Our Great Adventure Begins! And Almost Ends. (Orange County, CA)

We did it!!!! We’re officially living “on the road” for the next six months or so, with no other home base to speak of. This is it, our home is our “car-house” (as we started calling it to help Celia understand).

2017-06-13 09.16.392017-06-22 09.36.13We imagined our first stop would be somewhere exotic or unknown to us, but instead, we found ourselves right back in Los Angeles where we came from! Well sort of. We parked in Rancho Santa Margarita in Orange County to be near some dear friends of ours while making several visits to LA to see other friends and do the photography work we stopped there to do. We ended up being thankful we went somewhere familiar first because we found we needed the comfort of home much more than we expected.

THE LEAVING:
Leaving our mountain home in Pinetop, AZ that we’d lived in for the past four months while preparing for this road trip, was a LOT harder than I’d expected. It was a much deeper issue than just saying goodbye to Pinetop itself, or even than closing a really special chapter in our lives. It was about leaving home and comfort. Since I’ve left my own home-base, and my parents recently sold the house I grew up in, my grandparent’s cabin that we’d been living in is one of the closest things I have to a long-term home right now. It’s that place that will always bring me peace when I return to it, no matter how long it’s been. And saying goodbye to that, while simultaneously heading out into a great big world with all the unsteadiness that comes from living in a car house (literally), was not easy for me. I came to realize that this entire trip is going to be one giant stream of goodbyes after another.

THE BAD AND THE MORE BAD.
Our trip did NOT start out as we’d hoped. Not. at. all. But before I get into the bad, let me just say that the very bad was exactly equaled with the very good. Had it not been, there’s a real chance we would’ve quit on the road trip the very first week! It was like we were living in two separate worlds. We’d wake up in misery in our car-house, then we’d be whisked off for the day to this beautiful land of fun and friends… and then go back to the dungeon at night. I want to tell you about the dark part first so that you can appreciate how much the light meant to us. Especially so I can explain it to those blessed souls who played a part in bringing us the light!

For starters, we quickly found out there’s a much higher learning curve to living in a 5th wheel than we’d anticipated.  A lot of our problems in the beginning had to do with us trying to keep our costs down as low as possible. Like we bought one small generator instead of two, or one big one, in hopes that would be good enough. It wasn’t. When we arrived in Orange County during a huge heat wave, we soon found that not having enough power to run our air conditioning was not going to work. Especially when Celia and I got a stomach bug our first night on the road and weren’t able to sleep in or rest the next day because these were the kind of temperatures we were dealing with INSIDE our car-house.

Temperature INSIDE our RV. And might have been more... I don't think it's capable of triple digits.
Actually it may have been more, I don’t think it’s capable of showing triple digits!

Thankfully, the worst of the stomach bug was that night. Celia was fine by morning. Mine lingered the rest of the week and prevented me from doing some fun things, but it was semi-manageable. However, the rest of the things we were dealing with, didn’t let up so easily. To sum up a LOT of struggle into a very short space, basically we couldn’t use electricity (like lights at night), we couldn’t charge any devices (including sleep apnea and white noise machines that we needed to catch up on sleep), we didn’t have hot water and had to turn off the water pump when we weren’t using it, and our entire home smelled like an outhouse. Add to that the extra frustration of constantly sweating in our 100+ degree house and that we hadn’t slept more than a few hours a night in over a week; then pile on other things like having stomach issues in the bathroom at night without lights, and dealing with a sick toddler with limited water access and no washing machine. Not to mention we didn’t have electricity for some of our normal escapes like TV, internet, and music (we had limited time to charge phones too). When I tried to turn on the microwave for two seconds and it completely shut our generator down when Scottie wasn’t home, I couldn’t even go ask another camper for help because I knew I’d just burst into tears in front of them.
We badly needed a day of downtime to rest and work out the kinks with the car-house. But due to the crazy heat and lack of a/c, that wasn’t an option. So we’d leave the house all day – which I’m actually thankful for because we always went fun places with friends, and into air conditioning- then we’d come home to this literal hot mess that continued to grow each day we weren’t home long enough to deal with it.
We eventually hit that point of exhaustion and sweating from where there was no return. We started falling apart fast, as the logical sides of our brains were shutting down and our dominant emotional sides were being driven by caffeine and tears. And the way we were relating to one another became a hideous reflection of that. We were no longer capable of handling the numerous small things that continued to go wrong on the car-house when they were piled on top of the exhaustion and chaos. Things got so bad for awhile there, that even Scottie… who’s dream this was in the beginning, and who can actually handle quite a bit usually, was ready to quit.

