Thank You

There are no words.

Which is why it’s going to be extra hard to explain what I’m talking about. It’s you. It’s all of you guys. You are incredible. The feedback you gave me after my last post brought me to tears multiple times. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your heart felt responses to my heart felt, mini-break down.

I currently have plans to respond to each and every one of you who took the time to comment or send me messages, but every time I go to do it, I get emotionally overwhelmed all over again! You all put so much of yourselves into your comments that I want to make sure I respond with the amount of thought and energy that you deserve. So please do not be sad you haven’t received a response yet. I’ve heard you, I love you for it, and I will respond.

This will NOT be the end of Rare Existence. As a result of your thoughts, comments, and encouragement, I have received the motivation that I so needed to keep moving forward.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you again. You guys truly are the extraordinary.

Much Love,

post 45

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), 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,

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?


My Internal Guts are an Ooey Gooey Mess.

I’ve done it. I have an extraordinary life. At least that’s what my stats reflect….

Married 7 years. No children. Living on the beach in Southern CA. Photographer. Writer. Fraternize with Hollywood types (C list celebs count). Owner of a successful business. Work with my husband. Debt free (both our business and personal). Free trips to exotic locations for work… with my husband. Living like the rich despite being less than rich (see previous point). I now walk or ride our bike to more locations than we drive to. My friends are the shit. I’m a regular participant in cultured sort of activities (i.e. Broadway shows, museums, concerts, etc). I’m a regular participant in not-so cultured activities (i.e. pub crawls, turtle races, and street performance volunteering). I take 3 week vacations… back to back sometimes. I wait 6 month to go get my roots touched up, call it ombre, and pull it off only because I’m from Southern California.

I mean I get it, I have a lot and my life is pretty much the bees knees.

So why am I not completely satisfied by my circumstances?
I’ve done the work, made the sacrifices, and taken the risks to put me in a place that is set up perfectly for extraordinary living. I’ve been working on setting up my external circumstances for years, so what’s left to adjust so I can really appreciate these circumstances I’ve worked so hard to bring about? Oh yeah… ME!!!!

It’s time to work on my INTERNAL aspects of extraordinary living.
You can adjust your outward situation all you want, but if you never look inward, then you will feel the exact same about life regardless of if you are living in a multi-million dollar mansion with a butler to bring in your gold encrusted chihuahua, or if you live in a grass hut and wipe your kid’s poo off his butt with your hand that you will later clean only with a dry stick (that’s a real thing- watch the movie “Babies”).

No matter how extraordinary my situation is, if my PERSPECTIVE and HEART aren’t extraordinary, my situation is irrelevant.
It’s been through my internal heart work that I’ve found I’m extremely lacking on the perspective issue. I’ve found that no matter what has changed in my life, my perspective has stayed the same. My perspective on life is so ordinary that it’s keeping me from enjoying the extraordinary!

The following is now an official part of my plan for internal extraordinary living.

  1. Be a student and follower in the art of gratefulness.
  2. Accept the belief that I am in control of my stress level… it is a choice (view my stress as an internal issue, not an external one).
  3. Accept the belief that I am control of my happiness level.. it is a choice (view my happiness as an internal issue, not an external one).
  4. Let myself rest and enjoy the fruits of my labor (this is official doctor advice by the way, due to my low function adrenal problem that I’ve created through my stress).
  5. Continue to look inward to see what other changes need to take place within me so that I can spread that healing and growth outside of me.

I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing to get further and further ahead in my extraordinary life and I’ve let that suck a lot of the me out of me. So now it’s time for me to heal. To rebuild. To grow. To reflect. To rest. And to change my perspective. So that the beauty of my external extraordinary life can be rivaled only by the beauty of my internal extraordinary life. So that I can truly be free to appreciate the blessings I have surrounding me and truly be able to extend those blessings to others. Let this new season of extraordinary internal growth begin!


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

Lately I’ve been finding myself in all sorts of mental conflicts.

Work or sleep? Re-read “Hunger Games” or jump right into “Intro to Being a Better Human Being and Fixing Everything in Your Life Through Painstaking Work and Exhausting Effort”? Go out and make new friends or decide to sit at home feeling fat instead?

You see, life is a pickle! Decisions, decisions, decisions!

I think I have decision-block.

