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After A Year And A Half In Portland Here’s How It’s Going – Is It Everything We Predicted Or Expected? It’s A Long One…

When we moved to New York 23 years ago we immediately loved it but got physically sick from sensory overload (it’s a thing). When we moved to LA 13 years ago we both felt so bored and lonely from sensory deprivation that I auditioned for a reality show. Both times we adapted, but just like wood flooring – it takes time to acclimate properly and unlike wood flooring, adapting to a new city, culture, and weather doesn’t have a prescriptive lead time. Everyone asks, “how’s it going living in Portland?” so over the break I took a cool 10-15 hours to write about how we’ve acclimated to Portland – and similar to a journal entry, it’s full of self-reflection, with a heavy dose of self-indulgence. Moving is never an easy decision and this move was fraught with equal parts insecurity and excitement. We talked about it all day every day for months and months while locked down at the mountain house, with lots of pros and cons lists. Once we made the decision (with forced urgency) we really tried to be realistic about impending challenges. Our expectations were low for the first year because as you know, disappointment only arises when expectations aren’t met (this is my general life hack, especially with parenting or things you can’t totally control). But before I go into how reality has faired against these predictions/expectations, I want to break down the timeline a little better for you as this move was a long time coming and had some plot twists that affected our decision.

1979 – 1995: Born and Raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, way out in the country and it was cloudy 80% of my life.
1995 – 2001: Moved to Portland with family, then college at U of O. Retained same childhood best friends (and added one more). Met Brian my senior year and fell in love. Broke up once. My best friends moved to Portland.
2001 – 2007: Lived in New York, Brian went to grad school for acting then started his theater career. We broke up again for a longer separation. I walked dogs, tended bar, worked at Jonathan Adler then styled for magazines, catalogues, etc. Decided to follow the gold rush to LA for Brian’s acting.
2007 – 2015: Moved to LA from New York, my career took off, had a baby, and bought our first house. Brian’s story is in this blog post :).
2015: Had Second Baby and in a state of overwhelm with two under two and an insane schedule, began looking to move to Portland. Spent the holidays up there where it rained for 12 days straight, came back to 70 degrees LA in January, and changed my mind mostly because of the weather.
August 2019: Revisited the idea of moving (“we can handle the rain!” they said). Started looking again online (Portland and Bend), practiced some newly discovered manifesting skills (JK but not jk), found the listing for the farmhouse, flew up to see it, fell in love, and put in an offer. The owner changed his mind, not ready to sell, we were disappointed but kept in touch, and I felt it was just a matter of timing (i.e. woo woo universe stuff).
March 2020: Pandemic lockdown, we moved to the mountain house full-time and loved living there more than we could have predicted. Uh oh.
July 2020: The farm owner texted that he was ready to sell and wanted us to know first before he took it to market. We freaked out. This is what we wanted, right???

August 2020: We flew up with kids to see the property again to make sure this was “IT”. It was. We knew it in our bones (Right?? August in PNW can be very seductive).
September 2020: Put our LA house on the market. Dropped out of escrow, had to do some repairs, and waited to put it back on til after the holidays. Sold in February.
October 2020: Closed escrow on the farm, hired ARCIFORM, and began plans for a major renovation realizing this was not the DIY fixer that Brian and I had naively predicted. Decided to stay at the mountain house while renovating instead of moving up to do remote learning in a rental house.
September 2020 – August 2021: This is where it all changed. Two huge things were happening simultaneously 1. We were realizing that we genuinely loved living in Lake Arrowhead full-time. We never got bored and our lives felt grounded and full. Despite everything happening in the world, we found mountain living really agreed with our family and doubts crept in on whether we should leave. We both agreed that had we not been so heavily invested in the farm we would not have kept looking to move to Portland and we would have given this life a real shot. But meanwhile, we were also 2. Deep in a massive renovation, already demoed down to the studs, a lot of partners involved, and truly no turning back. We were still so excited about it, but yes, very much wondering if our family would thrive as well since we were so content in Arrowhead. But lockdown isn’t real life, the kids weren’t in school, etc. We couldn’t predict the future so we stopped trying.
August 2021: Moved up to Portland, into a rental nearby, and started masked school and activities. Put our house in Arrowhead on Airbnb so it didn’t just sit there empty (and as a backup plan).
August 2022: After a year and a half of construction and 3 years since we had originally fallen in love with the property, we moved into Farmhouse – not fully finished but certainly very livable. YAYAYY!!!! And we were so happy, relieved, and ready to decorate and fix some of my regrets.

**Before I go much further I’ll give the disclaimer that this post is inherently dripping with privilege – having options in life is something we are so incredibly grateful for and most might see as the ultimate freedom. If this is triggering in any way know that I have so much compassion for people who feel truly stuck in a situation. This post, however, could make you feel better or worse – sometimes choice can be paralyzing and create its own pathologies. (Hopefully, you’ll feel better, but if not I’m sorry).

This post is also full of a lot of confirmation bias – you know, you HAVE to make the case for yourself constantly that you are doing the right thing for your family, which clouds your objectivity, and perhaps amps up your judgments about the other life not chosen. It’s 100% my perspective based on my set of experiences and it’s very, very personal and flawed. So there’s that.

Wait, Backup. So Why Did You Want To Move To Portland In The First Place?

A more accurate question is why did we want to move from Los Angeles? A: To have a slower, simpler, less draining, and less expensive life. We wanted to live in a neighborhood where the kids can go elementary through high school with the same friends. We wanted to be close to my childhood best friends, parents, siblings, and their kids. We wanted what every former Angeleno wants – more space, less traffic, and crowds (which gave me low-grade all-day anxiety). We wanted to be close to a city for professional and cultural opportunities. This property gave us the possibility of living out a former city person’s fantasy – a farm in a country setting, only 15 minutes away from a city, and 5 minutes to cute neighborhood restaurants and stores. There are great parks everywhere. It felt like this was the magical combination of what we both wanted long-term for our family. After realizing my job didn’t need to be in LA, we knew it was time to go (and we miss our friends A LOT), so once we found the farm we did. But was Portland the right decision for us? Let’s explore.

Couldn’t You Get those Things In Lake Arrowhead?

Maybe! But we didn’t know. It was all so confusing because it was the pandemic, not real life and we didn’t know how it would be in 4 years. Would we really like being in such a small town? Did the daily year-round trail runs through the forest to plunges into the lake provide enough stimuli for us after being in huge cities for 20 years? Or was that just our lockdown pandemic agoraphobia talking??? Arrowhead, historically extremely conservative (in the year-round-large-Trump-sign kind of way), is changing a lot right now and there was no way to predict how it would be in 10 years. We weren’t sure it was the right environment long term for us and our kids (we also don’t identify with some of the Portland politics TBH, but more on that below). If you did or are raising your kids in Arrowhead please don’t take this as us thinking it’s not a good place to raise kids, I actually think in most ways it’s magical and perhaps might be as close to perfect as possible. As parents, you simply try to make the choice that gives you confidence at the time of the decision, and our friends/family in Portland were highly convincing.

