walking or riding bikes everywhere, seemed to lend itself well to that. Our guess was right and our neighbors became like family and we ran into friends everywhere we went. Though it had all the big city benefits I’ve mentioned already,  I think it may have felt more small town than many small towns do! gift1749 gift1274 copy 306720_10150984985628074_2061705430_n
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If you’ve never been to Venice, it’s hard to explain. It’s the kind of place where a homeless woman yells for help, and a famous actress comes barreling out of her house ready to beat someone down. It’s the kind of place where a high twenty-year old girl asks for an extra pair of your panties since she doesn’t know where hers went. The kind of place where you go out to walk the dog and stumble upon Tony Hawk skating a half pipe, the Red Hot Chili Peppers filming a music video on a rooftop, Blake Griffin dunking for a commercial, or Chris O’Donnell filming a TV show with LL Cool J. Then of course you’re followed home by a clown on stilts whistling “if I only had a brain”. This is all truth and it’s just a snapshot of the crazy things I saw daily in my six years there.
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In Venice, there’s the exciting, the scary, the unforgettable, and always the entertaining. We’d be sitting in our kitchen and suddenly we’re being serenaded by an incredibly talented violin player who has set up a block away. Walking down the boardwalk, we’d head past the skate park, the basketball courts, and muscle beach while running into everything from a man riding a 10 foot tall unicycle, to the “wolf boy” from the Freak Show getting a slice of pizza, to a group of gymnasts performing a comedy dance show, to a man jumping on glass for a living, to a turban wearing rollerblader who’s played the electric guitar while rolling along the boardwalk every day for the past 20 years. Sure there were times when crazy homeless people camped out by our garage, or pooped in the cinder block outside our doorway… and proceed to spread it all over our mailboxes; but the bad side of crazy is more than balanced out with the fun and interesting sides of it. 
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Every time we opened the door in Venice it was an adventure. Including the time I’d just finished watching the very old “Heroes” TV series and a week later I responded to a knock at the door and found a villain from the show- who I later found out lived two houses down- standing on my doorstep asking to borrow something from my front yard (I was so scared of this “evil man” that I froze and could barely nod yes). A few times a month we’d walk out the front door to find a section of the street blocked off for some sort of filming, including the time our neighbor was on a reality show with the “skate car” he built. Twice, Netflix asked to use our apartment for filming one of their original content shows. Once, Jessica Simpson asked to use our building’s parking spot for a few minutes. Another time a private investigator asked to rent our parking spot while he watched coked up models and hookers leaving a nearby house night after night. Then there was that wonderful time period all of our neighbors sold their parking spots to make $300 a weekend that we could pool to spend on parties, fixing up our front yard (a project we began by tearing up the ground at midnight on a whim one night), or any community expense we found. Lack of parking, just like the lack of personal space that forced a bond with our neighbors, is another thing that seemed like a curse but turned into a blessing!
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One of my favorite nights in the Venice area started out with a free stay at the Ritz Carlton. After getting back home, we rode our bikes to the Marina Del Rey boat parade with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. At the end of the parade, a friend called and said his girlfriend was singing and playing trombone at a fancy hotel nearby. So we rode our bikes down the beach to join their group of three which turned into ten, before we all headed to the Christmas party of a friend (who happens to be a famous musician) to finish out the night. It was one of the many LA nights that felt nothing short of magical to me.
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The Roxann…
Even with all the incredible moments Venice Beach provided us, the community amongst our neighbors in “The Roxann” building, was the heart and soul of our Venice beach experience. 2016-01-28 17.23.30 HDR
In fact, when I was writing for this blog, my neighbor who had babysat the night before so my husband and I could go vintage bowling at the Roosevelt hotel on Hollywood Blvd, texted to ask if she could bring me down some fancy hot chocolate fixings! Just another random Thursday afternoon surprise at the Roxann!
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Vintage Bowling at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
Our neighbors at The Roxann (and the few stragglers that chose to be adopted into our community), were like family. We all had keys to one another’s apartments and those keys were used often to let dogs out, double check the oven was off, put Amazon packages inside, and to leave meals and other surprises for one another. To get permission to enter for surprises, we’d ask to borrow something out of their fridge…. and sometimes we really just needed to borrow something out of the fridge! We helped one another through hard times with lots of tears at all hours and we celebrated everything from birthdays, to babies, to weddings!
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Actually, we celebrated anything we could come up with! Some of us had a tradition to go out to the divey-est restaurants we could think of on all the most neglected holidays, like going to a haggard old chicken and waffle joint on Columbus day. We celebrated multiple Jewish holidays with feasts that Jewish community groups bought for us.  We even built a Sukkah structure in our driveway and encouraged those passing by to participate in the building and decorating. We also built a Jewish-Christmas tree in our front yard one year to celebrate our mixed faith building.
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We threw many memorable building-wide parties. Including a St. Patty’s Day party that went from surfing, to BBQing, to a field trip to the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show obstacle course they set up every year down the road, to hang out with our camera man neighbor and watch contestants run through it. Then there was one of Scottie’s birthday parties where a neighbor locked herself out and twenty (not entirely sober) men tried to prove they were the manliest by attempting to get her in via a twenty foot wobbly ladder and power tools (power tools won). Our 4th of July parties were pretty well known in the community. Every year the horse cops would stop and play a game of corn hole in the street with us from atop their horses. And some years we’d have super successful garage sales with our customers being all the red, white, and blue dressed passerbyers who were too drunk to realize they were spending money. During one memorable garage sale, a homeless woman who kept her money safely in her butt, handed us a $20 with feces on it. NOT my favorite Venice moment. Every 4th of July party included a BBQ feast with bacon wrapped hot dogs and of course, Americana costuming, and we’d end the night with a walk down to the ocean to join other parties in watching the four different fireworks shows we could see from our little spot of beach. 
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Though our big planned parties were epic, the real benefit of living a few feet away from some of your best friends were the impromptu moments. The “hey, I know you’re sick, do you need anything when I go to the store today?”, the “I need to vent about my day at work, want to go for a walk along the beach to get a drink?”, and the “I swear the baby is crying just to be mean to me, can you come babysit while I go walk with this other neighbor along the beach to get a drink?”.
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There were impromptu BBQ’s where everyone contributed whatever they had in the building (we were also lucky enough to have a few really quality chef’s living there!), and sometimes unexpected dance parties or karaoke would break out. We’d roast marshmallows in the front yard fire pit that our parking spot sales bought for us, and our late night hang outs would sometimes end in midnight group trips down to play in the ocean. Other times those late night talks in the front yard would involve calling the police on the many drunken hooligans who crossed our path. Though sometimes we chose to help them instead, including one lost girl we claimed so the cops didn’t arrest her. 
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Once Scottie found a kite and all the neighbors headed out the beach for a really fun kite flying day. Another time, one of our neighbors was inches away from getting into a fist fight with an Elijah Wood look alike. We befriended a homeless man who had built an entire living room out of trash, a fashionable ensemble out of leather pieces, and who had taken a vow of silence and would only communicate via writing. He said his words had gotten him into trouble and he was waiting for his son. One day his son showed to pick him up and months later he came back into the neighborhood as a normal salesman who wore a suit and tie, spoke well, and lived in Culver City. The many adventures of our days at The Roxann will never be forgotten!
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Why we left…
LA is a city of extremes. The good is extremely good, and the bad is extremely bad (i.e. feces tainted payments). I’m glad we braved the bad for awhile to embrace the good. Some people seem to adjust to the bad and get used to it, I never really did. And as soon as we had a baby, that became very apparent to me as the things that were a little hard before (parking, over-crowdedness, general pace of life, piles of trash my daughter liked to put in her mouth, etc.) were added onto the basic hard things that go into having a kid, and it was just a little too much for me… for us.  
LA gave us the bigger life we were looking for, until it didn’t. So now this Goldilocks is heading out in search of a bigger life that is actually the right size for us. 
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Goodbye, LA, I’ll miss you…
We’re not sure where we’ll live after our six month road trip ends. There are places near LA that might be options, but it definitely won’t be the same LA that I’ve grown to love (and hate). So regardless of where we end up, I’m saying goodbye to the LA I know.
LA is a very special place and in some ways it will be unlike any other place I’ll ever live. As much as I do feel the relief from the bad now that I’m out of it, I already miss it terribly.
Not just anywhere has perfect weather year round, access to the best of anything any time I want it, or so much to do that something would present itself before I even finished asking “what should we do today?”.