I’ve had writer’s block lately and I think that it has to do with the fact that the very thing I write about is the very thing I’m blocked about. I’m re-thinking my decisions, which for me means questioning whether I’d rather spend my days relaxing on the porch with an extra large glass of sweet tea and my 3 legged old dog while we watch the fireflies land and count our days by how high the tulips grow in the front yard? Or by laying on my horn in traffic as I rush late to my next meeting, while trying to cram a meatless, gluten free, double fiber stick of something or other down my throat and yelling into my speaker phone about the ice cream cake I’m picking up for that thing tonight, while trying to learn Mandarin on my iPod and squeezing my glutes for added toning at the same time. (Think Michelle Pfeiffer’s lawyer character in “I Am Sam” who survives on handfuls of jellybeans and non-fat lattes).

Why is the answer to that question even a question? Oh right, because I’ve actually chosen the awful sounding second one.

Yes, I have moved to Los Angeles, California. It’s the land of concrete and smog where the green grass only grows up between the sidewalk cracks and where when you hear someone say the word crack you think about either Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood or Brittany Spears’ coin slot before you think about the sidewalk.

Here I must compete, always. I must make more money to stay afloat, always. I must know how to enter a restaurant with no visible sign or apparent, always. I must hurry, always. I must know all about Ryan Murphy, Ryan Gosling, and all the future famous Ryans who aren’t even born yet, always. I must look good, but try not to look like I’m trying to look good, always. I must know not only what they are, but also 10 different ways to prepare and ingest kombucha, kale, or kimchi, always. I must avoid walking alone at night, always. I must carry quarters on me for parking, laundry, and bums, always. I must work out 3 hours a day, 10 days a week (yes, 10), always. And people will continue to ask me what I was thinking when I decided to move here, always.

But I know why I moved here.

I moved here for the ocean, the community, the culture,The Chelsea Lately Show, the art, the potential, the bike rides, the entertainment, the celebrity neighbors, the abundance of french bulldogs, the old Hollywood history, the diversity, the great weather, the walkability ratings, the chance to see my front yard on my favorite TV show, the inspiration, the excitement, the creative collaborations, and- let’s just admit it- the white truffle aioli sauce with candied bacon, creamy burrrata, and lemon zest had a little something to do with it as well.

I know why I’m here right now, but the new question I’m asking myself is- do I want to be here forever?

Do I know that I want to raise my kids here? Do I know how I will juggle my freeway captivity and Botex injections with my kids’ Pilates and french cooking classes? Maybe having my kids skateboard to school while I Feng Shui up the house isn’t the lifestyle I want for my family. Maybe I’d rather have my kids walk home from school with their friends while I await them with a plate of fresh baked cookies and a Bible story to tell them that I heard in my knitting club. Having time to play, garden, relax, sleep, talk, and go number two isn’t such a bad thing is it? Maybe moving to small town USA where I’d just go to a regular old job and my kids would come home from school to a regular old mom in mom jeans, and going to regular old church potlucks on Sundays and listening to old Uncle Joe tell that same story about the cat with angina for the hundredth time isn’t such a bad thing? Why do I feel the need to fight it and do the opposite?

I found out why when I was visiting my dad’s small, mid-western hometown.

As I watched people have time to enjoy life and found myself longing for some of the small pleasures of the simple life that they had (mostly the lard), I met a young girl who had a different kind of spark in her thick black eyelinered eyes. Even though she didn’t say it out loud, everything about her and about the things she DID say out loud, just screamed to me that she was going to leave this place one day, this place with 4 generations of her family all living within 5 miles from each other. It’s not that she hated it, it’s not that it was bad. It just wasn’t HER and it wasn’t what she was meant for. And I saw myself in her in more ways that I could count.

It was at that moment that I realized, this thing about destiny is so much bigger than my own finicky desires.

It doesn’t matter where I want to live or what I want to do because I know that what I want more than anything is to do what I’m meant to do with my life and I’ll live wherever I need to in order to accomplish that. So even though a small town sounds kinds of nice right about now, it’s just not where I’m meant to be… just like I can tell that young girl is meant to leave one day. Maybe I’m meant to end up in the middle of a corn field one day… but for now I KNOW I am right where I need to be. Right in the middle of the action, the opportunity, the thrill, and the challenges that come with LA.