So again, we just didn’t know – life wasn’t “real”. The kids were 4 and 6 when we moved up full time, the ages where they just wanted to hang out with us and yet can put on their shoes and make their own cereal. Due to the pandemic, my production schedule disappeared for months, freeing me up to be present with my kids, play, cook, craft, read, hike, walk, and realize how unbelievably overscheduled and addicted to being busy I had been. I was off the hamster wheel for the first time in my life and like so many of you, I had new clarity about our priorities and values. I wasn’t going to get back on the hamster wheel, and for a while, it was working because the proximity to LA meant I could commute to shoots a couple of times a month (an hour and a half drive) and see my friends, team and get a dose of city life. We began to ask ourselves if we could live in a small vacation town year-round. “Impossible!!” They say. Or is it?? We thought. We worked from there (with three hours of help a day for the kids), I ran the blog from there, we moved our bodies in nature every day (300 days of sun up here), cooked most meals, and our life was just so simple without feeling boring at all. But the rest of the world hadn’t moved on yet and we feared that when it did we would have regretted passing up the farm and we were concerned that we were still “city people”.

Going into the move up to the rental I KNEW nothing could compare to that year. The kids would be back in school and daily activities. The begging to get their shoes on and brush their teeth and get out the door was back. The deadlines to finish this massive project began to loom. And this time I didn’t have a local team to help me…

Prediction/Expectation #1: The First Years Would Be Very Challenging For Me, Specifically.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! We were right! When people asked me how it was going I would answer pleasantly, “Well not every year can be your best or you won’t appreciate the good ones!” And I actually meant it. We were extremely lucky to have what our lockdown life was – we NEVER took that for granted. I think because I KNEW that this year was going to be really hard on me I was prepared for it, but I’m not sure that made it any easier. At first, I cried a lot and had to lean hard on my tools to keep up my endorphins and not feel depressed (and ruin the year for our kids). Renovating a house is stressful, expensive, and requires so much mental and physical time and decisions even if you’ve done it before. Doing it publicly multiplies that by 100. And I felt the weight of it all. We knew this going into it and Brian tried to share in the weight, believe me, but it’s mostly me. Meanwhile, he got into an awesome writing masters program and continued to be the lead parent so he was really, really busy, too. But the renovation, the business (where numbers dove quickly after the lockdown house building/remodeling boom), and supporting us financially is really all on me. Without a local team for daily support to make content and to help make it fun, I felt very alone and the pressure felt extreme. I missed my team (and sadly, the wonderful Jess, Mal, Ryann, or Caitlin didn’t want to move up to Portland). I feel like I had always appreciated everyone before, but now I REALLY missed everyone, present and past, all my people who helped me day-to-day create design content. I wasn’t really having fun anymore and I’m an enneagram 7 so this girl really likes to have fun:) I needed a design buddy, a creative companion, someone who was excited about social media and I just couldn’t find the right fit.

Plus at first, I missed Arrowhead, our home, and the environment/lifestyle so much. Here’s my analogy: It’s the summer fling that turned into my true love… but a true love that wasn’t sure they wanted to have kids with me, and my steady high school boyfriend that I reconnected with (Portland) was ready to settle down. So yes, we moved for our kids to provide what we sincerely hoped was a well-rounded childhood, but the doubts nagged at us if that was even true. Was that just a story that society tells us these days? That you can’t raise kids in a small town without the opportunities of a larger city?? There is no way to know and despite how much we all want it, there is no perfect place to raise your kids. No perfect school. No perfect town. No perfect house. No perfect job. The goal is to align your choices as closely with your values as possible, and Portland fell closer than Arrowhead in many categories. Once up there, Brian was more on board with Portland, seeking out culture more than myself but he was struggling, too. I also very much knew that I was being such a baby, feeling sorry for myself despite having so much. “California girl doesn’t like the rain,” wah wah. “Privileged blogger cries that renovation is so stressful,” poor baby. I KNEW and still do know that I don’t have real problems. Everyone is healthy and isn’t that all that matters? I filled up gratefulness journals (which worked), went to a happiness conference (which hilariously did enlighten me a lot to reframe the second half of my life), and when I was down I would go on long walks with my best friends or spend time with my brother’s/sisters family and kids, now 10 minutes away after decades of only seeing them twice a year. I was quickly reminded why we were here. This. Family. Community. Long-term stuff. Even just being in the same town as my family where I can go to lunch with my sister and have family dinners at my parent’s house is strangely so comforting even if its not super frequent. The fact that my mom is going to teach my kids piano makes me so grateful for moving up here because that could have never happened if we stayed in LA. Cousins – my kids have cousins they get to spend time with! These are the reasons we are here.

By February it started getting easier. I actually loved going on 6 am sunrise walks with the pups, the green everywhere felt invigorating and once the drywall went up I felt some hope. Our new normal was settling in and I thought about Arrowhead and my summer fling less and less. This life could be really really good, I could feel it. A huge credit to…

Prediction/Expectation #2: We Would Find A Community For Our Kids Within Our Neighborhood

Ding ding ding!!! This has FAR exceeded our expectations. Somehow we have wiggled our way into a group of friends with kids the same ages, who all go to the same school and it’s far better than we could have hoped. I’m sure it’s weird for them to read this right now (if they do) but we feel like we seriously won the community lottery. They are wonderful. Brian took the lead while I was depressed and agoraphobic and basically hit on the dads at soccer practice, got their numbers (last September) and the friendships with the parents and kids have become truly one of the best things about living up here. The weekly playdates at our house after school, the carpool to activities because we all sign up for the same stuff, the drinks before or after the school parties – IT’S ALL SO GOOD. On the darker days (literally and figuratively) we know that THIS IS WHY WE MOVED AND IT IS BETTER THAN IMAGINED. Thank god. Community, y’all. It’s just so important.

Between the neighborhood families, my best friends and their kids, my brother and sisters and their kids and my parents, we feel pretty darn supported and as a family we never feel lonely.

Prediction/Expectation #3: The Rain Would Be Hard But We Could Handle It

Unfortunately, and to no one’s surprise but ours, this has been far more difficult for us than we had predicted. I’m not here to complain about the rain, I’m more disappointed in us for not handling the rain last spring well. We were fine through the winter because it’s winter almost everywhere and it makes the summers so green and beautiful. But when it was still going every day in May and then every single weekend through the end of June and early July, we found ourselves turning into terrible, negative versions of ourselves (it was an 80 record). We felt very naive, embarrassed, and dumb that we reacted so poorly. Typically, I can reframe everything and see the positive – it’s one of my superpowers, but in June I felt like I had lost that power. I was a shadow version of myself and I’m sure hard to be around. We tried hard – we went on rain hikes and played in the mud. I had to delete the weather app after seeing that Arrowhead had moved into boat weather, our friends who we share a boat with were out swimming every weekend. I felt so jealous, mad, regretful, and then ashamed and embarrassed for having those emotions as someone who is so privileged. We were genuinely worried that we bought and were investing in this awesome property that you couldn’t enjoy for 8 months of the year (at the time it was under construction, so our fears were clouded in mud).

You might ask, But aren’t you from there? Didn’t you know about the weather in the Pacific Northwest? And the answer is Yes. Kinda. Maybe not. “Knowing” something is so different than experiencing it every day. It would be like moving to LA and complaining about the traffic – you know you can’t leave your neighborhood from 7-10 am and 3-7 pm, that’s just LA. But what if you couldn’t get on the freeway on Saturdays or Sundays? What if it was rush hour all day every day? That’s how we felt last year when it didn’t stop. I was and continue to be very disappointed in myself for letting it get to me so badly last year specifically. Did I have SAD? Probably. I felt like a weak little spoiled baby. But again, it was an extra rainy year and it was our first – I’m just grateful we still have friends. We were not our best selves.

