There’s been a change in my dreams. Not the dreams that occur while I sleep, but the ones that are running constantly through my mind. My non-stop reel of wants and hopes and wishes and what ifs.

I want to live there. No, there. I want a house with a black door. I want a house in an old neighborhood. I want a house with land. I want to live on a commune. I want to live in a sleepy foggy beach town. I want to live in San Francisco. I would like to have a yard big enough for a pool. I want to live somewhere with more privacy. I want to live somewhere more alternative. I’d like to live in New York City. I’d like to live in a bus. If I moved here, life would be better. I want to live somewhere with community. I need something with character! I need something brand new that I design. I need a bigger house with a wrap around porch! I want to live somewhere I can ride my bike on errands. I want to live in the middle of the desert. I want to move to Washington. I want to live in another country. Maybe San Diego…

Daydream, wanderlust, grass is greener.

I do not by any means live in my dream home. I live in a small tract home. My neighbors’ identical windows loom into my backyard. I can practically touch their house from my back door. We are on top of each other. We are in one of those useless gated communities that pepper southern California. The gate adds nothing except thirty seconds to every trip you take. Teenagers scale it, easily, to get into our pool. Our community has visitor parking, which feels like a bad word after living in apartments for so long. We moved here eight years ago, planning to leave three years later. Then the economy tanked, our house lost a lot of value, and our plans flew out the window. I’ve been a little bitter about it. This is not where I pictured raising my family.

THE MOVING TALK is one we had over and over and over. I would beg and plead, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. The longing would return, I would demand we find another way, Jeff would remind me of the facts. I would let it go. For five years this went on. Last summer, a deadline loomed before us. Two of our children were heading into high school, and we felt that if we did move, it had to be before they started. Once and for all, we had THE MOVING TALK to end all MOVING TALKS. In the end I realized that I was the only person who really wanted it. The other people had little complaints about our house, but nothing worth ripping apart our life to change. Moving was simply a fantasy for me, a selfish desire that I longed to fulfill. Perhaps a habit left over from all the moving I did in childhood. My wandering had been bred into me.

Once the decision to stay was made, I had to let the bitterness go. I started looking around me at the truth. This is the home my children know. My children are rooted, why would I change anything for them at all? It is beautiful here, often breathtakingly so. My drive to the beach is fifteen minutes. We are surrounded, literally, by California State Parks to explore. My business thrives in this location. The weather where we live is the stuff I dreamed of my entire life while I sweated the summers away inland. We have found local support in many ways – from alternative health to caregivers for our children – people I would have a hard time replacing. We are an hour from LA, an hour from San Diego, two hours from mountains, two hours from desert. We have limitless options at our fingertips for schooling, health, shopping, food, and entertainment.

I don’t live in my dream house. That’s it. So……WHAT? After the decision I spent a lot of time thinking. I wondered why it even mattered. Why my identity was so tied into what my house looked like, what kind of neighborhood I lived in. I couldn’t believe how shallow and disgusting and ungrateful I had been. How long I had let things go broken or cluttered or unkempt. I may not have my dream house but I have my HOME. And it is sweet, and it protects us, and we live each day inside of it. That is what is meaningful for me, what will be the legacy I leave my family.

Once again I learned that I had been so wrapped up in everything I so desperately coveted, that I hadn’t been caring for what was in front of me. This is a common theme for many of us, in all aspects of our lives. It stretches across sex, religion, age, race, and status. We are all living with blinders on.

A lot of you commented or emailed me after this post, asking “How?”. There are many layers in that answer, and this is just one of them.

I started by looking at my life honestly, without the protective veil of fantasy. In this instance, I actually let go of something that I had always fantasized about – having a dream home in a dream neighborhood, (whatever that meant, the specifics changed daily). I changed my attitude. When I was divided about where I lived, I focused on the future, and how a dream home would fix everything. No longer divided, living in the present moment, I was able to focus on my home. As soon as that happened, external change started to occur. Internal change always has to come first, starting with attitude. It is shocking actually, what can happen when you stop hiding from the present moment. Instead of just living with things the way they were, I began to perfect them. I had a list miles long of things I wanted to fix in my house, but limited budget and time to do them. Little by little I figure out how to do it.