I don’t know if my kids will be the ones with thick black eyelinered eyes who are meant for LA…

…or the ones with an affinity for growing crops and wearing Carhart overalls who are meant for a small potato farming community in Idaho (or in Ireland if I’m lucky, because then I can visit them in Ireland instead of Idaho). It all goes back to extraordinary living and how by definition of it, we all have different sorts of lives we are meant to live. I don’t know if LA will be best for my family. Some of you just choked on your corn chip when heard that I’d even consider that LA might be best for my family! I DO think there actually are benefits to raising your kids in the big city- like how they can always find a hotdog stand when they are hungry! Of course I know there are many downsides as well- like how they can’t sit on benches because the homeless people pee on them. I kind of like the drive and desires that a fast pace competitive city can put in you… those are the kinds of things that can lead a child to grow up and change the world. I also like the down time and support system that a slow paced small town can provide you with… those are the kinds of things that will allow a child to grow up investing into things that are extremely meaningful like relationships and helping other people.

There are pluses and minuses to both sides.

You just have to decide which you believe is best for you, your child, your family, your partner, your dentist, your therapist, your dog walker, and all the other people who stand to be affected by your decision. And even if you make yourself crazy trying to decide (as I do every night at 1am when I go frantically re-reading and continually re-commenting with my non-nonsensical night time thoughts on Teresa Strasser’s blog post related to this), you’re still pretty likely to be wrong in the end anyways! So my final say on the matter is that I am where I need to be now in order to live my extraordinary life, but when I have kids, I will re-consider, weigh my options wisely, and then make a decision that I will stick to- until my husband tells me I’m wrong, or until my kid ends up in college or prison, at which point I will find out whether or not I made the right choice.

The Big Move

I have an editor’s correction to make on my post titled “California Dreaming Turned Reality”. So you know how I said, we’re moving to California for 3 months and then we’ll be back in Arizona after that?  Scratch that. We’re moving to California- the end.

I feel like there is so much to say to explain this decision, but really I said most of it in the original post. The same reasons for why we decided to move out here in the first place still exist. And the reasons we’re staying are because all of those same reasons are going so well and we want to keep with them!

That and, we LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEE it there! We feel happier, more well balanced, and more content than we have in a long time.  Whether this is just because we needed a change or because it’s related to California itself, either way it’s working for us and we’re not ready to leave. We’re very, very excited to see where this new path will take us!


My Big Demon

So today we’re getting personal. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about bra sizes or that weird toe thing you have – or anything like that, there’s just a little (actually giant) confession I’ve got to make here.

It’s no secret that my extraordinary word is FREEDOM. If you know that, then you are not only an excellent reader, but you also know that I usually follow that declaration with a list of fairly generic things that I want to find or maintain freedom from. Well today I’m going to surprise even myself and get really specific up in here. I’m going to tell you what I want freedom from more than anything in the world. It’s an obsession even stronger than the one most girls have with Ryan Gosling’s seemingly photoshopped abs. So what is this obsession that takes precedence even over Mr. “Hey Girl” himself? The correct answer here is FOOD. I want freedom from food. Not from nourishment, not from cooking, and definitely not from the bliss of chocolate truffle cheesecake. I’m fine with all of that really.

What I want is freedom from my addiction to food.

I know that it’s totally normal for most people to daydream about food and spend lots of time looking forward to their next amazing meal. Being in the extreme foodie culture of Los Angeles has taught me that much. What I’m talking about is different than that. I’m talking about when you go out to eat with a friend and you literally can’t even hear a word they’re saying because all you can think about is the dry loaf of bread on the table that is causing you to use every ounce of energy to be socially acceptable enough not to chow both your portion and theirs in one swallow. I’m talking about when you are so full your stomach hurts because you’ve eaten everything tasty in the fridge, and yet you still start looking in the back to find your year old frozen pie crust or baker’s chocolate because even though it’s disgusting… it’s all that’s left.  I’m talking about not wanting to go to parties because you know you won’t be able to stop eating after one…two…three… make that four cookies, and people will notice and even though you’ll be mortified, you’ll reach for another and another after that.  I’m talking about when you spend 30 minutes weeping in shame over how much you just ate, only to eat that same amount 30 min. later when you’re stomach has stretched… which of course leads to another 30 minutes straight of crying. I’m talking about waking up in the morning, almost wishing you didn’t because you know you won’t be able to stop eating today any better than you did yesterday. I’m talking about just about every waking second of your life being devoted to food in some way… scratch that, every second in general because you dream about binging too.

Overeating isn’t the captain of the eating disorders football team or anything. It doesn’t really get the attention that the homecoming queen and king (anorexia and bulimia) get, but it can still bully any of us average Joe’s just as much as the popular kids can.