This year is predicted to be just as wet but we are ready, we are in our home and not the rental, I have a bathtub (dumb, but I’m a nightly ritual bather), and we have planned a few trips to warmer weather to help us get to summer. I’ve got my books, cold plunges, friends, workouts, sauna blanket, and soups – I’m armed up!! And oh, the long summer days and incredible fall colors are just so glorious, green, lush, and sunny that of course, we found ourselves saying, “it was all worth it” in August/September/October. This year we feel already so much happier – our situation has changed and we’ve acclimated/accepted it a bit more. We are learning to ski, doing more weekend trips, and when its nice out the Hendersons are OUT 🙂

Prediction/Expectation #4: We Would Love The City Of Portland, Knowing It’s Maybe Not Having Its Best Moment Right Now

This is pretty much as predicted and the only reason I’m attempting to address it is because literally every person asks. Uber drivers. Distant relatives. Everyone. So here’s what I’ll say: We love the people we have met so much. We love the general vibe which is unpretentious, casual, easy, family-oriented, outdoorsy, and grounded. We love so many of the neighborhoods. We appreciate the access to culture – i.e. art, theater, concerts while probably not taking as much advantage as we should (we did go to Hamilton). And the access to nature is incredible (so much beauty within a 20-minute drive). The restaurant scene is so amazing when we seek it out. Do we think that the has a very sad drug/mental health/homeless problem? Yes. It’s sad on many levels. And no one wants a California lady to come up here and criticize their city after living here for a year so I’m going to be brief: it’s a great demonstration in the importance of having a balance of common sense and compassion. To be clear, it’s not a job I could do – it feels almost impossible to solve. And listen, every west coast major city, including LA, is not exactly thriving post-pandemic, there are so many lessons that all of us are learning. There is room for improvement and certainly more compassion – both for the local government trying to appease their constituents and especially those who are in dire situations on the streets.

But Portland is also thriving in a lot of cool ways, post-pandemic. It seems to be on the upswing with a community that cares more about supporting local businesses than anywhere I’ve ever been. I LOVE that about Portland – there is so much local pride and spirit and it’s just so family and community-oriented, while still being cool and weird should you want that. The city itself is like it was when I was in high school – beautiful and quirky, with so many neighborhoods that are walkable and fun to explore. And the shopping – oh the vintage shopping is EXCELLENT. So that’s all to say that we kinda knew what version of the city we were moving into and I think everyone collectively hopes for improvement, but still loves what it has to offer (which is a lot). And y’all I’ve never felt like a New Yorker or Angeleno, I’ve always felt like an Oregonian living and growing my career in those cities. Maybe that’s just the story I want to tell myself but I do feel very, very, very at home and at ease in Oregon, specifically in the suburbs…

Prediction/Expectation #5: We Wouldn’t Mind Living In The Suburbs

To be clear – I wanted country, Brian wanted a more traditional suburban life and y’all, we LOVE living in the suburbs so much – FAR MORE than we thought we would. He was totally right on this one. Technically we are 15 minutes outside the city and in Portland, everyone knows Southwest as the suburbs (don’t try to guess or hint in the comments if you know where we are, please, SW is huge as you all know). We love it. I remember specifically the first time I went to Target which took 6 minutes to get to, 5 seconds to find a close parking spot, was joyfully empty, with stocked shelves, and no lines in the checkout. I almost wept I was so happy. Running errands in Los Angeles is a different experience from the sheer volume of cars on the streets and people in the stores. It’s just life there and you have to accept it and arrange your schedule around it or choose a different choice. The suburbs are everything that you think you don’t need or value when you are 25 – ease, family restaurants, lots of grocery stores with parking spots, zero pressure to look cool, cute schools, sports facilities, parks – and everything that we want now. It’s just wonderful. And like I said, we are close to a couple of really cute neighborhoods with commerce should we want to go out to dinner. It’s an incredible merging of a suburban community with a country setting that’s near a city. We feel very, very lucky. But yes, the suburban family life totally agrees with us 🙂

Prediction/Expectation #6: The Kids Would Thrive

First off, kids can thrive in most places with the right loving environment. But yes, our kids are doing really really GREAT. I think because everyone was coming back from distance learning they were able to make friends quickly (no hard friend groups to crack). They have nice teachers and enjoy school as much as any 1st and 3rd grader does. There is access to a lot of sports with their friends, lots of downtime on the weekends with us, and they get to hang with cousins which is so fun (Birdie and my niece are best friends which brings me so much joy). I’m so grateful I get to work from home and that they are the ages where they can mostly take care of themselves after school. I mean, it’s not perfect every day, and I try not to schedule conference calls after 3 pm (probably should have put in an enclosed home office, TBH) but all in all I think they are happy, healthy and love living up here. Do I still worry that my job and our situation will make them spoiled and entitled? Yep. It’s my daily/lifetime battle to fight it and let’s just say the reason we are getting alpacas and chickens isn’t for fun or food – these kids need some poop to pick up and eggs to gather, full stop 🙂 But they love living on the farm and Brian is fulfilling his dreams of seeing them ride bikes safely in the neighborhood with their friends. I didn’t grow up with neighbors so this wasn’t something important to me (thus my wanting to live in the country) but Brian did and we can both see how awesome it is for our kids to have a strong community so young.

Prediction/Expectation #7: Working Remotely In Two States Will Be Great!

Y’all I have good news and stuff I need to work on. Everything is good and I’m so so so grateful that my team has stayed with me, but I’m learning a lot about how to run a business that is 100% remote, in two different states. They are working so hard but without an office space everyone is alone and I think that is hard. I think post-pandemic we need more connection, more team hang time so this year I’m going to try more retreats and more get-togethers to ensure that everyone feels happy, connected, and moving forward in their careers.

Additionally, up until recently I have been working on my own and have realized that while I like alone time, I need creative collaboration to thrive. I think that’s where a lot of the mistakes/regrets have come from – from me feeling creatively dead and just making decisions to check a box. The good news is that I have finally found a wonderful small team up here – Emily M. and Kaitlin (my photographer) and they have brought my mojo back and helped create a balance between work and fun. We’ve got a rhythm, it’s helping pump out reveals, I’ve got my design/styling buddies, and I feel excited again. I know I can get so busy that I forget to check in enough with everyone and that is something I feel like I will work on for the rest of my life. I think this will be another year of figuring it out and trying new things and that’s ok. I consulted with a very experienced HR person this year, someone who has worked for 20+ years for large companies and she confirmed what I felt – that there is no one right way to do things and that the best companies remain flexible, put people first, try new things, take risks and change, fail, move on and grow. Of course, I wish that I was learning fewer lessons this year, but two years ago my astrological chart did say that this year was going to be remarkably challenging and I’m glad that so far it’s not due to marital or family health issues.

Prediction/Expectation #8: We Would Love Living At The Farm

WE. LOVE. IT. Every night when I cook in the kitchen or bathe in the beautiful bathroom I feel, we all feel, SO GRATEFUL. Balancing being grateful and not bragging is hard to do on the internet, but trust me that we feel so lucky that this is our home and that I get to spend years decorating, living in and hopefully raising our kids. Let’s catch you up – we are basically done on the inside, barring some paint changes I’m going to make and wallpaper going up which you’ll hear about, and of course, decorating (I haven’t even started some rooms and they only have leftover furniture). Certain rooms are already so wonderful to be in, others are more challenging to figure out for sure. Right now I’m trying to divide my time between finishing up each room and making major decisions on the landscaping.