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Turtle Racing… yeah, you heard me right.
Not just anywhere allows you to meet the beautiful and extreme variety of people you’ll meet in Los Angeles. It’s a place where the neighbors you befriend consist of an ailing homeless man with one arm, a South African dog walker who speaks mostly in “dog” language and F-words, as well as a variety of A-list celebrities. Not just anywhere allows you to walk out your front door and hear six different languages being spoken around you at once. 
 LA gives you the opportunity to strike up daily conversations with strangers in a coffee shop and know you’re sure to hear stories of immigrating from a war torn country, running a reality TV show for seven years, being a missionary in Los Angeles, nannying for an Iranian prince, living in a socialist commune, being a personal seamstress for Sandra Bullock and J-Lo, not getting an offer when you took your business on Shark Tank… and any and every other kind of interesting life experience that can be had under the sun. It’s the kind of place where you really do feel like “anything could happen”. Like the time AFTER we’d already moved away and I thought “I wish I could’ve met Josh Gad while we were there” and then I ran into him a week later when we went back for a quick visit. 
Not just anywhere would’ve allowed me to have had the honor of meeting so many different kinds of people, or to learn and be inspired from such a variety of stories and experiences on such a regular basis.
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Of course, mostly I’ll miss the people we loved and who loved us (including those not pictured here) . I know that I will forever miss them and the very special life we shared together.
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Goodbye, LA. I’ll miss you forever.
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The Adventure Continues!