So now you know why I want freedom.

I can’t imagine how beautiful life could be if I could only find a way to never again eat to the point of almost being sick, or eat even though the food is disgusting and I’m not at all hungry, or leave a social scene because I want to go gorge myself away from my skinny friends, or give up the fight because it just feels pointless. If I could only find a way to escape living under the cloud. I live in a place that is covered in a grey fog, and no matter how much I squint or try to see above it, I just can’t get a clear vision of anything anymore. Either the thoughts of food or the thoughts related to the consequences of my constant thoughts of food, are with me through about 95% of my life. I am at all times hyper aware of where the closest Oreo is or isn’t, how long it will be until I will get to eat my next 98% sugar meal, how tight my jeans feel, how much lesser of a person I feel, how much I hate myself, and how I am just going to go eat more because I hate myself. This is the cycle of shame, addiction, and consequences…. and for me, it all revolves around what goes into my belly (and now my thighs and my butt too).

All the things I described above have been true throughout most of my life.

When I was a cute little, baby fat ridden 6 year old, I began the first page of my diary by describing how I couldn’t wait until I was “16, pretty, skinny, and hanging out at the mall with my boyfriend”. Turns out, I was not skinny when I was 16. I did not get asked to hang out at the mall (but this was partly because AOL browsers had brought the beginnings of online shopping to the world) and boys didn’t ask me to dances, football games, or anything else that Saved By the Bell promised me. When I was 18, I began the painstaking work of finding freedom from food thanks to a great class I took that I’ve since found out has evolved into a cult… hail broccoli, right? By the time I was 19 I was pretty far along the path to Skinnyland and almost wearing a size 6 (I bought a lot of Gap clothes back then because what they called a 6 fit a little more like a 7 and a half). But when I was 20, I broke up with my boyfriend (who, by the way, had fulfilled some of my girlhood fantasies by taking me to the mall sometimes)… and the layers of both fat, and muffin top disguising clothes, came piling back on. Since then, I’ve just gotten worse and worse and felt more and more trapped and controlled by food.

Now the same issue is back to haunt me in a different way.

As I now head down the path towards my extraordinary life, I find myself sort of hoping that many of my nearby dreams will actually wait a couple of years to come true. Wait, what?! Yep, it’s true. The thing is that some of these dreams involve me being in the public eye, so of course I want to wait that extra year since I will FOR SURE have lost 45 lbs by then!  I once heard that when Oprah was nominated for another Emmy in 1992 she actually prayed she wouldn’t win because she was the heaviest she’d ever been and was too embarrassed by her weight to go on stage and accept the award. Her dreams were coming true and her weight was slowing her down (probably both literally and figuratively). And now I’m beginning to feel the same way. The consequences of my obsessive addiction have found a whole new way to tear me down… they are getting in the way of my extraordinary life. In some ways they’ve always put a ceiling on the things I was capable of. But I’m beginning to realize that the chance of me achieving my goals are being significantly diminished, not only because fat people aren’t necessarily a favorite in American culture (despite many of us being huge), but also because my insecurities and wasted energy spent on this will hold me back from even doing something worthy of public attention in the first place. I can really only go so far in obtaining the life I am meant to live if I allow this weakness to control me.

But now, I’m moving on.

Now I’m in sunny southern California, the land of tofu, tummy tucks, and Tina Turner (what? sorry, I couldn’t think of a good T name). And I live right on the beach, which is of course the land of skin, skin, and more skin.  And no matter how many boob enhancing, waist minimizing swimsuits I order online from Victoria Secret, when beach day comes around for my friends, I still feel like a 13 year old girl on her period during Swim Party Saturday who suddenly comes down with small pox or some other previously eradicated disease to avoid attending. I am now surrounded by people who spend their lives eating only organic fruits and vegetables before and after their daily “surfing-yoga-kick boxing-spinning-Pilates-px90-hip hop dance-jogging” combination class. So far being here has still refused to magically turn me into a fit Californian, but I still have high hopes that the Jessica Biel Body Bug will come bite me one day. Not really, I actually am trying to do something about all this. So while I’m spilling all the beans here, I will tell you another secret, I’m in therapy for this now. There is obviously some degree of emotional eating here (notice the boyfriend break up trigger) and I just can’t seem to wrap my little head around the problems of my big body. I’ve also stumbled upon a great group of friends who happen to be in the fitness industry so there’s been lots of bartering going on between photography needs and fitness needs so hopefully giving a few photos will equal losing a few pounds. And really there is something to say for living around healthy people. It’s not as fun to eat a greasy Big Mac while everyone around you looks like they’d be less grossed out if they were watching the cow being slaughtered that made your Big Mac. I’ve also been getting great recipes and tips from some of my Jack Lalanne-esque friends. Those are all a few of the small things I’m doing to get started, and there’s plenty more where that came from. So here’s to California rubbing off on me a bit.