The outside is a thing:) What the internet doesn’t tell you is that exterior and landscape construction is as expensive as the interior. It’s just so laborious and requires so much machinery. We are so grateful to be doing it and very excited for a lot of it around the house to be done by spring. But let’s just say that we bit off a lot, far more than predicted so I’m back to hustling (in a healthy way??) to be able to manage the budget. I remind myself, daily, that we are intensely lucky to have this space, but y’all, maybe we didn’t need 3 acres. Like maybe 1 acre is enough space?? Once it’s done, like giving birth, I hope we’ll be settled and can enjoy being outside, but the labor can be painful and that’s ok. It was our choice and I continue to use my “to renovate your home is the utmost privilege” mantra. Seeing grass instead of mud this spring will be GLORIOUS. When we first found the property 3 years ago, I remember telling Brian with sheer excitement in my eyes – “I’ll have projects for years!!” But that was workaholic pre-pandemic Emily. Some days I still feel that excitement, others It feels truly never-ending and I have to remind myself to expand the timeline and be ok with it taking years (and years).

Obstacles are part of the journey, y’all. I suppose I’m learning (again) what a lot of you might have already, that having more property and more house just means more work, more money spent, and more maintenance. Of course, our hope is that we are investing in the initial design to look natural, setting ourselves up for the future, and then in a couple of years it will just look like it’s always been here and be easy to maintain. And even though those other buildings are absolutely falling down, I know I’ll be really excited to tackle them once we are done with this house and my brother’s river house project. We have a painter scheduled to come and do a quick coat to make them look temporarily better which will buy us a few years before we decide what to do with them (and of course save up for it). Turns out that house up there needs to be lifted to put in a whole new foundation, and it never even had electrical or plumbing so…

A Big Positive Shift Has Happened

I wrote the first version of the post over the holidays. But I didn’t feel right publishing it. It was pretty dark and negative, despite my trying to make my tone light and playful. A couple of weekends ago I went on a weekend retreat with some of my closest friends, some books, a journal, and lots of moving my body. And a huge personal shift happened. I hesitate to tell you too much, but it was pretty life-altering and I’m hoping this shift sticks (it takes daily work). A real mind/body/spirit experience that was actually so simple. I was berating myself pretty terribly last year and now I’m not. I released those thoughts, surrendered, asked for help, and feel totally and wildly different. Those of you who can relate are nodding heads, others are scratching them or eyes are rolling. IYKYK. I have my daily mantras, journal, and meditate and all I can say is that I feel like a cloud has lifted and even on the darkest and wettest of days I can see the positive again. On January 4th I was crying to Brian saying that I’m worried I lost my superpower forever, and I can honestly say that since that experience I’m back. It’s a whole thing that I’ll tell you about someday (I read this book – ignore the cover – if you are curious for yourself). Still processing what happened to drive me into that negative space, and what amazing thing happened that brought me out, but yes, the next chapter of my spiritual journey is underway (read this post about my experience in the Mormon religion if you haven’t). I feel pretty darn excited and full of gratefulness and hope. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others (something that was a daily battle for the last two years) and just feel so much healthier mentally.

So Was Moving To Portland The Right Decision????

YES. I mean, I’m so happy to report that in February 2023 I really, really really think Portland is such a great fit for our family. I can now recognize that while my life in Arrowhead was full of ease and simplicity, left to my own devices up there I don’t think I would have challenged myself, creatively or personally. I feel like my biggest challenge will be retaining that sense of slowness when deadlines are looming, and y’all I think it’s going OK. Those who have followed for a long time (thank you) will hopefully feel or see a difference – yes, the reveals are more spread out, but there is so much more balance which allows me to love it so much more again.

Do You Still Miss Arrowhead?

Sure, in theory, but not the day-to-day ache like it was at the beginning. Time does really mellow that longing. Plus going back twice a year for a chunk of time (if not more) and knowing that it will always be there helps tremendously. It’s just not our time right now:) But the truth is I think what I loved so much about it was the easy energy, the family time, nature, me learning how to relax for the first time in my adult life, with no pull from a busy city – and I can get all of those things here on the farm. I will always miss the morning plunges in the winter lake after a run, but y’all, we are figuring out where we can put in a cold plunge, so there’s that! While I think about my summer fling, right now I am so happy we chose this life for our family.

Thank you 🙂

I told you it would be self-indulgent. I think I just needed to get it out. For those of you still reading, thank you. You are the reason I’m still here and I’m SO grateful, especially for you daily (or weekly) readers. And always, thanks to my team for being with me, supporting me more on the days that I need it, and being open to sharing all our ups and downs which actually makes us all feel safer, better, and less alone. The ups don’t feel as good without the downs, and while I don’t tell you everything that is happening in my personal or even professional life, I know that I’m not alone and neither are you. Thank you so much for being here. xx


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169 thoughts on “After A Year And A Half In Portland Here’s How It’s Going – Is It Everything We Predicted Or Expected? It’s A Long One…

  1. Emily, as a long time visitor to your blog, I wanted to comment to send my support to you. I became tearful reading through this because (a) I’m a crybaby and (b) I truly appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in sharing your experiences with this life-changing move and project. It’s one reason I keep coming back to this blog. Your authenticity and human-ness is such a refreshing contrast to other creative/influencer spaces. Your blog always inspires me, but it also helps me keep an “its going to be okay!” mindset when something I worked too hard on didn’t turn out as I hoped or imagined. I am just grateful you’re here, willing to share with us all the gray areas and messy stuff- the feelings of indecision, insecurity, doubt, regret. These are just as important as everything else. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to always be on display to THE ENTIRE INTERNET who aren’t always the most thoughtful or considerate in their interactions here. Just know that your privilege does have purpose as your blog is helpful, useful, relatable, and fun to read.

    1. thank you sooooooo much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it (and your long time reading). Those of you who come frequently enough I feel like really get me which makes me keep doing this, honestly. So THANK YOU.

    2. Absolutely 100% agree with all of this. Thank you for giving me a lovely little escape everyday – especially over these crazy last 3 years. I started reading for the design but have remained an everyday reader because of the honesty you bring. I love the design posts and I love the real life posts. Thank you for sharing, and I am so happy to know you’ve emerged from the darker days. And I don’t think it was naive AT ALL to have not predicted how the rain would really feel that first year. How could you have? It doesn’t make you spoiled or a baby to have really struggled. I remember when my friend move from a suburban/driving life to NYC and said her feet hurt like crazy for the first 6 months. That was just a true adjustment her body had to go through in getting used to walking all day every day. I bet the first year of rain affects most ppl the same as it affected you.

    3. A.W. I couldn’t have said it better myself so I’m just here to second your post. As someone who has had to move several times over the past couple of decades (mostly to areas I have absolutely hated), and finally (happily) landed back home in Maine, I can relate to much of Emily’s struggles. Thank you for your authenticity here in this (sometimes awful) internet space.

    4. Hi,
      I love the projects you work on and it has been great seeing the approach you have to design, your various design opportunities/ challenges. As I read your article about your various homes and the challenges your family has faced- I think about a “ reality check” most need to apply to their life once an adult: don’t expect perfection and what is perceived as “ the ideal life.” You have had challenges, choices, adaptions you have had to make. When the kids are “ younger”, if we as parents, are able to, we can make choices based on what we think is “ best for the family.” As the kids get older, the choices you made( Arrowhead versus Portland, larger city versus rural, public versus charter or private school, LaCrosse versus soccer- those will become less important. Take it one day at a time. Give yourself grace as no one is perfect/ has all the answers.
      – It will all work out! 🔆

    5. Perfectly said, A.W.! Thank you for putting all this into words so well.
      Sending you lots of love Emily!

  2. Thank you for this. Man, I think I could benefit from an introspective, journaling, deep dive, too. Grown-up life is tricky business, isn’t it?!