It’s been awhile since we embarked on a big adventure. The last time was when we moved to Los Angeles for “the summer”, but ended up staying for six years.
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gift1615gift1568gift1101 copymedieval timesThough in the midst of our LA life, we had our first child, so I guess we HAVE had an adventure pretty recently after all!
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After the dust settled from our family’s size transition, we were ready for another change. Especially since the math of adding another person to a one bedroom apartment on the beach in Los Angeles goes something like 1 person + 3x more money = 10x the effort!
(See the photos and captions below for ideas on how to make room for a baby in a one bedroom apartment! If you don’t need such ideas, fast forward past the photos to find out what our latest adventure is!)
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Celia’s nursery in our 1 bedroom apartment. Complete with the fold down changing table her daddy built! See more details on how we created and used the closet baby room, in other photos.
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To build our daughter’s baby room in our small apartment, we used IKEA cardboard drawers in the hallway cabinets as her clothing drawers. A friend crocheted the hanging pendant, which was a great way to bring in our colors with so few places to use them.  Artist and animator, Pete Oswald, made a custom painting to help incorporate our “Classic Children’s Books” theme into the small space.  We labeled a jar of glitter as “Pixie Dust” and placed it on a shelf my dad made for MY nursery (next to my dad’s childhood book collection), that we painted to match the room and hung over a door. My husband built a fold down changing table with room to store changing supplies (see the inside of it in the other photo).
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A full picture of our daughter’s baby room inside of a closet in our 1 bedroom apartment. Here’s a little more info on how we did it. See the details (and the inside of the fold down changing table my husband built) in other photos. The rug is from Pottery Barn Kids and the crib is the Delta children portable mini crib with a better mattress we purchased separately. The portable part of the crib is key so that it folds easily to get in/out of the closet and we didn’t have to build it once inside the closet. The sheet that fit in the crib we used (and the bedskirt you can’t see in the pic) were both American Baby Company for travel cribs. We did lots of research on the least smelly diaper pail since a bad one could stink up our entire apartment, and we landed on the Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper pail, which we thought worked GREAT! Book shelf below diaper pail is IKEA. Cardboard drawers on top of cabinets are IKEA (and the lower cabinets are filled with them used as clothing drawers- see in other photo). We moved the bar and shelf on the back of the closet and split them in two, to hang clothes on each side (until she was old enough to stand up and pull them down!). We put light storage items, like stuffed animals, on the shelves on either side with strong netting to keep them from falling on her. We used the storage space under the crib to it’s full potential! We added an outlet to the light bulb inside the closet so we could hook up the baby monitor, speakers for white noise, and run the fan (under crib) constantly for circulation.
As much as we ended up loving Celia’s mini closet nursery, we knew we wanted to grow our family even more eventually and we couldn’t stay there forever.  We figured, if we’re uprooting our lives anyways, we might as well make some memories in the middle!
So we’re taking a 6 month road trip around the country!!!!!!
 pjimage (3)While we prep for the big trip, we’re giving ourselves some space (literally and financially) by temporarily moving from a tiny apartment on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, to my grandparent’s beautiful cabin in a small mountain town of Northern Arizona called Pinetop.
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Since relocating to Pinetop, we’ve definitely found more margin in our lives. I think we needed the change of pace more than we knew; we feel much less stressed here. We’ll pick up the pace soon to start planning our road trip, but for now we’re enjoying some of the peace we’ve found here. And it’s just lovely.
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* Keep a look out for my next post. It’ll be about our experience living in Los Angeles and more about why we moved there, stayed there, and left there.

Trading Comfort for Community

Sitting around last night with my husband in our friends’  living room and listening to them talk about the kind of apartment they might want to move to, reminded me about why we chose the place we did when we moved to LA. I’m telling you this because I think our checklist for our apartment was a little different than most people’s and the result of that has been life changing for us.

What was the number one thing we were looking for in our new apartment?

No, it wasn’t famous neighbors or living by the beach like you might think (though we did get lucky and get both of those anyways). It was community. You see, at our last apartment, building community was actually our official job (yes, that’s a thing). So while we did have enough community to make us recognize the value of it, there were a lot of aspects lacking from it that eventually led to our transformation into 85 year old shut-ins. Only we were the kind of 85 year old shut ins who didn’t sit around collecting cat feces or filling out mail in surveys, or whatever it is that normal 85 year old shuts ins do, but we instead filled our time with working 90 hours a week. I know, it was ridiculous. What’s the good of spending all your time sitting around your apartment if you don’t memorize every word to every episode of I Love Lucy?!

So when it came time to choose a place to live in California, our search was immediately narrowed down to an area where we would have enticing reasons to leave the house and people all around us to leave the house with. We chose the crazy world of Venice Beach. Venice is the kind of place that has led many of our Orange Country friends to shudder as they ask us if we actually moved to Venice on purpose or if it was just some sort of crazy mix up at the property management office like you would see happen on a TGIF show or something.

Yes, we moved to Venice Beach on purpose.

It’s where majority of our friends live (and yes, they’re normal and they chose Venice on purpose as well). Venice is the kind of place where you actually see your friends out and about because people walk and ride their bikes everywhere. It’s also the kind of place where all your friends from other parts of town will willingly come to visit you on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a game of volleyball on the beach, to finish it off with a BBQ in your front yard. Most of all, it’s the kind of place where there are boundless amounts of people around our own age with whom we longed to share life with.