I’ve lived long enough to know by now, though it’s still hard to believe most of the time, that everyone has their thing.

Everyone has something that if they let take control, will threaten to hold them down until they lose their breathe and the life is sucked out of them. I always used to think it was just me, but it’s not. So what is it? What is it that is really holding you back? This is important because if this thing is still controlling you, not only is it stopping you from living a truly extraordinary life, but it’s actually forcing you to live an even less than ordinary life. You’re surviving in the negatives here, my friend. What is it? And what are you doing about it? It’s time for this to stop. It’s time for us to take control of this once and for all. If we’re living with constant and unnecessary fears, insecurities, shame, sadness, hurt, etc, etc, then we’ve done nothing more than waste our lives, regardless of how many of our dreams we’ve accomplished throughout it. Even if it is possible for us to have success while being torn apart by our weaknesses, I don’t believe any amount of it will make us happy anyways if we’re still being eaten away on the inside by something.

So there you have it folks, my soul, laid out bare on the operating table.

Now that you know I’m a real person with cellulite and all, I’m hoping you’ll love me in the same way you love Emma Stone- it’s that special place where you can truly appreciate her talent and really relate to her because her pasty white skin and ginger hair make her less threatening and more adorable to you.  I am very VERY scared to put this out there for all of you to read, but also very VERY excited because I believe it will be a major part in me finding support and eventual healing. Secrecy breeds shame, and shame isolates us from people. And as it so happens, the last thing we want is what we most need because people and healthy relationships are a major part of the treatment for breaking the shame cycle of addiction. So find some support, tell your secrets, make a plan, and join me as we overcome. Join me as we find freedom. Join me as we find a power we never knew we had that strengthens us to push through the seemingly impossible challenges. Join me so that when we find the life we are meant to be living, we can say that not only is it an extraordinary life, but that it is truly the best kind of life possible, full of more freedom and joy than we ever imagined possible. Join me.

(If you want to hear more awkwardly honest stories like this one, or just more about how to find and live an extraordinary life, follow Rare Existence on Facebook!)

California dreaming turned into reality

I have wanted to live in southern California my entire life.

And my husband Scottie, has wanted to escape the summertime heat ever since he got his first “welcome to Phoenix” seat belt branding back in 2001. Over the past couple of years, our business has brought us to the Golden State multiple times. And every time we leave more inspired than the last by the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done and seen. Whenever the sad day to return home comes, we pile our camera gear back into the car and head away from the salty sea air, towards the looming saguaro cacti, and find ourselves making longer and longer lists of what we can do to live a more beautiful and creative life. Only to arrive back in Phoenix, get hot, and decide to plant ourselves in front of the fan next to the TV all day everyday… with the occasional trip to the kitchen to get a snack.

So what’s stopped us from following our California Dreamin’? There are the usual reasons… leaving family (whom we actually LIKE), extra expensive everything in California, and of course having to start all over with our finally successful business sounds terrible to us. So there is all that, but really the biggest reason we haven’t left is because…

…we just thought it was impossible.

People in small towns think they can’t move to a big city and people in Arizona think they can’t move to California.  I don’t know what it is, but you just believe the state line is made up out of trampolines that will bounce you back if you try to get in with a moving truck. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but you just have to believe me when I tell you that’s how it feels… it’s a weird phenomenon.

At some recent point though- I don’t know if it was hearing about my friend’s 18 year old sister who moved there just because she wanted to, or driving through East LA and being like, “see, you don’t have to be rich to live in California!”- but for whatever reason, there was a magnificent moment in time where we found a little shred of hope as we realized that some people actually do pack their stuff and move to California! And then they just get to live there!!! Can you believe that?!

Combine that glimpse of a possible palm tree filled future with the fact that we had just spent a week away getting some R&R on vacation with our family and had done lots of thinking about our currently floundering life (too many possibilities, not enough clear direction… you know, the typical stuff Millennials deal with every 6 months). We worked on our discipline of dreaming, 5 year planning, and goal setting and were very surprised to find that everything pulled itself together to aim in one clear direction. West. Ha, of course it would. That does it! We are going to pack up our covered wagons and head down the trail with dreams of surfboard bruises and yacht party cruises filling our little bonnet covered heads.