    1. It is. And now that the kids are older I might start booking more one weekend day time away to force me to think/journal because since i’ve been back (2 or 3 weeks) I’ve found it so hard to find the right space/energy to do this. xx

      1. Hi! Long time lurker 🙂
        I wanted to throw in a counter-suggestion – in my experience, one of the worst things you can do for depression or anxiety is spend too much time sitting around thinking about your worries. It struck me in your morning routines post that you are spending hours every day alone with your thoughts (the baths, long walks, sauna etc) on top of working from home AND having a job that requires you to be introspective. Maybe instead of needing more time to think about your life you need exactly the opposite – something OUTSIDE of yourself and your home to spend time and energy on. Maybe that’s volunteering, or more socializing, or a challenging new hobby…. something you can really dig in to that will stop you from ruminating so much.

        1. Alison this is such an interesting point! I think you’re on to something. There must be a healthy balance – where we do take some time to think so we can live with intention, but also mostly keep our focus outward towards creativity and helping others.

  3. WOW, this was a powerful read. A glimpse into your life/journey the past few years, as a mother, working woman, creative and social icon, spouse, person j ust trying to figure shXt out and trying to stay somewhere on the line of “I’m happy, I got this”. I love this honesty and transparency, and what an honor that you’re sharing it with us.

    One thing I would like to throw out there is that we all just survived, and are still crawling out of, a global pandemic. Our lives were turned upside down and inside out. Ho-humming along was ripped open and torn apart. We all probably have some form of PTSD, or at the vey least “WTF was that?!?!?” syndrome. And we’re still re-adjusting, there are still so many things off-kilter/out of whack – we probably have years left of this ripple effect. Anyways, as a society I get that we’re not talking about this a lot, because we’re (probably) tired of hearing about “the pandemic” and we truly want to MOVE ON. But there’s been some internal damage done, the core and stability of life was shaken up big time, for a few years. (And do we even want to think about if/when that happens again?! Shudder.) It’s a lot to process.

    1. This is so true. The pandemic was traumatic, even for those lucky enough not to have lost a loved one.

    2. I agree. too much pressure to just move on, and i’m so glad so many companies have adjusted for better work life policies. but its still a lot!! thank you so much for being here. xx

    3. You are so very right Karen. I am a therapist and can tell you that this is a daily conversation I have with my patients.

    1. me, too 🙂 Jess told me they were nice so far and that they were ‘safe’ for me to go in 🙂

      1. I read this post first thing in the morning and loved it, and just logged back now to check the comments and make sure everyone was being appreciative, or I was going to come to your defense! Thank you for your candor and for showing us how to make our homes and lives more beautiful.

  4. I followed your blog for the incredible design posts, but keep following for honest posts like this. Thank you for being so open with your thoughts and feelings!

  5. You had me at “We couldn’t predict the future so we stopped trying.” Thanks for an honest post, and I’m happy you’re in such a good place.

  6. I really appreciate these long and honest posts, because of how you acknowledge that even good moves and privileged choices can be hard. The struggles of attitude, personality, work, family, and location intersect in such complex ways! And even though your blog is full of perfect « afters » I love getting to see the hard stuff behind it.

  7. Just saying that I would ABSOLUTELY be here for more posts on your spirituality & manifestation journey! Also, I realized that so much of my mood was connected to hormonal stuff going on in my body and the tips about glucose spikes and balancing my blood sugar from the Glucose Goddess (on IG) have leveled out my mood almost entirely in case you want to check her out. Thanks as always for sharing! Love these posts with these reflections from you and grateful for your vulnerability and insight.

    1. ooh i love Glucose Goddess 🙂 And maybe that is a contributing factor – i’m pretty low sugar these days besides fruit. And the first time I mentioned any sort of manifesting or spirituality there were a few comments about ‘spiritual elitism’ (which was triggering for me) and made me resistant to talking about it more publicly. So, I don’t know, its treading on dangerous waters to talk more openly about it without people thinking i’m prosletizing. It’s just so personal for everyone and there are so many sensitivities. xx

      1. I would say protect what is yours spiritually. It is so personal and people will rip you to shreds for it no matter which way you go. You don’t owe anyone a glimpse into every part of life

      2. Thank you for this amazing post and your willingness to share with your online community. I look forward to visiting your site every Sunday and catching up on the week of posts.

        I’ll also encourage you to save and protect this spiritual journey, especially at this early stage.

        Personally, I turned to a lot of the same tools you mention here, for many years. Two years ago I put down the burden of needing to do more every day. It had become one more thing on my list to beat myself up about. Also, I felt a real disconnect with the way this type of manifesting spiritual community tells individuals they are responsible for things like disease, cancer, and poverty. That never sat right with what I know to be true about the world. But that is just me! Letting go of that guilt was and remains right for me.

        Your journey will be different from mine. It is so, so personal and I hope you find your way.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your journey so openly. I learned a lot! I too moved during the pandemic, from sunny cali to cloudy New England. I need help processing all this and I’m so grateful you are teaching me about some of your tools.

  9. Thanks for this beautifully revealing and intimate post. It’s SUCH a big change from both LA and Arrowhead, but there’s no price you can put on some of these factors like proximity to family and less low-grade CONSTANT city anxiety. (We are grappling with something similar as we aim to buy in London after moving from Seattle.)

    In the spirit of the same flexibility that you’re having to embody with remote-based management, can I chime in with unsolicited home office advice? Don’t carve up your sunroom for that. Put a nice workstation down there but also take over the guest bedroom (get a really nice truly comfy sleeper sofa). Make it a home office space you actually like, despite the sunroom maybe being your “preferred” one, and use it flexibly – it doesn’t have to be your forever spot and you can shift how and where you work from home over the years. (And eventually I predict that your LA team will slowly move on to their own career adventures, and you’ll hire more in person, and get a PDX/SW office space and be back to that in-person or at least hybrid vibe. Hey, maybe even one of those run down other houses on your property, haha.)

    So yeah, don’t do anything permanent to the sunroom – be flexible and find a beautiful and more functional and thus sustainable use for your existing rooms! Granted I’m not you, you know yourself best, etc etc etc but I hope that plants an idea. ✨

    1. HA. you are reading my mind re my office space. So the only thing i’m thiking of is putting a pretty entry into the sunroom that looks original (think flanking windows with transoms above and french doors. But that’s a very permanent choice. So for now i’m doing what you are saying, I found a little desk that i’m putting in our bedroom (near closet). At the same time Brian just started writing at an office space so the guest room upstairs is now open too in the afternoons. So yes, thats the short term plan. And the you bet that one of the other buildlings will eventually be an office, too. 🙂

      1. Hah whew, I was scared on behalf of the sunroom! 😂😂😂 it’s SO HARD when you have an immediate need not to do more permanent stuff that would solve it, but you of all people know the value of living in a space for a while before committing to anything major. I can’t wait to see how it all shapes up!

      2. I don’t know why, but I just assumed that one of the other buildings would become the home base for your business. And someone who has worked from home for 20+ years, if I don’t have the ability to close a door and walk away, I end up working all the time. Work becomes always there, in the background. When you can really step away, that helps to keep your personal life personal.

  10. One of my favorite things about you…your honesty. You keep it real, there’s always good and bad, especially with huge life decisions! Rock on girl!