I know, I know, it also has drugged out young girls who ask for your underwear on occasion (I do have a soul so I gave her an extra pair), as well as homeless people who use your outdoor shower when you’re asleep or hide their stolen bike collection behind the bushes in your back yard, and then there’s the skateboarders who knock you down while they fly past you yelling, “I don’t stop for tourists!”.  Plus, I know some people just wouldn’t be cool with their neighbors sole source of income to be riding around on roller blades while playing an electric guitar and wearing a turban. But all of that is just the charm of Venice and we take the good with the bad. Sure, I’m worried about who’s urine I’m sitting in when I’m chilling on the grass or a bench, or even leaning on the rail at the beach skate park, but I’m wondering the same thing when I’m in those child herpes pits in Burger King playgrounds or swimming in public (cess) pools in fancy neighborhoods!

The point is, we traded in our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a washer/dryer inside our place, a dishwasher, easy parking, 3 pools and 3 hot tubs, and a fitness center… that all cost only a third of what we’re paying now, for a 1 bed/1 bath place with none of those things and the added bonus of drunken passerbyers peeing on our bushes every Saturday night.

But we in no way regret it for a second. Why? Not just because of all the cool stuff I find on walks (see photos below of all the things I’ve found on walks).

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But the real reason I never regret my decision is because all the fancy apartments, personal space, and amenities in the world aren’t worth trading in for the incredibly community we get in our current building, where there are neighbors who are forced to get to know one another because of our shared everything, and people who support one another like family because we’re in such close proximity to one another that we can’t help but be involved in each other’s lives.

The trade was beyond worth it.

When our nose is to the grindstone and we’re working at 9pm at night, but our neighbor interrupts us to bring us leftover matzah dessert from his seder dinner and then his roommate gets home from her date so she stops by to fill us all in on it and we end up laughing until midnight instead of working like we would’ve otherwise done, we know it was worth trading in EVEN OUR HOT TUB in Phoenix for this… and that’s saying a lot! And when it’s annoying that we have to ask our neighbors to help us move cars around in order to have a space for a visiting friend to park, we remember how awesome it is that because we interrupted our neighbor, they will most likely contribute a dish to our potluck dinner and end up hanging out with us late into the night around our fire pit. During which time we may find out that she’s having surgery next week and will need some help around the house or she’ll find out that our family is coming to town next week and we may need to borrow some pillows… or Xanax.

What I’m trying to say is that I think we made the right decision and that so many things that felt like sacrifices initially are the same things that have actually turned into blessings. I’m not kidding when I say that one of the major reasons we’ve been able to stay in LA is because of our neighbors. It’s been their support, as well as their hard work to help us find clients out here, that has given us the hope and the ability to stay in this place we love.

Relationships are the choice that wins.

I know everyone has different priorities and trade offs they’re willing to make, which is important because everyone’s definition of an extraordinary life is different and requires different things. However, there is still a principle here that is universal that I want to remind us all of. Just because we’re all used to things being a certain way, having a certain level of ease or comfort, doesn’t mean it’s right or that we’re not insulating ourselves with so much protection that we’re actually preventing ourselves from experiencing something truly beautiful and wonderful rather than just comfortable. Choosing comfort over relationships is a waste of life that will always leave us wanting.

The following are pictures of the things we gave up and sacrifices we made to live here….

(This is a picture of our shredded, detestable, laminate tile in Scottie’s office, otherwise known as our kitchen, otherwise known as our dining room. You can see our full dining room table stacked neatly in the corner).

905a25def6e10f6a303092eb7f53315a (This is a picture of our giant bed that I have to jump to get into.  When we lived in an apartment that was twice the size of our place now, it was just a regular bed. But after the move every square inch had to become an uber space saver. Now it’s our bed, our guest bed (extra mattress stacked on top of our mattress), AND our storage space (via IKEA bookshelves below) all in one).

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The following are pictures of the reasons we gave things up and made the sacrifices we did to live here…
(This is a picture of all our neighbors having dinner in the Sukah we built together in our driveway for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot).

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(And this is a picture of us hanging out in our front yard on the pavers that we purchased and laid with the money we achieved through some very fun and unorthodox methods that our property management was not a fan of and shall therefore go unnamed).

b660b43d9741d5bc973b4a4fa7af4b40 (The photo on the left is our neighbor trying to break into her own apartment with the assistance of an untrustworthy ladder and several men who have had too much to drink, after locking the keys inside during Scottie’s birthday party. The photo on the right is my husband and our neighbor who together built a Jewish Christmas tree for our front yard during the holiday season).

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(Spontaneous Fantasy Football draft party in our living room).

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(This is just after we cleaned out our shared garage for a reality show episode being filmed about our neighbor).

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(This is a picture of what happens on the weekends when our friends from all over LA come to visit us in Venice).

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So yeah, there are some things I wish I still had and some additions that would make our lives more comfortable, but as you can see, it’s been a well worth it trade for us.

(Follow Rare Existence on Facebook to stay updated with recent posts).

Is it “just life” or just a lie?

“That’s  just  life”.