We’ve decided to take the plunge and move to Los Angeles, California…

…for 3 months.

Yes, just for 3 months. What? That’s still a huge deal, OK!

Surprisingly enough, the summer is the slow season for wedding photographers in Phoenix because apparently most brides have a thing about getting married with pit stains (I don’t know why- twinsie pits brides and grooms can be pretty cute). So we have decided to take advantage of our free time that is usually filled with sweating our eyebrows off, to go on a adventure!

“Sure”, we said.  “Going to California sounds great!”.  Of course as the words were escaping our lips, we both felt the unspoken doubts in our hearts.

You have to understand, we are wedding photographers.  We have absolutely no idea when we will be getting paychecks. Well we have some idea, but in January, the squares on our calendar for the rest of the year are still so bright white that they burn my retinas. Basically, our budget meetings usually come down to something like this:

Scottie: “So do we have enough money?”
Breanna: “Depends on how long you want to live for”.
Scottie: (Rolls his eyes at Breanna’s annoying sarcasm).
Breanna: “We have enough money for the next 4 months”.
Scottie: “Sweet, but what about after that?”
Breanna: “Well, if we don’t book more weddings in the next 4 months then that means our business is failing and we probably need to get new jobs anyways.”
Scottie: (Silent pondering, as is his way).
Breanna: “I’m saying we’re fine for now, and so far we have always been fine, so I hope that in 4 months we’ll find out we’re fine again.”
Breanna: “If not, then we have to find something else to do no matter what so there’s no reason in worrying about it now”.
Scottie & Breanna: (lots of worrying going on in their minds)

Seriously, it’s like that every time. So it is a big deal to say, “OK, we’re good for 4 months on our current budget. But, I know!!! How about we triple our rent, double our grocery and gas bills, AND maintain our apartment in Phoenix, and hope not only that it works, but that we will still have money to live on in the months following that!”. Yep, we’re stupid. Whatever- where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?!

This is the time to play the “what if” game. After playing, we found out that the worst thing that could happen is that we go, run out of money, and come home, and then possibly get short term jobs to make up the money we spent there. The consequences of failure at this aren’t insurmountable. Basically the biggest thing we’re risking is our pride.

But of course what we stand to gain is amazing and MUCH bigger than what we stand to lose…

We have the opportunity to use these 3 months to the fullest to discover new experiences that will help us grow, inspire us, bring us closer together, and bring new and wonderful people into our lives … all while pushing us closer to our short and long term goals in both business and life. Not to mention it will be very VERY fun and way WAY better than spending a summer in Phoenix melting and angry, while not making any money anyways. The scales are tipped and California wins.

So here we are, just waiting for summer to come. Hoping to see the money come in, hoping to schedule photo sessions, and hoping to find a cheap enough car that won’t hinder our ability to head west (oh yes, my beloved car crossed over to the other side right after we made this decision… awesome). By the time you read this, since most of my posts are written far in advance, I could very well be there, or way past there. Who knows where we’ll be?! But the point is, I think it will be somewhere better than we would be if we weren’t taking this adventurous chance and you can be sure I’ll tell you about it when we get there!


Since this was such a long post, I’ve decided to summarize it for you lazy ones.

Scottie and Breanna love California… but they can’t go because of stuff… mostly because the trampolines stop them…then they saw some poor people… they made some plans… which is OK because they just lay around in the summer anyways… but they didn’t have enough money… so they just said, “oh well, we’ll get some”… and they decided to go. The end. Or rather, “to be continued”.

(UPDATE: sooo…. 3 months in CA turned into six years! Read about the decision to move there here, and the decision to leave there here).

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Our first choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary

The first choice between the ordinary and the extraordinary (i.e. between freedom and security) came for us before we were even engaged. I have already mentioned how one of my greatest fears was to end up with a passive man.  It seems to me that passivity in men rears it’s ugly head the most when they are exhausted; and nothing exhausts an American man more than a tiresome job.  If a man’s using all his energy to maintain a career, he has very little left for his family, or anything else in the rest of his life.  The career IS his life…. whether he likes it or not.