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THE SAVIORS:
I have one HUGE recommendation to anyone considering this sort of trip: that your first stop is near good friends. The kind who don’t care if you’re late (every time) to the dinner THEY made for you (every time). The kind who let you use their air conditioning, washing machine, stamps, diapers, internet, memberships to fun places, coupons, address for Amazon packages, alcohol, coffee grinder, and child’s toys. Thank God we had the Varners in Orange County. They kept us sane during “The Great Chanson Breakdown of 2017”. They supported us with all I mentioned above, along with compassionate ears and thoughtful responses that put the logic back into our car-house hating heads. They fed us every meal so we didn’t have to cook in the heat or spend all of our trip’s eating out budget in the first week. They kept us going.

Thank you Varners, for loving us and caring for us when we were just weepy, pathetic, whining lumps. And for being understanding even when you were disappointed that our circumstances negatively affected our plans and time together.

Besides getting to catch up with our good friends, there’s another reason, I was excited to start this trip with a visit to the Varners… Celia’s very best friend, Maddie!

On the road, Celia’s going to have to sit through a lot of long conversations, car rides, and “character building moments”, as my mom would say. Plus, it’s going to be rare for her to have the comfort of seeing familiar friends in familiar environments. So I was very excited to be able center this stop around Celia. The Varners planned some great experiences for her and Maddie to have together, and it was so awesome watching Celia have so much fun with her best friend!

One of the highlights for Celia and I was Pretend City: Children’s Museum of Orange County. It’s a non-profit with a whole little indoor city for kids to play in! Complete with a mini-Trader Joes, garden and orchard, doctor and dentist offices, and public service careers!

Older kids can do “jobs” at each place and get their time sheets stamped to earn money. But Maddie decided to put on the Trader Joes employee Hawaiian shirt and sweep for free.

Pretend City was one of the cutest places for kids I’ve ever seen and I think we’ll try to head over there every time we’re in Orange County from now on! Provided the Varners haven’t had enough of us forever, and will (at least eventually!) invite us back into their real city one day.

THE LA VISIT AND RITZ CARLTON STAY:
The other major saving grace we had during this difficult week, was a free stay at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey! We trade photography work for hotel stays with them, and we had two free nights burning a whole in our pocket. It worked out better than we could’ve imagined because we had no idea we’d be so ready to escape the car-house troubles and live in real luxury for awhile!

Morning tea party… room service style.
Celia LOVED the “Ritz Kids” gift bag they had waiting for her at check in!

The pool day we spent at the Ritz was one of the best of our trip, at least in regards to fun family time together. And Celia was as thrilled with our accommodations as we were! It’s like she really knew this was something special.

It was EXTRA special actually, because it was also Father’s Day weekend! Which came with a few little bonuses of it’s own. Some courtesy of Celia to Daddy, some courtesy of the Ritz to us, and some courtesy of our lovely friend and favorite Ritz employee, Harriet, who never fails to make us feel at home wherever we are!

As you know, feeling at home was extra important to us on this stop, so thank you to the Ritz and to Harriet for all the special comforts you both provided us with, right when we needed it the most!

Making a Father’s Day card for Daddy at a Ritz Kids event.

We also had another gift card we needed to spend while we were in town. One that was so special to us we’d actually saved it for several years for the right moment. We headed over to one of our favorite spots in our old neighborhood, Abbot Kinney (see my post about our life in LA to read more about “the coolest street in America”), to one of the most talked about restaurants in LA, Gjelina. To give you an idea of the Gjelina hype, it’s the kind of place that’s written into TV shows as “the” place to go. It’s also a celebrity hotspot. I once saw David Beckham leaving on his motorcycle with a swarm of paparazzi running out into traffic behind him, and there was this whole situation with Victoria Beckham and Gordon Ramsay that I didn’t witness, but was a very talked about thing. It’s also not at all the kind of place we can afford to eat at… hence holding onto the gift card like it was made of the rare truffles they serve there. It felt a little strange to take a toddler to such a place, but Celia totally held her own. She charmed the waitress, ate more of the unusual gourmet foods than I did, and laughed along with us throughout the meal like she, again, recognized how special this was. It was the kind of moment where I felt like all the hipster singletons of LA were looking at us and captioning their instas, “maybe having a kid isn’t as tragic and disgusting as I thought”.