I’ve  been  hearing  that  since  I  was  a  child.

“But  daaaaad,  I  want  a power pad for my Nintendo, LA Gear hi tops, tickets to the Paula Abdul concert, and the Saved by the Bell board game. ”
Without skipping a beat or even looking up from what he was doing, my dad would say, “that’s  just  life.  So  go  to  your  room and run in place for a few hours in your Kmart Keds, while listening to the Paula Abdul songs you taped from the radio and making up your own Saved by the Bell trivia from the hours of that stupid show that you have memorized… and consider yourself lucky for having a roof over your head to do all that in.”

“But daaaad, I want a pager, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, a hyper color jumpsuit, and AOL instant messaging like ALL my friends have!!”
And again, my dad would smoothly follow that up with, “that’s just life. When I was a kid and we wanted to get a hold of someone we just yelled their name until they yelled back, we wrote on stone tablets that wouldn’t fit in fancy trapper keepers, the only “hyper color” we had were the weird rashes that we got when the McCormick kids touched us, and when we wanted to message someone we left hieroglyphics on the cave walls and didn’t have to keep track of how many of the 130 free hours we’d used from CD’s we got in the mail!

Cue my eye roll, audible groan, and stomping off to slam my bedroom door.

In other words, it didn’t  take  long  for  me  to  learn  to  translate  “that’s  just  life”  to  “stop  whining  and  leave  me  the  hell  alone”.  I  got  pretty  used  to  that  phrase.

So I was pretty surprised to find as an adult that this phrase still evoked a strong emotional response from me.

“But  (person  who was NOT my  dad),  I  hate  getting  up  every  single  morning  at  5am,  driving  through  traffic  to  sit  behind  a  desk  doing  only  boring  things,  driving  home,  yelling  at  my  husband  because  I  hate  this  day  and  every  other  day,  then  going  to  bed  without  doing  a  single  thing I actually consider important in life,  only  to  get  up  the  next  day  and  the  day  after  that  to  do  the  same  thing.  It  feels  so  meaningless  and  I  feel  like  life  is  a  gift  and  I’m  totally  wasting  it.  Sure  I  understand  the  value  of  hard work,  but  isn’t  it  possible  for  that  hard work  to  go  into  something  I  love  or  that  makes  a  difference  in  the  world?  Surely  we  are  all meant  to  do  different  things  in  different  ways  since  we  are  all  made  so  differently.  Someone  else  might  totally  thrive  at  this  job  and  love  using  their  gifts  here  but  I  just  don’t  think  I’m  cut  out  for  it.”

“That’s  just  life”.

Like the many times when I’d heard this as a child, I lost my temper. But unlike the olden days, this time I didn’t just pout and walk away.  Instead I narrowed my eyes that had been widened by the shock, and dove in to make my point.
“Yes,  but  it  doesn’t  HAVE  to  be  that  way.  It’s  not  my  husband’s  life!  While  I’m  getting  up  in  the  cold  early  morning,  he’s  lying  in  bed  where  he’ll  sleep  until  10am.  Then  tonight  while  I’m  getting  ready  to  go  to  bed  early,  he’ll  be  getting  ready  to  go  out  with  the college students  he’s  mentoring  to  have  fun  with  them.  He’s  doing  something  he  loves AND  he’s  making  a  difference  in  the  world. Why  shouldn’t  I  try  for  the  same  things?”

Needless to say, I didn’t hear much more about it from that person after my sort of rude and as some would say, “socially inappropriate”, outburst.

I just don’t believe it.

The thing is that I’ll  believe  you  if  you  say, “I too wish I could be living differently but I’m too scared to try” or ” sure that sounds awesome but I’m not willing to work hard enough to create that kind of change”. Whatever you say, don’t say “that’s  just  life”. Because it’s NOT just life. Life doesn’t HAVE to be like that. In fact, I don’t think it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! I think we’re supposed to be truly living and reaching for more in life than just basic survival! I believe we should be doing what it takes to live a life of meaning and using all that is in us to do our very best to find out what we’re meant to do in life… and then take the risk, put in the effort, and face the fears that will lead us to our Rare Existence (whether that guide us to a 8-5 office job with a family, or a shot at the silver screen with a pet monkey).

When I’m wanting a bunch of useless stuff, that might not even be good for me (is a hyper color jumpsuit really good for anyone?!), and I’m wanting it just to be cool like my friends or to chat with said cool friends on the new information super highway, I’m fine if my dad or anyone else says “that’s just life”. But when it comes down to what’s really important in life, don’t say “that’s just life” because really, “that’s just a lie”…. and I refuse to believe it.

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Finding Your Significance in the World

As a follow up to my post last week about finding value through comparison, here’s a question…

 

If all your talents and gifts were put on mute, and everything that previously made you feel successful or worthy of praise was put on hold, what would make you feel valuable?

 

Think about it for awhile and then go enjoy some Christmas cookies before Santa jacks them all. Merry Christmas.

The Soul Sucking Comparison Game

I’ve never been a showy person, at least not in the monetary sense.