When I met Scottie, he was working about 75- 80 hours a week doing very difficult, physical labor.  When your boyfriend falls asleep in the middle of 1 out of every 3 dates… you have to wonder how awake he’d be throughout a marriage.  I knew I wanted a husband who would try to meet my emotional and intellectual needs as much as he tried to meet my financial needs.  If one of those areas is unbalanced, you can’t expect the others to thrive.  So I agreed to marry Scottie, provided that he quit his job because I was getting married so I could have a HUSBAND, not a nice house.  Scottie was happy to finally have something push him to quit since he didn’t like the monotony he saw in his future any more than I did, so he did it and we found ourselves a few months out from our wedding hoping that we’d be able to figure out how to make the free coffee I got from my part time job at Starbucks, in the cardboard box house we were going to have to live in.

Well guess what, we survived being poor.  I know, money is a huge cause of conflict between couples, but I really do think it’s a different story when make the CHOICE to be poor.   We had our stress from it, and we still believe in being wise with money so we’re definitely not preaching recklessness as the moral to this story.  The point is that we chose freedom and relationships over money and we continued to make that choice time and time again over the next few years as we struggled to make ends meet… but had lots of time to have fun together in the process.  Riding your bikes through the sprinklers at midnight is WAY better than a date at the fanciest restaurant that has to be over by 7pm so you can go to bed early and get up for the job you hate the next day.  We’d discovered the beauty of choosing freedom over security (which is what living an extraordinary life means for us)… and we were never going back.

So we had survived our first choice between ordinary and extraordinary… and in a move that has been repeated many times since, we chose extraordinary.

(Thanks to Terence Young for drawing this as a visual depiction for this post. My favorite part is actually what he said about why he drew this. He said, “The thing that entered my head as I read your post is that you’ve found a relationship that sets you two apart from the rest of the world, in some way you’re on your own little planet that you’ve created.” So sweet isn’t it?!  I loved this picture even more after reading that!)

Unfortunately you don’t get to ride off one good decision for the rest of your life… you have to make new decisions every day.  We still battle the pull of comfort and security on a regular basis (just so you know we live in a small apartment in a low income neighborhood… and almost everyday I think about how much I want a house).  We still battle all our fears (the first few days in Mexico we hid in our safe condo and didn’t meet anyone or experience much of anything), and we still cringe when we know we’re about to take a risk no matter how small it is.

The bottom line is that we’re still weak, cowardly, flawed human beings who are seeking to be extraordinary.

He shook me right out of my safety net

The last post I wrote about my life left you with a very fearful and controlling Breanna.

Enter Scottie… adventurous and always challenging himself… he’s about to shake up safe Breanna!

By the time I meet Scottie, I’m in the middle of college, which means the previous 3 years of my life contained more transition in them than the previous 17 combined.  I’m also a learning girl.  Intellectual growth tends to stimulate me towards personal growth, so I really had changed a lot by the time I met him (although, unbeknownst to me, fear and control were still a major part of my life at that time).  By growth, I mean that I knew a little bit more about what I wanted in my life and since the direct result of my never ending interest in family and marriage relationships led to me pursuing my degree in that area… I’d learned a lot about what I wanted my marriage… and husband… to look like at this point.

I knew I wanted someone who would challenge me and who wouldn’t let me push him around (more like, that’s what I knew I SHOULD want).  Along came Scottie.  Scottie who scared me, pissed me off, and made me work really, really hard.  He was perfect for me.

I also knew a little about what I didn’t want by then.  The way I viewed it, there was a very common, very major enemy to a happy and fulfilling marriage: PASSIVITY.  I wanted someone active. Someone who would initiate change, who would push himself before I felt the need to prod him along, and someone who was a fighter… who would fight for our marriage, his own personal growth, and for an extraordinary life.  Scottie beat me to the punch in discussing passivity when we were dating.  He was very honest about the fact that he believes passivity is one of the greatest of enemies to almost every American man and that he was no exception to the pull of it.  But he was a fighter and he recognized the threat and fought hard against it.  That’s all I could ever ask for.

Words, words, words… I’m really good with words.  I’m really good at sounding strong and saying what I know is right.  I thank God that I knew the right words to look for in the husband application form that was in my head.  I knew what was good for me.  Unfortunately, I don’t always LIKE what’s good for me.  Putting those words (like “growth” and “hard work”) into practice is a whole other story.  Again, I knew what I SHOULD want and it all looked good on paper to me.  It just began to get a little scarier as it began to take shape in real life.