See, that girl behind us is totally insta-ing that.

Also, I have to brag on Celia’s adventurous eating since we’ve been working on a Toddler Taste Training Plan (that I will be blogging a lot about soon!) based on the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion, which has transformed the way we eat and handle meal times in our house. And I felt like this little experience at Gjelina was the ultimate test and success in what new foods Celia is willing to try!
Here’s what she ate there (it’s small plates/tapas style):
Grilled bok choy, bottarga, lemon.
Grilled king oyster mushroom, tarragon butter, lemon (I couldn’t cut it up fast enough for her!).
Ricotta gnocchi, shallot, black morel, Porcini mushroom.
Crispy duck confit, roasted cherry, chicory, hazelnut.
Crispy baby Mackerel, mustard aioli, grilled lemon (see pics below).

I couldn’t get over the eyes on these so I had a hard time choking down even one. But Celia loved them and kept trying to feed them to me. Based on how often I push her to try new foods, I felt I had no choice but to comply and practically swallow the bites whole that she offered me.

Staying five minutes away from our old apartment, and having such wonderful friends still living at that apartment, made it the perfect time to invite all our LA friends to a BBQ at our old place, just like old times! Special thanks to the Roxann residents for letting us do this… especially to Ari and Jonas who did most of the work for it. It was, once again, a chance to forget our troubles and enjoy the fact that our first stop was in a place that held some semblance of home when we so desperately needed it.

It was SO nice to see familiar faces and spend time with loved ones! The party was perfect. It just felt right and we were so thankful for it!

We also took the opportunity to spend some time at “our” beach while staying so close to it. Celia was too little to ever remember living on the beach, so I want to take her there as often as possible to keep it in her little surfer girl heart.

Thankfully, our friends know about our desire to hold onto Venice from afar, so they gave us one last going away present. Ari and Jonas made a video of our final days of living on Venice Beach. It was BEEEEAUTIFUL! It included snippets from our lives, clips of friends, ambiance scenes that tell the story of what Venice is like, and plenty of other material that’s guaranteed to bring tears to our eyes every single time we watch it from now until forever. Thank you guys, it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

On another drive down to LA from Orange County, I met up with my best friend who had been out of town while we’d been in it. Celia, Rachel, and I had a nice lunch at Sacks on the Beach (impressive quality of food by the way!) and a walk around Redondo Beach, before heading over to a sweet little indoor play area, The Coop South Bay, followed by an Italian coffee shop stop. As short as our time together was, it was still really perfect. Even having Celia with us while we caught up was great because she’s always had a special relationship with her “Tia Rachel”, who lived upstairs from us when she was born. And you could tell by watching them together, that they still do! (Though we did miss seeing you, Matt-Tio!)

Facing her fears in the ball pit at The Coop.

THE GOOD AND BAD COLLIDE:
So while things did get pretty bad at some points, the fact that we were able to reside in both the dark and the light worlds, made the bad… maybe not quite “bearable”, but at least forgotten for awhile!
It helped to remember that the first couple of weeks in Pinetop were rough as well, due to a terrible stomach flu that hit us all during our move from LA. And if any of you remember my “I Hate Mexico” post from awhile back on a previous blog… you’ll know that we have a history of starting out big trips very poorly. But in both the instances of Pinetop AND Mexico, things did get a lot better after the first week or two! And I think once we just get rest and air conditioning, we’ll be able to handle the rest of our issues with a lot more class and grace than we have been!

I can’t say enough how thankful we are that our first stop was one with so much love, support, and so many fancy gift cards to use! The only problem is all these goodbyes that we’re saying all over again! And in a couple of weeks we’ll be headed to see our good friends, The Schmidts in the Bay area, and I know we’ll have to cry all over again after that goodbye too! Surprisingly though, it is kind of nice to feel deeply about something so important. Crying over goodbyes is a much richer experience than crying over my usual things, like slow wifi.

