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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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!

 

Sometimes Lauryn Hill just says it better than me

I’m not sure if it’s her raspy voice or her slight east coast accent that makes you know she’s awesome… but there’s just something about Lauryn Hill that makes everything she says sound extra true!

I do know that it’s her vulnerability that makes me love her. If you’ve never seen or heard her MTV Unplugged 2.0 video… GET IT! I’m giving you a little clip here, but it’s not nearly as powerful without the music and the rest of her story backing it up. Basically, she went on national television and broke down, laid it out, preached, and just spoke straight up truth… all while being completely unprepared and almost too emotional to finish her songs. In other words, I L-O-V-E it!

In this particular section I’ve chosen for you to listen to,  Lauryn’s talking about how her life of fame, glamor, and beauty fell apart and she began discovering and owning the real her… not the public image of her… but the legit Lauryn, full of flaws and all (as you will even hear in the clip when she can’t find the lyric sheet she needs).

The reason I’m including it here is because it’s so inspiring to hear from someone who’s “made it” and who has achieved an extraordinary life, who is willing to  be open and share the lessons she learned along the way. Most of it has to do with how once she found who she really is and what she’s meant to do she found freedom.

Preach it sister.

The Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

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.

The Ordinary Word

The yin and the yang. The black and the white. The light and the dark. Perez Hilton and Vin Diesel. Our world seems to keep it’s balance through opposites. And it’s no different when it comes to extraordinary words.

For every extraordinary word there is an anti-word… an “ordinary word”.

The ordinary word is the one that sits on your other shoulder, taunting you and your goody two-shoes extraordinary word with his pitchfork, evil sneer, and sarcastic tone. I hate to tell you this, but if we’re going to pursue our extraordinary word, we have to forsake our ordinary word.
So what’s the opposite of my extraordinary word, freedom?  Are you sure you want to know…. it really sucks to hear.

The opposite of freedom is security.

Ew I know! Why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t they just be causal friends who only see each other on Christmas and Easter? At the very least they should be Facebook friends! Really guys, you should try to work something out here for those of us who don’t want to take sides. We want to hang out with BOTH of you, it isn’t fair that we have to choose!
But alas, it’s the truth. The more freedom you have, the less security you have, and vice versa.  As much as I want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I never heard that,  it’s true.

This is my great struggle in my pursuit of an extraordinary life.

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that my Achilles heel is fear.  And in an attempt to fight the things I’m afraid of, control is my weapon of choice.  Fear and Control are definitely blood relatives of Security. On Christmas and Easter they all get together in Security’s giant house and eat the feast that their buddy Paycheck brought them. Freedom isn’t invited because he’s off sun-bathing in Tahiti with his friends, and besides they’d rather gossip about how foolish and irresponsible he is than actually talk to him anyways. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting at home praying for peace on earth so that we can all go enjoy Paycheck’s meal together!

This is the reason that every time I come to a crossroads in my life, a major battle ensues.  On the one hand… Freedom, waving his late bedtimes and quality relationships to tempt me.  And on the other road, Security is taking me on a tour of a beautiful new house that could be mine and reenacting for me the fictional story (that I once believed strongly) about how I can have complete control over my life.
Don’t be surprised if my head explodes from all of this one day.  And when that happens, I’m sure Freedom will just shake his head in disappointed sorrow that all of this could’ve been avoided if only I’d chosen right from the beginning.  And Security will just come and apathetically sweep up the messy remains that were once my life… which is the exact same thing he’d planned to do as soon as I joined his side anyways.

(Thanks to my brother, Paul McDaniel, who drew me this picture as a visual representation of this post!)

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to show people that we’re not magical, we’re not special, and we don’t have it all figured out.

I say that because people are always telling me how jealous they are of our freedom.  I do know why and I am very grateful for the benefits my job brings… because I know there are a lot of them. But it’s important that you know that we don’t have special powers. I promise, we don’t even have Spidy senses; and we definitely don’t have sticky, disgusting spider webs that shoot out of our fingertips (poor spider man got all the stupid powers).