Ask all the guys who showed up in their fancy new Pontiac Firebirds (hey, I thought that was cool back then!), to take me on a shopping spree date, and end the night with a spontaneous trip to Disneyland. That was true luxury for me…. and I fled from it as fast as I could each time it was presented. The showy life just wasn’t for me.
No, instead I picked the guy who told his future in-laws that sometimes he considered how nice it might be to be homeless by choice. This is the same guy who thinks the solution to a broken pair of flip flops can be found not in a store with new flip flops, but in his toolbox with a few nails and a hammer. Yep, that’s my husband. And that’s sort of the reason I chose him (although I WOULD prefer to furnish our apartment via IKEA rather than our neighbors’ dumpsters, but I have to pick my battles).
So I’ve always prided myself on not being the keep up with the Joneses sort of person. Because of course, I was better than people who did that! And there it is, the real truth. That even if I didn’t use having money as my measure of comparison, I was still playing the comparison game. I was still priding myself on how much better I was than others, while constantly trying to find flaws with people who I thought were better than me.

And recently I’ve had a slow awakening about just how strong this whole comparison thing is for me.

In fact, it may be just about everything to me. Every way I judge the value of myself, of others, of accomplishments, of my body, of what defines success, and even of what my extraordinary life is. I’ve been slowly becoming aware of how many times I think about how something will affect my “ranking” both before and after I do something.

Is it time to re- decorate my living room already? Well what would so and so think of the style I choose? Not good enough, I better pick something better then.

We just got the coolest clients for a photo shoot, I can’t wait until so and so sees it.

That was an exhausting party but I still have a little energy left so I might as well start cleaning up. I hope so and so sees it so they think I’m so thoughtful and caring.

I feel like wearing this shirt today but I’m going to wear this other one because I think it will make the people I’m going to see today think more of me.

Do you think I’m crazy yet?

You will when I tell you that these were just a few of the many examples of thoughts I’ve had in the last 24 hours!!!! And most of them happened in the last 12! I KNOW I’m crazy, because I’ve driven myself crazy over years of thinking this way.
Even putting up this post has got me worried about how people will view me. I feel like a childish idiot that I’ve let so much of my life be driven by the game of comparison, so of course I don’t want to show that I’m an idiot or else all my hard work to show everyone how much better I am than them will be wasted!
Yes, this is the kind of crazy, circular, and backwards thinking that is my daily life.

I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of wasting so much energy on this. I’m tired of worrying instead of really living. I’m tired of me being the one most guilty of stifling myself. And I’m also just tired because I’m tired! Keeping up with every single person in the world is exhausting!

But the problem is that I don’t know how to LIVE without comparing!

I don’t know how to determine how I feel about people, actions, or things without using my normal measuring stick of “good enough” or ‘better than”. So the thought of having to give up this life long impulse, is terrifying to me.
I feel like I’m giving up my baseline for measuring life. All the rules I knew are out the window. How will I be able to judge the quality or significance of my work if I don’t know whether or not it will make someone else jealous? How will I know if I am good enough to fit in with those around me? And of course there’s the most deeply rooted question that is the reason I struggle with this in the first place… how will I know if I’m valuable?
Of course, to know you’re important/valuable/significant as a person, you gave to know that you’re bringing the world gifts of yourself that are better than what others are bringing right? You know because the masses say so, right?
Wrong. I know it’s wrong, but I’m still a little confused about what is right!

How do I change something this big?

I’ve only known one way to live and now I’m supposed to just throw it out in one giant trip to the trash, and simply pick up a new way of living and a new way of thinking?! I want it to go away, to be able to live a life based on truth, intrinsic value, and all those other good words you hear spiritual gurus throwing around like magical fairy dust, but HOW do I get there is the question? How do I just stop thinking the way I’ve always thought?
I’ll have to let you know if I ever find the answer, because I am definitely going to seek it out.

The truth, is that living for others is the opposite of extraordinary.

The ordinary thing to do is to play the comparison game. I know that if I am only living the life that looks the best when compared to others, then I’m most likely not living the life I’m meant to live. If I’m not being real or honest with who I am and what I deem to be valuable, then how could I expect to be honest about what I’m meant to do with my life? I can’t. I won’t know what I’m destined for as long as I don’t know who I’m really destined to be. So it’s time for me to stop comparing, worrying, and changing and just start living as me and who I’m meant to be.

Wish me luck.

 

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Extraordinary Misconceptions

Today I want to address a couple of common misconceptions.

Extraordinary living is not just for artists.
Yep, it’s true. You don’t need to understand Michelangelo’s methods for painting The Sistine Chapel or how to DIY your way out of any death defying situation, to be able to live extraordinarily.

Extraordinary living is not just for entrepreneurs.
Yep, it’s true. You don’t need to be able to break down Google’s methodology or outwit Mark Cuban on Shark Tank to live extraordinarily.

Let’s review our definition for extraordinary living shall we?
“A Rare Existence, or extraordinary living, means to live the life you are meant to live regardless of risk, difficulty, opinion of others, weaknesses, or failures. This involves knowing yourself WELL, pursuing your passions, overcoming your fears, and working hard at all you do.”