  11. I’m in Seattle (I think our weather is about the same) and just want you to know that last year’s rain was the WORST it’s been in the 15 years I’ve been here. It started in September and didn’t stop til June! Even those who like this weather were struggling. It’s not always that bad. There have already been way more sunny days this fall and winter, so there’s hope for a less rain-saturated spring!!! Also, a light therapy lamp really helps.

    1. I agree re this year and i actually loved January here – a real hunker down weather that was so good for sleep and recharging. Glad you are saying that about last year – I feel hope for this spring 🙂

      1. Oh my gawd, fellow Portlander here – I’ve lived here for 22 years after growing up in Seattle so I’m a PNW woman through and through…..

        LAST YEAR WAS THE F-ING WORST. It was awful and depressing and terrible and horrible and the rain was never ending. THE WORST.

        Hey – please get your D levels checked – basically we are all so far north that we need to take Vitamin D3 supplements year round, often with a bit more in the winter. Coming from California that was likely something you didn’t need to monitor.

        When I’ve neglected to stay on top of this I absolutely have a worse case of the winter blues. Same for my kid; it’s just impossible for folks to get enough sun on their skin up here in the NW to produce enough D. (Also, ask for a ferritin levels check.)

        Second thing would be to get a SAD lamp; check the Wirecutter reviews or something similar and get a real one. It helps. Is it a little goofy looking? Sure – but 15-20min a day of doing my work in front of my SAD lamp to not feel sad? Worth it.

        Finally – you’re doing great. I appreciate your self awareness and struggles and pragmatism and striving. Yeah, we’re in a bit of a tough time in many ways in Portland – it’s a Both/And period. Many things are lovely and many things are hard. We can do our part to try and make things better, and also be grateful for what is.

        Cheers to you.

      2. I lived in Seattle for 5 years and absolutely loved it. I was so torn everyday, though. I loved the people, the beauty, the schools, and everything else except the weather. I struggled so much with the dark days and couldn’t quite conquer it. We moved away from Seattle and I honestly miss it everyday.
        I just couldn’t acclimate to the dreariness (unfortunately). 🙁

    2. I came here to say this same thing. We’re over on the east side of PDX (I’m also a native PDXer) and decided to embark on a major exterior renovation last year. My dad was our contractor and I’m pretty sure he would’ve quit by April if he wasn’t retired and grateful for something to do away from his own home everyday. What should’ve been done by early June drug on until the first week of August. That rain, it was something else! I cannot imagine that this year (or many years to come) will be that bad!

  12. Thank you for this thoughtful and vulnerable post, Emily. It inspires me to take some time on a (cold, but sunny!) Saturday morning in February to reflect on my own life circumstances.
    I also hope that anyone reading this post and resonating with feeling depressed, anxious, isolated, or overwhelmed knows that these shouldn’t be struggles that we need to take on alone or just cope through. (This is something I often need to remind myself of each winter as I really feel the effects of SAD in my northern midwest city). It’s great to find tools and practices that help us feel better, but I also want to put in a word for therapy and medication (for those who have access) as other tools that can make a huge difference in alleviating these burdens. 💜

  13. Emily thank you for this post, as well as others of that nature. It’s good to know the struggle of successful people, how they got there, and how they manage life. Wherever we are, there can be challenges too. So I’m glad you are not pretending or think your struggles are not important to you My own life is very similar to Brian’s, in that I’m highly educated, had my jobs before, but really I’m under utilized professionally and I expected to have a fulfilling career and more money at the age I am (41). In the meantime, childcare in this country is a joke, and laws require someone to be with kids at home (my kids are still young, but they will still apply in the next 10 years because the youngest is only two) all the time. Streets are not safe for them to ride a bike alone or go to a grocery store (it’s depressing for someone who grew up in a different country and had a lot of autonomy and independence in childhood). My career didn’t pan out even though I did well in school and have a master’s And, family has disappointed in terms of providing at least enough intense help with childcare for me to find a job and sort out childcare. It’s good to see what it takes to be so productive and involved. It’s easier to justify and accept my own choices and outcomes too.

    1. Good luck to you Lane! Start planning your midlife renaissance, because you will find that you are in your prime and have so much to offer. I say this fro the perspective of a 52 year old who has just become an empty nester. Middle age is fertile ground and you can begin to plot your reinvention now. And give yourself some grace. It gets better!

      1. Thank you Colleen. I had accepted what is now and I own the choice I made. The choice was mostly because my career didn’t take off, but that’s okay. I will have more time eventually to do other things. I don’t even know if I’ll go back to what I was doing. I love how you put it in terms of a “reinvention”. You couldn’t have said it better. Thank you.

  14. Self-indulgent, nope. Self-aware and immensely vulnerable, with a huge amount of resilience, definitely.

    I read your post with a lot of empathy, wondering if it’s ever truly possible to prepare for the monumental change of moving away from somewhere you love into the unknown. I doubt it. And I cannot imaging lumping the relocation of a business, a full house reno and pandemic into the mix. When I ‘moved home’ after years abroad the saudade I felt in the aftermath didn’t lift until my own mind/body/spirit experience helped me to let go and move forward. So, I hear you.

    It’s heartening that you share the messy stuff (as A.W put it) and likewise I could not imagine publishing my life on the internet. In a world of keyboard warriors, it’s brave to share so openly. And like so many others I’m here with support for the triumphs, the little regrets and the moments of introspection.

  15. I read every word with great interest! We are all searching for meaning and joy and we all have our struggles. I have always appreciated your openness and honesty. I can certainly relate on the climate thing, living in the Seattle area. We go to the same restaurant for lunch every single day (a real regulars place), and I commented to my husband yesterday that every single day for the past couple of weeks, we overheard someone talking about Hawaii or Palm Springs or both! And we also talked about those 2 places and plan to visit both very soon! Spring in the Northwest is gorgeous but chilly! My husband grew up near where you live now, and my mother-in-law lived there her entire adult life. I know it’s a wonderful place and being near family while also having the nice, safe, quiet suburbs and nearby city are a good deal for your family. Looking forward to reading and seeing more as you reveal and keep working on projects!

  16. I moved to the Oregon coast from California six years ago and one of the top draws was the rain. When I wake up in the morning to clouds and fog and rain it makes me happy. But last year was SO HARD. The rain never stopped and in June all I wanted to do was sit in the sunshine. So don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. I think every single Oregonian was challenged by last years rain. The upside, as you pointed out is coming out of that and being able to appreciate the sun and the green trees and flowers. California is beautiful, but I never appreciated the weather as much.

    1. I agree. When its sunny its just so glorious and I go on long walks with my pups and seriously RELISH it – that does NOT happen in california. Glad to hear last year wasn’t just hard for me (honestly, i felt like such a negative little baby so this is so helpful). xx

      1. Fellow Portlander – last spring/June was SO challenging. The rain felt like it would never end, and I think anyone I talked to (no matter how long they’d been here!) was complaining. I definitely find the right gear for rain adventures makes such a difference as well as having cozy indoor spaces either at home or in community to spend time in for a boost. Also, I know a post like this wouldn’t appeal to all, but I’d LOVE a round up of your favorite local / vintage spots in the area. Supporting local businesses and artists is the best and there are so many creative and awesome people in Portland / Oregon!

        1. Yes, in my 11 years in Seattle I had one spring/June like that— pretty brutal, but not in a New England/Midwest ice-and-snow kind of way— just depressing and gray and wet.

          But I loved smelling the flowers, which start to bloom in January— and those rare ‘sun breaks,’ and when the gray clouds lifted so your breath could be taken away by Rainier and the Cascades and Olympics appearing out of the constant blanket of low clouds! It was really just that one year in 11 that felt so bad. It sounds like 2022 was another outlier. Keep the faith! It’s a magical part of the world.