There was one moment when I had a chance to just sit on our “porch” and do nothing but enjoy the beauty of our campsite in the cool morning air. Celia and I were having breakfast in our little camping chairs and listening to the The Okee Dokee Brothers, who are our family’s favorite kid’s band (because they don’t sound like kid music), and who also happen to have albums all about excursions around the country. So they’re kind of our theme music for this trip. I was listening to a song called “Through the Woods” where he’s inviting someone he loves to go “wandering” with him. And I just sat in my campsite crying and remembering how special this whole thing is and how it’s all about my little family being together… which hadn’t happened much in recent times as the stress had not brought out the best in how Scottie and I related to one another. It reminded me to take a step back to re-focus and hopefully find more of the beauty in the wandering, like the song is talking about. So a special thanks to The Okee Dokee Brothers for keeping our trip (and our marriage!) afloat in that moment. Take a second to listen to the song if you can, it’s pretty wonderful and will help set the tone of this whole trip for you as you follow along with us!

“Through the Woods” by The Okee Dokee Brothers
I’m wondering if you’d go wandering with me
Through the wilderness and woods
To where the winds are blowin’ free
Through the darkness of the night
Headin’ toward the morning light
I wonder if you’d wander with me
I’ll spread the word
And you beat the drum
We’ll round up the troops
And get the gang to come
And we’ll leave the streets
And these neighborhoods
Head over the river
And through the woods
You’re wondering if I go wandering with you
What kind of trouble we’ll get ourselves into
Would it be wrong to tag along
With a band of vagabonds
You wonder if I’d wander with you
I’m wondering if you’d come wandering my way
If you ever get lost
Or the trail leads you astray
The music of the pack
Can always bring you back
I wonder can we wander away

Our New Home… On Wheels

Aside from the fact that I’ve basically been homeless for the past few months, I don’t think you and I are all that different. For example, I’m guessing that you, like me, never dreamed that the first home you purchased would have wheels. Sure, I imagined a guest house, a nice yard, and maybe a pool or something… but never a house that would require new tires from time to time. It’s not that I’m too bourgie to see myself in a mobile home. In fact, home prices in Southern California have made me consider that option more than once, especially when I learned there are trailer parks right on the beach in some of the priciest neighborhoods in LA! But still… “first time homeowners” and “pumping our own sewage out” were phrases I’d never thought of putting together. Until yesterday that is, when we did indeed buy our first home… on wheels! We bought ourselves an RV! A 5th wheel to be exact. A 2016 Keystone Sprinter to be even more exact.

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We didn’t intend on buying one so new. In fact, our plan was to buy an old one to fix up in a way that matched our style. Though I’m pretty glad that didn’t happen because I know us well enough to realize that in reality we’d never actually finish, and we’d spend our whole six month road trip lamenting the backsplash we never got around to. So luckily, we avoided the five stages of backsplash grief when we happened to drive by just the right RV dealership- with just the right reason to sell this one fast- on just the right day, and saw just the right RV for us! So we bought a 2016 model for 1/3 less than the list price! I’m not even joking. And it’s selling for even higher than the listed price everywhere we’ve seen it posted around the country!

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Of course we were skeptical that we could be so lucky as to find just the right everything for just the right price, so we hired an inspector to look it over. And it came out perfectly! His only negative feedback was that the “outside was dirty”. I think it was that dirty outside that helped us get this great deal, because it limited how many people driving past would stop to notice how sparkling this trailer was on the inside! In fact, it’s practically brand new and barely used inside!

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The TV, stove, and fireplace (yes, FIREPLACE!) all seem like they have literally never been used. And there are still new stickers on the bathtubs and showers. Yes, I did say bathtubs and showers PLURAL because this is a 2 bed/2 bath model!!!

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FYI friends, this couch folds into a bed... as does the couch in the living room! Where are you going to meet up with us?!
FYI friends, this couch folds into a bed… as does the couch in the living room! Where are you going to meet up with us?!

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If you’re doing the math, you know that means our daughter Celia actually has more of her own space than she did in our LA apartment (see our nursery closet pics here)!

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And it’s actually tall enough that Scottie can fit in it! Which was a real problem when searching for this. He still can’t stand up in the bedroom, but that was the case in all but one of the 5th wheels we saw (and is the reason we didn’t buy a tiny travel trailer!).

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So when all is said and done, this is the perfect RV for us! Better than we ever imagined we’d have. I am a little sad we won’t be Pinterest famous for all the remodel magic we do (we actually can’t do much because it’s so close to factory condition and changes would likely lower the resale value). But I have a feeling we’ll be less stressed out on the road knowing that:   1.) Our backsplash is done, and 2.) We have a better chance of making it from Point A to Point B with our “car house” (as Celia calls it) in tact. And man, does it feel good to have such a new and perfect place to call home… for awhile!