See that? Living the life YOU are meant to live! Maybe I should add in “regardless of…. artistic abilities, entrepreneurial visions, how many kids you have, what your income level is, how much freedom you have, if you like eggnog or not, what religion you are, who you voted for, whether or not Modern Family is your favorite TV show, if you are pro Microsoft or pro Apple (OK well maybe this one DOES matter), or what defines the extraordinary lives by others around you”.

As you can see, an extraordinary life is for everyone who chooses to pursue it.
Living extraordinarily means understanding YOU and living the way YOU are meant to live. That’s the extraordinary part. The fact that you don’t choose to live the way everyone around you does. The fact that you understand that you have a purpose to seek out. The fact that you risk what others aren’t willing to risk to uncover and fulfill that purpose. That is a Rare Existence. And that is quite extraordinary.

So please don’t think extraordinary living isn’t for you.
If you find yourself thinking that you’re just not cut out for it, put down that McMuffin you’re eating (or whatever you’re doing) and return to this post to remind you of the truth! Having an extraordinary life IS your choice! It may be hard, it may (will) take years to develop, and you may have to take smaller steps than you like, but don’t surrender to the idea that you’re meant for nothing more than ordinary!

It’s time to let the truth win out!
We all need a little help fighting the lies from time to time so… you’re welcome!

Lie: I’m too boring for an extraordinary life.
Truth: There is no official measure for boring, you are just comparing yourself to people who have completely different roles in life than you do! No matter how boring you may feel, you have the capability to choose to do something extraordinary!

Lie: I have too many kids to pursue anything in life other than a nap.
Truth: See my post, The Extraordinary Family Life, to help you figure this truth out!

Lie: I’m not talented enough to live an extraordinary life.
Truth: Everyone has a unique set of skills/talents/experiences that make them who they are and that give them their purpose. Your talents may be different than others, but you do have some! My post, Discovering Who You Are, will help you figure out how the things about you all come together to help you serve your role in the world!

Lie: I like popular stuff (chocolate, Disneyland, good weather, etc) so I’m too much like everyone else to be extraordinary.
Truth: Popular stuff is popular for a reason! It doesn’t say anything about you if you do like it or don’t like it, it’s just good!

Lie: I don’t understand the answers to the questions in LOST so I must be stupid.
Truth: There were no answers to the questions in LOST so don’t worry about it.

Lie: I’m too focused on putting out daily fires to focus on moving forward.
Truth: See my post, Baby steps.. yes, that’s a real thing, to help you with this one.

Lie: I don’t know what lmao, yolo, or NPH (hint: Doogie) mean so I must be too old fashioned to do anything new.
Truth: So you’ll loose at a game of Scene it: Pop Culture Edition? So what? That doesn’t mean you don’t have other valuable skills that may have nothing to do with new fangled technology, the hottest “it” couple, or the wrong way for men to wear half shirts (IS there a right way really?).

Lie: I don’t know what I’m meant for, so it must be nothing.
Truth: It takes most people quite a while to figure this out. See my post, Don’t Expect to Find the Answers in a Day, for encouragement about this because it’s so worth the effort to figure it out!

Lie: Too many people depend on me so I can’t do anything risky or out of the ordinary.
Truth: People need you to be who you are meant to be, above all else. Not convinced? Read my post, Is Extraordinary Living Selfish.

Out of excuses? Good. Now focus on the identifying and living out the life you were meant to live!

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Goal Setting Resources for 2013

Alright guys, goal setting time is upon us!

Resist the urge to go all hipster/ironic, or emo/anti everything, when it comes to goals. Yes, I know that only capitalistic robots who have been brainwashed by corporate America would even dream of doing something so cliche as setting goals that begin on January 1st (heaven forbid). But stop trying to be unique for just one second so you can realize that, guess what? You need to do it SOMETIME, and since most of us don’t remember the rest of the year, now is a perfect time!

To help you with your 2013 goal setting, I’ve come up with a list of resources to give you some direction!

 

Goal Setting Resources:

Discovering who you are…

Rare Existence Posts:
1. Finding a valuable identity
2. Give them something (good) to remember you by
3. Discovering who you are

Outside Resources:
1. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath
2. Myers Briggs Personality Test

 

Dreaming about what you want to do…

Rare Existence Posts:
1. The Discipline of Dreaming
2. Your ideal life
3. Your entire life in one word.

Outside Resources:
1. 5: Where Will You Be 5 Years from Today? by Dan Zadra

 

Setting goals and making a plan…

Rare Existence Posts:
1. Baby Steps… yes that’s a real thing.

Outside Resources:
1. Your Best Year Yet  by Jinny S. Ditzler (I apologize, it’s a little boring, but it’s the only one I know of that gets the job done!)

 

Encouragement…

Rare Existence Posts:
1. John Mayer is a Liar and Peter Pan is a hero
2. Do Epic Shit
3. Remember why it’s worth it
4. Patience Grasshopper
5. You can do it my dear
6. Manifesting your manifest friend

Outside Resources
1. The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson *
2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller *
*FYI: Both of these are Christian books, but still very encouraging even if you don’t agree with everything in them.
December is going to fly by, so I want to hear sounds of goal setting screaming from your computers now! Go, go, gadget goals!!!!