I started paying attention to my surroundings. I am still an explorer, a wanderer. Being rooted in one place won’t change that. I crave newness and adapting and learning. I crave seeing new things for the first time. So I shifted. I explore. I drive and find places to jump out and look at. I am constantly on the hunt for a new place to take my family and simply be there in that place. The coast is a treasure trove of beauty to soak in. The hills littered with trails for us to embark on. With no plans and nowhere to be, my favorite thing is to get in my car and get lost somewhere new. Our outings have taken on new meaning. We are all learning how to go out without a plan. How to just breathe it in and be together. I take such delight in it. I appreciate the simplicity of it. I want nothing more than to be out there doing it.

I don’t know how long I will live here. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. There could be a natural disaster or a death or a job change. I can never know what is coming next.

I don’t want to waste one more second living in my fantasy of what if’s and what should be’s. I simply want to explore what is.

While we are here and healthy and alive I will soak up everything our little house has to offer, everything the sun and the Pacific and the night soaked jasmine wafting in my windows can teach me.





Join the Conversation


  1. You are amazing. To be able to “see” what is going on and “see” what you can do to make your life the best it can be. And the best part of that… just accepting your life is amazing as is. Thank you. I needed that.

  2. Thank you Tara for this beautiful post. It meant a lot to me as I have had similar thoughts with my own home situation. I’m bookmarking this post so I can read it every time I get “that” feeling. Thanks again. Have a beautiful day!

  3. Great post, great writing. So often I gaze at the big pretty houses and wonder why I can’t have one…..but I have a house and my children are well and there are more important things in life than things.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this beautifully written post. I have found recently that my favorite daydreams of the “dream house” {yes, you’re right this does seem to change daily} have been consuming me. And for some reason {I hadn’t been able to stick my finger on it} those daydreams were making me unhappy. That is, until reading your post. Here you’ve hit the nail on the head. So much of my daydreams are tied up in a longing for some “better”, “more perfect” future. “Someday I’ll have…” and then all will be right. Except you’re gotten it right here – with all that longing for the perfect dream future I’m missing the pretty awesome that is right here and now.

    Thank you for this post. I think I’ll save this one and reread it often. {p.s. my husband, too, is one for reminding me of the facts… not much fun to be reminded of them, but oh so neccessary to have a partner that can do this for you.}

  5. beautiful words.
    you should pick up a copy of “THE POWER OF NOW” by Ekhart Tolle. I think it would really resonate and raffirm a lot of things for you. Fabulous read. The true and real meaning of existence and happiness is releasing the attachment to form. Looks like you are on your way. Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing from your heart.

  6. I’m a frequent reader and a seldom commenter but this resonated with me in a way that most don’t know. When I was a kid, at the end of every school year, my parents always told me to say goodbye to my friends because we were moving. This happened nearly every year in elementary school and they never followed through. Middle and high school were a bit more stable but there was still some talk of moving elsewhere. Once I was out of school, I fantasized about living in other places but didn’t know how to make it a reality. Last year, my husband and I both graduated from college (finally) at the ages of 29 and 30, respectively. When we graduated, we scoured the country looking for a job for him because my job could move with us. It was finally time to explore somewhere else and make it ours. There were a few places that wanted to interview him in places like Milwaukee, WI and Winston-Salem, NC and so he entertained those for awhile but the best job offer came from a start-up that was located approximately 2 miles from our apartment. So we stayed. We kept talking about moving and I kept looking at real estate elsewhere. To me, it seemed anywhere but here seemed the most appealing. I too, wanted to live in New York City or San Diego or Seattle. Somewhere with more culture or more live music or more opportunities for spontaneous fun. I wanted to raise my yet-to-be-born children in a place that was more interesting than I was raised in. But my husband loves his job. And his industry has the most opportunities here. So we decided to stay. I have spent my entire life in the same area code. But even though I still have wanderlust, I think I’ve finally realized that I live in an amazing place. I love California. I love the bay area, more specifically. Though I don’t live in San Francisco, I do live an hour away from San Francisco in San Jose and that makes southern California exactly one hour closer. I am 30 minutes away from Santa Cruz. I have wonderful weather that stays pretty temperate all year round. And I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never move. But I will certainly explore and I will appreciate where I am. Because home is more than just a place to live, it’s a state of mind. Thanks for sharing, I needed to hear someone else that felt bound by the confines of living in one location and yearned to live elsewhere. And I needed to find a path to overcome, myself, and you helped me find that today. Now, I just need to continue to fall in love with my city all over again.