      2. I live a few hours north of you just over the border in Canada and our weather is very similar. Last year was awful! I just cried in May when it was still so dark and rainy. Sometimes spring starts coming at the end of February! Those are good years 🙂

        1. I’m hopeful that this will be one of those years – I think we might be in fools’ spring right now!

  17. I’m a long time reader and I also love your honesty. And it’s ok to struggle with life changes even when we have privilege in our lives. I also feel you- skiing changes my relationship to winter in a wonderful way and daily exercise, meditation, journaling, and prayer changed my entire life in every single way. It sounds like you’re going to have such a fundamentally different year this year. I can’t wait to keep reading about all of it!

  18. Beautiful share, Emily. Thank you.

    I hope that a few of the regular readers here who are so quick with snark, policing others, and call-outs remember THIS post and our shared humanity the next time they feel pulled to say anything other than what’s supportive and kind (and anything other than what they’d say to your face or dare put their full, real name to on the internet). Didn’t mean to take that turn! But I can only imagine what it’s like to have so many strangers weighing in on your life and work, upon seeing but a small glimpse of it through a one-way window.

  19. I love the introspection, and I love the design content. I always come away inspired. Thank you! 🙂

  20. “I understand I don’t have real problems”. How refreshing! We all know how expensive life, renovations, and landscaping are. We follow the blog fully aware we are working with way smaller budgets. I say we because I know out of your millions of followers, there must be thousands feeling the same way. Keep doing what’s best for you, and we’ll continue to support. Transparency is trending xx

  21. Honestly, when I read the title I expected an announcement that you were moving. You did seem really unhappy with/at the farm over the last year – the readers felt it. BUT!!! This post ended up being so much happier than I expected it to be! I’m really truly happy for you 🥹 (honestly I never buy anything through the links because I am mostly not a consumer unless it’s thrifted, but I’ll be purchasing that book!) GOOD FOR YOU! Life has its ups and downs, decisions can be so hard to make (and then feel good about all the time). Because of your job you had to do this SO PUBLICLY that I’m sure all of the worry and regret was totally amplified. I’m so happy for you that you’re in a more peaceful place with all of it. 💙

  22. Thanks so much for sharing, Emily! Your story is so relatable and inspiring! Fingers crossed for a sunny spring! XO

  23. I started reading this blog when you were on design star, and for years it’s been the first thing I look at during the day. We’re about the same age and also have kids about the same age, so even though you don’t know me at all, I feel like I know you (as well as I can on an internet blog!), and part of the reason for that, and my love of the blog, is posts like this where you can relate to shit other people are going through. I remember when you had trouble getting pregnant with Charlie and wrote a post about it. At the same time, I was also have trouble getting pregnant, and I can’t tell you how many times I read that post, crying on the floor after I got my period- it made me feel less alone. So while I LOVE your design posts and you REALLY helped me refine my personal style (my master bath is a based completely off one of the Portland baths, and my husband knows go ask “what would Emily do” if I have a design dilemma), the honesty in posts like these is what makes this a really special blog. So thank you 😊

  24. Having moved from California to SW Portland almost 7 years ago now, I can relate to this post 110%. I went through the same feelings and am ordering the manifesting book because I still have a hard time getting through the rain. 😉 So glad you are all thriving.

  25. I loved how you shared this process and the ups and downs of the transition. All adults are trying to make these types of decisions and like you said, there is no perfect town, no perfect community, no perfect school etc. Thank you for sharing!

  26. Thank you for sharing, Emily. Glad you and the family are happy in Portland. You and Brian have been brave & honest in all your moves, and those of us who never move far enjoy the peek into the fantasy. You have People in Oregon, it’s all about the people. It’s like when you work for a horrid company, everyone hates it, but your coworkers are great. You don’t mind going to work every day because you look forward to spending the day with your people who care about you, care about doing a good job and laughing a lot.

  27. What a stunning post. I have read every blog post since The Brass Petal and these are my favorite types of post. As always, thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. You are beautiful in every way and I love watching every part of your journey; your presence, story, and insight are meaningful and important. I too would love to hear more about your spiritual journey if you’re comfortable sharing it ❤️

  28. Emily, your story is eerily similar to ours. We lived in LA and had decided that it was time to move. It just wasn’t working for us anymore and our kids were young and it just felt right. While we house hunted we lived up in the Sierra Nevadas with my mom and it’s where I grew up. Man, I love small mountain towns. The nature, slower pace, and all that you can do outside is so nice. We contemplated moving there, but decided against it because it’s very very conservative and white. If you want to go to a bigger city it is an hour drive and not fun in the winter. We ended up on choosing Portland to live (mostly for all of the trees and greenery!). The first year we lived here the winter wasn’t too bad and I thought that I could handle this and people were exaggerating about all the rain, but the next year was like last year! I got SAD and really depressed, which I have never had happen. I noticed that even my boys were randomly commenting on how they missed the sun. I’ve acclimated more in the past eight years, but it’s still hard and I’m outside whenever it is sunny (Thursday felt like the first real day of spring). I miss the LA winters so much and still fantasize about them, ha! The community we found in our suburb has been great too and our boys have made some lifelong friends. I remember when we first moved here we couldn’t believe how nice everyone was, much different from LA. I love our house and where we live (we moved somewhere with a lot more property too). I really love the city of Portland and think it isn’t as bad as people think it is. There are more homeless people than when we first moved here and I don’t know how that issue can be solved, but I do think it is a problem that needs to be addressed. Thanks for telling your story! It’s tough to move to new places. Here’s hoping that the rest of this year isn’t as rainy as last year!!

  29. I’m probably your Mom’s age (at least), but I’ve followed you for years. Your honesty is refreshing, never glib, never self-absorbed, which is why so many folks (your own age and beyond) continue to follow you. We all have to learn what works for us based on our own circumstances, as well as those of our partners and our children. It seems to me you are doing a fine job of figuring out those things in the best way possible–by examining the day to day, looking back (without rose-colored glasses) and continually assessing (hopefully, not obsessing–though that is a tricky one to escape sometimes) what you want out of life for yourself and your family. I wish you all the best on your journey. Your strength of character will see you through. Never fear.

  30. Emily, as a fellow Oregonian who spent 15 years in California and returned to Oregon with young children in tow, I am so grateful that you found your community. When we moved back to Portland, we were welcomed into the most incredible group of families. We have the privilege and honor of watching the group of kids grow up together. From group vacations to low key evening porch gatherings, through cancer treatments, birthday parties, and graduations, these families are more dear to us than words can reflect. Knowing you’ve been enfolded into a similar group makes my heart happy. Welcome home.

  31. Thank you so much for this open and honest post. It takes maturity to tackle this topic and so much bravery to post it on the internet! I did not think it was self-indulgent at all. I thought it was healthy, interesting and just so REAL. It’s a BIG deal moving states AND renovating, much less as part of your job. I loved this post and thank you for sharing!

  32. We moved to Portland for so many of the same reasons. I wish our family could be here because that is the biggest thing I miss and regret that my children (and myself!) don’t have. The community here is unbelievable and really does help through those hard months! I’m a Florida girl and sunshine is in my blood… when the rain doesn’t stop through June or July it is HARD. I’m with ya on that! Summer and fall arrive and you truly do think “so worth it!”. I wish you luck continuing to feel like this was a good choice. No where is 100% perfect but I hope the community, the nature and the lunch dates with family keep you going!