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Look out, America! Here comes the Chansons with our (almost) new “Car House”!

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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.
Tiny house baby rooms, Small space baby room, closest baby room, one bedroom apartment nursery, fold down changing table, Artist and animator Pete Oswald
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).

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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Time for the over the top, way too expensive party… because Rare Existence is 1 year old!

Today, Rare Existence is 1 year old!!!

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to keep going last month, so that I could make it to this big day!
In honor of this birthday, I wanted to give you some fun Rare Existence stats and facts:

 

General stats:
How many countries have seen it: 65
How many posts have gone up: 53
How many words you’ve read if you’ve read every single one: 40,007

 

Best things people typed into Google that lead them to Rare Existence (besides the thousands of ways “existence” was misspelled):

  • I need to make up some epic shit
  • party time prom
  • my dear should I do you
  • choose your words wisely you never know when you’ll have to eat them
  • embrace messy hair
  • what do you want people admire you at?
  • in los Angeles I know that my dreams will come true
  • retarded chihuahua (my favorite one!)

 

Other websites who have sent the most people to me (thank you!):

  1. Modernreject.com
  2. Imaginationsoup.net
  3. Cakebaketress.blogspot.com
  4. Ordinarycourage.com
  5. Eatsleepwork.com
  6. Danoah.com
  7. theposhhome.com
  8. teresastrasser.com

 

Most popular posts:
My Big Demon
A true story about extraordinary living: Kelli Freeman (Part 1 and part 2 were hits!)
Do Epic Shit

 

My favorite post:
Is Los Angeles the place where my dreams will come true or where my children will get stabbed?

Most Re-pinned Rare Existence quote on Pinterest:

post 22

 

My Favorite Rare Existence Quote:

post 2

Time for cake and then gifts… wait what?! You didn’t bring gifts?! Lame guys, lame.

Vote to keep Rare Existence alive

So for all the rambling I do about community and how we’re all here to support one another, blah, blah, blah, I’m going to set an example by asking for some major help from you.

Honestly, I feel ready to quit writing Rare Existence.
Rare Existence makes me feel like a failure. There. I’ve said it. I had pretty high expectations going into this that are not being met. I believed if I built it (with truly quality content), they would come. I thought it would just spread because that’s what stuff does when it’s good. When you see something awesome, you share it to increase your own awesomeness ratings in the eyes of your Facebook friends, right? So either I’m just plain wrong to expect this, or my content isn’t good enough to give people a bump on the awesomeness scale. Either way, I feel like a failure.

This is very, very bad for me since part of my own plans for an extraordinary life involve the growth of Rare Existence. This makes me feel like a failure at my extraordinary life, which in turn makes me not what to write about it anymore, especially on the blog that reminds me of what a failure I am in the first place!

I know the logical thing to do would be to examine my marketing or other issues that could be the real problem before giving up. But of course feeling like a failure is bringing my insecurities to an all time high at the moment so all I’m hearing is “Why bother working on your marketing? You don’t need MORE people to see how bad you are at this”. At the point I’m at, I’m really starting to question whether that is the truth.

 

So the thing is, I could really use your help right now.
I feel pathetic, desperate, and embarrassed to be asking you for this, but I can’t get it out of my head how much I tell everyone here to be vulnerable with one another- especially when things are going badly, so I feel I must do the same.

What I need from you is your vocal support. If you read and love Rare Existence, I just need you to say “aye” to cast your vote to keep it afloat. Leave a comment here, send me a note… just SOMETHING to show me that you exist on planet earth and that you want to keep reading Rare Existence.

I feel like if I know the problem is not my ability to write things people like to read, but rather my ability to market, then I will have just the amount of hope I need to push through and fix the problem.

 

If you have constructive criticism:
… about how you think I could grow Rare Existence, get more feedback from readers, etc. I’ll take it. But please remember that I’m fragile right now so be gentle OK? I typically publish all my suggestion comments, but since I’m not feeling super brave at the moment, don’t be offended if I choose to process your suggestions on my own rather than share them with the world while I’m figuring all this out.

 

To connect with me:
… you can email me at Breanna(at)rareexistence.com, or you can comment here. Thanks for your readership, your support, and your patience while I’m all weepy and weak. Forgive me if I don’t do my usual once a week posting for a little while, I might need some time. Thanks for the grace.