  7. You are so, so, wise as always. Yesterday I was stomping around our back yard, silently annoyed with the weeds and broken fence, secretly annoyed with the boring, well-behaved, stodgy 1980’s-ness of the whole neighborhood, annoyed with the fact that we ended up here 12 years ago almost by accident and here we still are. “Mom..” said my daughter, 18 years old and leaving for college soon, “I love our back yard.”

    I had mentioned to my youngest daughter our plans to maybe move back to the city when her brother goes to college, so she could start high school in a fun new city by the Puget Sound, my favorite place in the world. “But this is where we LIVE, Mom,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life!”

    Thank you for so eloquently putting my thoughts into clear, beautiful words.

  8. I was sent her by a friend who read this post and told me that it was like reading my heart. I must say she was right. Your struggles with loving your current house are my constant reality. I am always thinking of the new ideal place to live. I try very hard to be satisfied where I am, but I always get sucked back in. I am also focusing on the current moments. I even got tattooed on my right forearm “life is composed of nows” because I am so often in dreamland of tomorrows I miss the beauty of the todays. How is this new mindset of yours going? Is it working? Because I have tried many things, but always seem to end up lost in fantasy about my dream space, forgetting the blessings of my wonderful current home/neighbourhood/community. Great post, thank you.

  9. The grass is greener because living in a ‘character’ neighborhood in an old home can cost a lot of extra time and money. So glad to read this on a day I needed it. When my character home is not always fun and games. Your posts and my feelings seem to jive together so well. thanks for sharing!


  10. You are figuring out the IMPORTANT meaning of life, I love that!!! I am embracing this as well, as we have recently had to give up our home and are moving 5 hours away to upper Michigan (actually I was born and raised there, so sort of a going home for me) and moving to a small town….and we are going to be renting a home!
    embrace life! great post tara, I love and admire you!

  11. Holy canoli. I. love. this. post.
    I am right at that cusp of I hate this place (when truly I don’t, I just hate the situation that forced my hand to give up my dream home) and trying to figure out how to make this place that I know is where my family and I belong right now become our dream home. It’s time to pack up the coulda woulda shouldas, and take baby steps towards that goal. Thank you for the insight.

  12. Totally. We bought our TEENY home at peak bubbldom with only one child…now have 2 boys and thought we would have been long gone from here. But like so many we are stuck…for however long….BUT…so freeing to finely declare it OURS for now and really make it dreamy…if not our dream.

  13. I keep re-reading this…and I SO needed to because I have been frustrated about not having what I want (and what I think I deserve). I feel like I am unhappily right “here” and I need to appreciate the present. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. I read this last week and then again on Ali & Karenika’s blogs, and I wanted to come by and comment, but at first I wasn’t sure what to say. But after that honest, bearing of the soul post, I couldn’t not say anything. Wow Tara, your words are so raw, honest but so beautiful, thank you for sharing of yourself, of your struggles, of your triumphs with the world, for girl, you never cease to amaze and inspire me! Much love, thank you for being you.

  15. I haven’t stopped by your blog in months – but, suddenly, today it popped in my head to swing by for a look. I think it’s because I was meant to see these words. I can so very much relate to this post – in fact, I could have written those first paragraphs myself. Thank you for sharing this wisdom – it speaks volumes to me!