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Stay connected with Rare Existence posts on Facebook!

 

Manifesting your Manifest Friend (a project)

I once knew a girl who had a plan.
She had a plan because she had “Manifest Monday’s” with her best friend every week. This day would consist of them getting together and writing their own personal lists of things they wanted to see happen in their lives. Big or small, they’d write the dream down and then write down the steps they needed to take in order to get there. And guess what? Their dreams came true one by one.

There’s power in knowing and defining your dreams.
There’s something magical about writing down the things that require bravery just to think about them.  I’ve heard that goals that are written down are around 80% more likely to come true than goals that are vague and not clearly written down (I’m not completely sure if that percentage is accurate, that’s just what I’ve heard). Even still, you can write things down until your fingers are raw, but they are still much less likely to come true than they are if you also write out the steps you need to accomplish them. Once you have the dreams and the steps, don’t forget that there’s power in numbers. It’s a big deal when you voice something out loud to someone that seems crazy. Mostly because it means you might actually do it!

Manifesting my Manifest Friend.
I actually wrote this post before I even knew my Manifest Friend who I’d eventually find myself voicing my crazies out loud to. I’m glad I waited to post it until I found her, not only to hide my hypocriteness, but also because now that I do have a wonderful Manifest Friend, I actually understand the significance of the words I wrote about how important it is to find one!
You know those moments when you’re like “I think my chest is collapsing, or wait, maybe the sky is falling….  or whatever it is, everything in me seems to be caving in”? And you know those other moments when you’re like, “I feel like skipping, I think I’m going to skip… maybe I’ll whistle a tune while I’m at it!”. OK, well having a Manifest Friend means that even if I start the day in the first moment, I end up in the second moment by the time we finish our meeting together. I can’t quite explain this phenomenon. Maybe it’s having someone who relates to my struggles…Alanna is an actress/model/musician so she knows the pain of never knowing when your next paycheck is coming, of having to self motivate since there’s no boss to do it for you, and of having your finances be dependent on whether or not people like you, etc. Maybe it’s having someone to be honest with, even when it’s about the things on your “I’m not so good at and I need to fix_____” list. Maybe it’s having someone to encourage you when they hear about something particularly brave or ambitious that you’re trying to accomplish. Whatever it is, all I know is that every time I leave our little once or twice a month meetings where we discuss our progress on the goals we emailed one another with at the beginning of the month, I’m amazed at how much brighter the world seems and how much smaller my problems feel.

Today is your day.
I know they don’t grow manifest friends on trees, but if you start looking, you might be surprised that you actually do find a ripe one! And I’ll give you super, extra, one-up, flower power, bonus points if you start searching for that person today. I don’t care how you do your manifesting; you can work together on identifying your dreams and the steps towards them (as my Manifest Mondays friend did), or you can just work on holding each other accountable for your specific monthly goals that you’ve identified on your own time (as Alanna and I do). However you do it, just do it.

The steps to take.
1. Define your dreams by writing them down.
2. Write out the steps required to accomplish those dreams.
3. Discuss these with a friend.
4. Rinse and repeat.

P.S. If you need help identifying your dreams, check out my posts “The Discipline of Dreaming” and “Your Ideal Life

Entreprenurial Advice

Recently I was asked to give advice to other entrepreneurs by my friend who writes Modern Reject so I wanted to share my answer with all of you here as well…

 

1. Discover the difference between needs and wants.

Constantly re-evaluate what you really need in life versus want. Entrepreneurial life often requires making choices that involve sacrificing your security and comfort, so it’s important to know whether the things you desire are needs that cannot be sacrificed or wants that can be adjusted. Entrepreneurial life requires lots of outside the box thinking, not just in your business, but in your life as well. Everything is a trade. You have to be willing to trade living the way you are comfortable, the way you always thought you’d live, or the way you think you’re “supposed” to live, in order to gain the kind of benefits that others who live the “right” way only dream about.

 

2. Remember that security doesn’t exist.

Remember that the security we cling to so tightly isn’t real anyways. None of the things that feel like security are actually things that will protect us from the hard stuff, nor are they actual secure. The recent recession and instant loss of so many seemingly “secure” jobs taught us how temporary our security that we fight so hard for really is. Somewhere deep down we know that our securities aren’t really that secure, yet we still fight for them because they are ways for us to feel like we are in control and can keep the things we’re afraid of at bay.

 

3. Identify and face your fears.

You have to decide how much you want to let yourself be guided by fear. So many people are fear driven and use the excuse that they’re being “wise” or “protecting their family” but really all they’re doing is hindering the capabilities of themselves and their loved ones, as well as putting limits on the amazing kind of life they could share together. Limiting yourself, your loved ones, and your shared life because of your fear will come back to haunt everyone involved. Purging yourself of unnecessary fears and balancing your ability to risk while still using wisdom, will allow you and your family to be their best. And that will always be the most “secure” way to ensure that you will thrive both as individuals and as a family, regardless of what new adventures you embark on in the future.

Good luck in all your entrepreneurial endeavors!