 

Much Love,
Breanna

What I wanted to be when I grew up.

What I wanted to be when I grew up…

Age 4: A Mermaid. “Amy Grant-Ariel- Mermaid” to be exact. Yes, you heard that right. My cousin and I had an Amy Grant fan club too – so embarrassing.  I think we only had one fan club meeting and we ate brownies. The rest of the time I mostly just swam with my feet locked together  like a fin and spent my time trying to convince my cousin that I was the REAL Amy Grant- Ariel- Mermaid and she was just my twin. She bought it- sorry Bethany.

Age 6: A better version of April O’Neil. I wanted to hang out with the Ninja Turtles like April, only I’d be better because I could fly. I day dreamed of flying around in the sky in my black skorts and hi-top sneakers, while singing, high above my school playground at recess where all the kids could see and wish they were as cool as me. At that exact moment, my good buddy Michelangelo would kick spin onto the playground and hand out free pizza to everyone before fighting off the bad guys that arrived to get free pizza. I was the coolest kid in the world… in my 6 year old mind.

Age 8: A pet groomer. As you can see, I was growing up and my dreams were a little more realistic. More so than my little brother Paul’s, who’s ultimate career dreams were to be either an elevator operator or a car valet, only he wouldn’t make people pay because he’d just do them to be nice. I was way more practical than that. Until that is, my mom told me that I’d spend my days picking poop off poodles butts and I yelled at her “you ALWAYS crush my dreams!!!” before running to my room crying, where I decided I didn’t really want to do that anyways.

Age 10: Sea World trainer. Free Willy made a pretty big impact on me. Even after I saw the movie “Orca” where killer whales are actually killing, I was still on board. I thought I could change them. This dream never faded, I still want to do it. So all of you “The Cove” lovers out there, just accept it- I’m a bad person.

Age 11-15: A famous singer. I WILL be discovered while singing in my car one day. You’ll see.

Age 16: A social worker for foster kids. Until that is I was sobbing so incredibly hard (and loud) through the entire first half of the movie, The Sixth Sense, that my boyfriend at the time had to drag my out of the theater wailing. Yep, The Sixth Sense, a completely not at all sad movie, during which I couldn’t stop being sad because that poor little boy was scared all the time! I remember collecting my composure outside the theater when my boyfriend said, “um, maybe you shouldn’t be a social worker, you MIGHT not be able to handle it”.

Age 19: Film Soundtrack Producer: This was my answer to the question, “if you could have any job in the world…” This dream still lived on in my heart until I moved to LA and saw how sucky some of the jobs in the film industry really are. Especially if I end up having to spend my days picking out music for the Wiggles or something like that. Call me disillusioned.

Age 20: No idea. I loved when we’d go around my Family and Human Development classes at ASU and ask what everyone wanted to do when they graduated and all you’d get was, “I don’t know”, ” I don’t know”, “I don’t know”. I thought that was probably a bad sign.

Age 23: Still no idea. I was getting my Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling, but I knew I didn’t want to be a typical counselor sitting in an office. Go figure.

Age 25: A photographer. I’d tried my hand at real world jobs and then went, wait this sucks. I want a pretend job like my husband (who was a photographer)!

Age 27: A writer. Thus Rare Existence was born.

Age 29 (now): It’s complicated. What I want to do with my life has less to do with what it is that I do specifically and more to do with how it supports the rest of my life.
Not necessarily money wise (but duh, that’s important), but more values wise. I’ve been investing my time into figuring out what is important to me in the rest of my life so that when I find a job that supports that well, I’ll know it!  I’ve also been investing energy into some personal growth issues that I feel will better open me up to being the person I need to be in order to do the things I need and want to do in life.

After investing my time into working through those sorts of issues, I now know I want a job that I enjoy well enough that will allow me to have the flexibility I need to make whatever decision I deem is best for my family.
Freedom (time, financial, geographical, etc, etc) is key. If my husband and I decide to take a year to sail around the world with our family to teach our kids that way, right on- we want to be able to do it. If the public school system turns into a brainwashing, 1984-esque military camp and homeschooling is the only way around that, right on- we want to have the ability to do that! I know I can’t control everything, but the goal I want to work towards is to do my best to never be in a position where I don’t have the freedom to choose what I know is right for my family. P.S. having “freedom for my family” means my husband has to have freedom as well so becoming a Real Housewife of Orange County is sadly out of the question for me.