  16. Once again, I’ve come to this place you call a ‘blog’ and found inspiration. Once again, you have eloquently managed to expose your personal thoughts, only to find that so many others (like me!) are right there with you. Once again, I am unable to offer a comment that hasn’t already been beautifully said by someone before me. But know this Tara, there’s a girl in Canada who could have written your post (with some minor revisions) and is walking away from her laptop with new perspective, once again. Thank you for keeping it so real.

  17. I LOVE THIS!!! Tara, I live in Indiana. Not just Indiana, but a small town, hit hard with factory losses over the past 30 years. For so many years, we wanted to get out. But now, I don’t know if it was the trip my hubby and I took out west last fall (where we started thinking not about next year or the year after but how, in 30 years, we want to spend winters on the coast in an Airstream), or turning 30 or having a baby on the horizon, but I’m suddenly so content with things. We live in a great (small) house we love, are so close to both sets of our parents and love our neighborhood. Where we live isn’t perfect, but the reality is, EVERYONE is always thinking the grass is greener. Find the way to let that go? Well, you couldn’t have said it any better. xoxo

  18. I’m a 62 year old wife, mother, grandmother, retired teacher. I
    love coming to your blog. I get the monkey off my back, I know
    that I am not alone in my ‘random’ thoughts. Much delight comes
    from your words. Inspiration can always be found here. Thx!

  19. Thank you – it’s just what I needed to hear. I am in the middle of deciding on pimping out, so to speak, a track home, or buying a farm house on some property. Both have the pros and cons. I see so many photographers photographing in awesome locations (inside and outside their homes on acreage) and I’m jealous. But there’s something to be said also about having lots of neighborhood kids for my children to play with. The list goes on and on. But wherever your home may be now or in the future…someone gave me some great advice. She said that she really believes that the Lord cares where you live. Meaning…you are in the place you need to be to help certain people out and for others to be in your life as well. Love it. And it goes along with what you said. Live for now not for tomorrow =)

  20. I do believe this is a first comment from me (and I’ve been reading your blog since 2005!!)but I HAD to comment today and tell you thanks. For so many of your posts in the last year or so. The realness, the rawness. the truth. And this post today was what i needed to hear in so many ways. thank you.

  21. Lizzy sent me to you… this was absolutely, undeniably perfection. I can see by all the comments you’ve spoken right to the heart of so many of us… thank you for speaking truth so eloquently and sharing it. Went right to my heart.

  22. “Once again I learned that I had been so wrapped up in everything I so desperately coveted, that I hadn’t been caring for what was in front of me.” Beautiful! I have had the same house envy issue for 10 years!! Geesh! Thank you for the insights.

  23. Thanks so much for this. I’ve been thinking about it and writing about it. It’s so hard for me to just be present, just be HERE sometimes. And I realized today – the trick is that even if I WERE living in the “dream house” in the “dream location” (love your line about how that changes constantly – so true!) it wouldn’t make a bit of difference unless I were also BEING HERE, being present in that situation… so this is the real skill for me to learn. Anyway, thanks for this post.

  24. This post changed my life. Almost fifteen years I’ve been in Portland, OR and wishing to go back to California. It rains too much, the house needs remodeling, my kitchen sucks, I hate the rain…you get it. The litany of negative thoughts that have been rattling around in the back of my mind. My husband is rooted here. His family is here, and they are awesome. We have two kids that were born here. And then, a couple of months ago, I read this post. Since then, a shift happened. I have found myself…content. I have discovered that this is the life I want, shitty kitchen and all. The time will come to fix that. I have the most amazing friends here. Our yard is a peaceful little slice of heaven on earth. I may not ever live in Cali again. For the first time, I am ok with that. I am enjoying what I have. It is because of this post. It reminded me first, that I am not alone in my thoughts, and second, that I can also have the courage to breathe in the moment and live my life with peace. Thank you, Tara, for the courage you have to share your soul with us strangers. Thank you also, for these beautiful encouraging words. Someday I will meet you and you will photograph my family!!!

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