We have the life we do because we’ve chosen it… and you can choose it too. But you WILL have to sacrifice things you may not be willing to give up. You’re going to have to leave behind your ordinary word. Maybe not right away of course,  it’s OK if you’re not ready for that.  But you’ll probably be asked to do it at some point, so steal one last kiss and start saying your goodbyes now because this train is leaving, Baby.

Ordinary people live by ordinary words. 

They can’t see past their deep-rooted fears long enough to reach for that intangible future. So they don’t.  They hold on tight to their ordinary word, often completely unaware that it is exactly what’s keeping them from clinging to their extraordinary word and the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted that comes with it. There’s a reason this existence is rare. The sacrifices are great, but the blessings from it are limitless.

Choose your words wisely.

Post #5: Your entire life in one word

Everyone has a single word that defines them.

At least that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert told me in “Eat, Pray, Love”. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve begun to believe her.

She begins explaining this concept by naming various cities and what their words are.  For example, New York is ACHEIVE, Los Angeles is SUCCEED, Stockholm is CONFORM, and Rome is SEX -or POWER if you’re talking about Vatican City (I’ve never been to Rome so I can neither confirm or deny these rumors).

So, do you know your word? Is it FAMILY, DEPRESSION, PLEASURE, FAITH, DEVOTION… etc, etc.? It doesn’t have to be a positive word, it only has to be true.  If your word happens to be one you don’t like then go ahead and name it, but make sure you add on to it the one you WISH was true… we’ll call that your “extraordinary word”. And that’s the one we’re going to be working on here.

So what is it? What’s your word?

I knew my word without hesitation.  When I asked Scottie his word, it didn’t surprise me that he answered with the same word without even pausing for a second.

Our word is FREEDOM. 

By freedom, I don’t mean that we lack disciple, rules, and boundaries.  I have those, I want those, and I need those.  The only difference is that I want to have a say in where to place them.  I want to set up my life so that I feel like I am always able to choose to do what I believe is best for me and my family, rather than to have an outside person or force choose for me. Time freedom, freedom from debt, emotional freedom, freedom to choose where to place my energy, freedom from addictions, freedom from unhealthy societal pressures,  freedom to choose a unique lifestyle for me and my family… all of those things (and many others) are small parts that go into this bigger picture of freedom for us. The last thing we want in the world is to end up in a place where all our decisions about those things have been made for us – without any regard to whether or not they are good for us – because we were too passive to care or too lazy to act.

We believe it’s our responsibility to make the rules for our life and that we shouldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for us; not society, the government, social norms, family pressures, etc., etc. It’s our job and if we choose not to do it, we have no one to blame for the results but ourselves.

 

Why is this level of freedom so important to us? Because we got tired of being hypocrites.

We continually found ourselves saying what was important to us, only to look around and see that our lives didn’t reflect those things at all.

“Relationships are our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why all you know more about the characters on the TV shows you watch while you work than you do about your best friends?

“Our marriage is our #1 priority.” Oh really? Is that why you just called your wife a Fatty-McButter Pants after a stressful day at the office?

“Helping others is our #1 priority.” Oh really? And the last time you did anything like that was….? It doesn’t count that you gave the neighbor kid a quarter because he was short for change at the soda machine.

I got so tired of feeling like I “had” to do things a certain way, because those certain ways made me feel like I was unable to do what was really important in life. So I started looking around to see if I could find other ways to do things. And I found that the answer was to seek freedom because that will be what enables us to do our best at what’s really important to us.  Things like, creating and maintaining community, being generous with any kind of resource we have (whether it’s money, love, knowledge, hospitality, etc.), living a healthy lifestyle (we still have a LONG way to go on this one!), traveling, pursuing our passions, loving endlessly, and experiencing overwhelming joy and beauty in life.  That is an extraordinary life for us, and the key to all of this (in a really long and complex way that is too much to explain in one post) is freedom. So freedom we shall seek.

So what is it? What’s your word?