So now I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to start investing into the actual logistics of this mystical career that will provide me and my family with the values I’m craving for us.
Right now it looks like photography will always be a part of that, but I feel like there will probably be more to it in the end because I know I have the desire in me to do more than just give people with lasting memories through photos (not that it’s not important, I just want to use my talents in other ways as well). I want to help people learn. I prefer to help them learn through artistic and beautiful means, like how a fantastic movie, book, or song can make you think in ways that causes you to change your life. How that will play out exactly is still unknown. Will I do all those things for money? Not necessarily, maybe I’ll find a job that provides enough through working a little so that I can do the rest of these things just because I enjoy it (taking notes off my brother who now is an elevator operator and car valet for free). I don’t believe a career necessarily has to be what dictates how I spend my time. In fact I prefer that it doesn’t because as soon as something becomes a “have to” for me, I tend to resent it immediately!

Basically there are two options for me, and both include providing a life of freedom for my family.
One, I just find an incredibly flexible job(s) that provides freedom for my family, that I also really love and feel like I’m “meant to do”. Two, I could just find a job(s) that I enjoy somewhat that provides the most amount of money for the least amount of work so that I’m free to spend the rest of my time doing what I need to with my family and whatever else it is that I’m “meant to do”.  Asking for too much? We’ll see. The benefits to this would be so great that I’m willing to try it before giving up on it! By the way, I know that drug dealing sounds like the best solution to this, but that is definitely off the table for me. Stripping? Off the table. Any sort of illegal activity that could result in either stabbings, sex for money, or a warrant for my arrest… off the table. If I have to carry a concealed weapon on me at all times in order to perform my job… so far off the table, I can’t even see the table anymore. Writing is definitely still on the table. Teaching, speaking, life coaching, etc., etc. are all on the table for discussion. It’s just one step at a time and exploring different aspects until I find my fit!  But as long as whatever it is includes a life of freedom for me and my family, then I’m in!

Your turn! What did you want to be when you grew up and what are you looking forward to doing with your life in the future?

 

Remember Why It’s Worth It

In case you haven’t decided if you’re ready to make the necessary sacrifices for your extraordinary life, or if things have been getting a rough lately and you just need a little encouragement to remember why you’re doing it, let me tell you a little about what has changed in my life since I began pursuing a Rare Existence. You need to know that the concept of extraordinary living is not just a pipe dream, but that it is an actual reality for many, and it can be for you too!

You can work from anywhere.
In fact, I am currently sitting on vacation in a cute little workspace at a stunning log cabin in the forest of Northern Arizona, listening to the beautiful rain.

You can work whenever you want.
Hence, it being the middle of a weekday afternoon and I’m enjoying my time writing, not working at my main job.

You can have a job you love.
I get to be creative and work with people on the happiest day of their lives.

You can have the ability to move wherever you want.
I have always wanted to live in Los Angeles and now I do live in Los Angeles.

You can have a beautiful marriage.
I now get to really live the majority of my life with my husband. We share in the same excitements, hopes, dreams, etc. that come from having many common goals in our work together.

You can be a stay at home parent.
When we have kids, I now have the ability to not only be a stay at home mom but to have my husband stay home with us as well… stay at home parents raising a family together!

You can live debt free.
We have no obligations, fears of bankruptcy, foreclosure, bills we can never pay.  With this comes much freedom and peace.

You can take 1 month, 2 month, or even 3 month vacations.
In this past year we went to Hawaii for 3 weeks, Mexico for 3 weeks, and Venice, California for 3 months (before we made the decision to live there).

You can live your life in a way that prioritizes relationships over all else.
When people call to hang out, we have the choice to go whether it’s late at night or right smack in the middle of the day. And we live in the kind of community where that happens almost daily!

You can live a life that matches up to your values.
We now have the choice where we what to put the majority of our time, energy, and effort.  We now just have to focus on continuing to choose well!

You can do something meaningful with your life.
We have big dreams, and we are doing everything we can to make decisions that will set us up to accomplish those!

 

I’m not kidding. This is our life.  Seriously, write out your dreams and start taking those crazy, scary steps towards accomplishing them (revisit the discipline of dreaming post)! We had to do it… we had to take the risks and walk on some shaky ground, and we continue to push through challenges as a result of our choices, but the end result is so SO worth it! Do it. Start dreaming and doing now. I’ll see you soon on the road towards extraordinary living!