  33. Emily, I’m a lonnng time reader . Oregonian , baby boomer. We are parents of a successful daughter director that lives in LA. She is married with our 3 young grandchildren. It’s hard not being able to afford to live near them and help out at the drop of a hat. She was raised here and our parents lived here as well. We travel there as often as possible and FaceTime , It’s still not the same. Oh and BTW it’s “normal” to complain a bit about the rain. It makes us all appreciate all the sunny days so much more. Best Post Yet!

  34. As someone who also moved my whole family from LA to SW Hills during the pandemic, everything you say is so relatable. So happy that it’s worked out for you too : ) I will say getting a Happy Light and taking lots of Vitamin D have helped a lot with the fewer daylight hours.

  35. Thank you for this post. I’ve been following you for a long time. We’re building a house and I closely followed the mountain house build but have found so many other great “answers” for our home from all over your site. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in Dec. 2021. 2022 was a garbage year for us. Some of your thoughts about how you managed the rain and move resonated with me. I have regrets about how I handled 2022. I started out positive and using my self-help and tools (and prayer) but as the year dragged on and I struggled to recover my former self I felt disappointed in how I was handling it all. I also struggle with knowing I’m privileged to be able to relocate and build a new home and also with my health (I had surgery but didn’t have to have chemotherapy as so many others do). At first, it seemed odd that your words would be such a comfort to me but then I realized we all experience change, challenges, and loss of many different kinds and it’s very helpful to see someone else with the same feelings and concerns and also to see you find yourself again. I’m sorry this is such a long comment but I wanted to thank you for all the design advice these last few years through your website and for your personal transparency.

    1. Kelly, I think it’s great to do one’s best to be positive but it’s also OK not to be, especially when facing a big challenge. Cancer is very scaring, even without chemo. You have every right to be sad, scared, angry, and to give yourself time – one year is such a short time! I hope 2023 will be happier and more peaceful for you .

      1. Thank you! I appreciate your encouragement! We’ll be moving into our new home in March and I’m determined to make this a good year, happier and more peaceful (once we move) as you said.

  36. We moved to Denver from San Francisco a few years ago (right before the pandemic) and while we always knew it was the right decision for our family, we missed SF desperately and it took me about 2 years until I really felt like I loved Denver, and the daily SF ache went away. SF will always hold a piece of my heart, but my life in Denver is so wonderful and I love the childhood my kids are able to have here. So, all of that is to say, I totally relate! 🙂

    Off topic – would love a post about why you decided to stop showing your kids faces. I don’t have a public image like you so I know it’s not the same, but I have been considering this for myself and would love to hear your thoughts on the why of it for you!

  37. Daily reader here. Thank you for this heartfelt update Emily. The true passion you have for always growing in this life is so inspiring! Grateful for your courage to show up online with honesty and trust. What a gift.

  38. Fellow California (Bay Area) to Portland relo here. I’ve never clicked on an article so fast because I was so interested in your experience. We moved here 6 years ago to be ready for our oldest to start elementary school. I was sick of how expensive the Bay Area was, not feeling anchored there knowing we could never get a foot in the real estate market. I didn’t want my kids to grow up in the pressure cooker that is Palo Alto schools. The extreme wealth doesn’t feel like the real world. We moved into a fab community in NW Portland – very similar vibe to your neighbourhood and school (minus the bike riding because it’s too darn hilly here). We moved our kids to a wonderful school (private) where they play in the woods every day, have access to so much more, is very progressive and more diverse than what this side of Portland often feels. Portland is slower, easier, but the winters/wet springs are LONG. I very much struggle with that – although my kids don’t seem to. I miss my besties from the Bay Area. Every time I’d visit down there I was jealous of the weather, the access to so much more. But my bucket was always overflowing with the joy of seeing my besties and our kids together (and the blue skies). I always said I’d only move back to the Bay Area if we could ever afford it, which we never would be able to. Cut to two weeks ago, when it was confirmed we’re moving back to the Bay Area. And I’m really not sure, now in the face of it all, how it’s going to go. I’m going to miss the green, the friendly people, our new community. But I’ll be able to follow along your journey Emily, and see how you will thrive up here. Thank you for sharing your experience, being vulnerable but also self aware. There were a couple of times I wanted to reach out to you because I could see how tough you were finding things (and I knew that feeling well). I’m so glad that you’ve rounded some corners and finding more joy.

  39. Just want to say, I love the honesty in this post! One of the hardest things to accept as an adult is that there are no clear, real, “RIGHT” answers; and unfortunately, there are about a billion decisions to make (or so it feels).

  40. Another long-time reader of Emily’s, and a long-time Portlander – I’ve long struggled with the wet and greyness of winters too. But the recent summers of terrible heatwaves, and smoke from wildfires has changed my relationship with the seasons significantly. It’s so much easier for me to appreciate the wet, the coolness, the freshness of the air during the wet season. Water is life!

  41. Thank you for the update! I’ve been wondering how you were doing with all the changes – especially the weather part. I’ve lived in the PNW my whole life and have dreamed about living where there is more sun but this is home because my family is here. BTW – I’m over 70 and last spring was the worst I’ve ever experienced here. It was horrid and so depressing – I hope I never experience another like it!
    I’m thankful you have turned the corner Emily! Thank you for being so transparent. We can all learn from the lessons you have shared.

  42. I have been following for a long while now (a few houses ago in LA timeframe). I can tell you it was mind-blowing to have a designer whom you’ve admired say they were not only moving to your town, but your neighborhood too. Wow. I was anxious about your assessment of Portland’s current state and I concur. It was riding a wave that crashed hard during lock down and summer 2020 protests/riots. It still has all the good stuff, but needs a real clean up and recovery (just like other west coast cities). Upon arrival here, I too went thru an adjustment to “rain life”. My Portland friends said to light candles, read books, and appreciate the big drink of water the land was getting – that’s why we have 200 ft. trees in our backyards. Ok, it took awhile, but now I prefer cool rains to hot heat domes. I don’t consider myself to be living in the country, but appreciate the extremely wooded, deer-filled suburban SW neighborhood tucked in the hills with a short trip to quirky shops and cafes. Lucky is the word.

  43. This resonates. We have been seesawing re a move (moving countries though) for yeeeaars. We know we are not in the right place, but life keeps moving on and we get deeper roots here (our eldest is 12). Yet, we are NOT at home here. Well done for not leaving it too late.

    1. Moving is SO hard. But landing in your place is life changing and freeing in ways that are impossible to articulate.

  44. Thank you for your open feedback. I’m nearby, Seattle. And have lived here for years. I’m in city but suburban with a beaver pond three blocks away. I’ve seen a coyote walk past me on my way home (in a car). Bunnies live in the creek nearby.
    Six years ago, my husband was sick for months and we had to sell our house and move into a senior residence. I went into this not knowing if I’d like it or not. Now, you’d have to drag me out. I’m now where I’m meant to be. I hope that proves true for you and your family.

  45. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on self-awareness, introspection, and worry about appearing negative! I love that your answer to “how do you like Portland?” is a long one. Our brains think more than just a simple “it’s fine!” or “I love it!”. I’m a ruminator and a ponderer and like having deep conversations about the “why’s” of life, which includes all emotions/thought processes including the scary ones. I like knowing why people feel the way they feel and I believe that you have to really dive in to get to the core of things. I’ve had a couple of friends in the past who called me negative and stopped talking to me, which is still painful to this day. At times I wish I wasn’t the way I was, thinking that life would be easier if I could just think through things efficiently and pleasantly. I was talking about this the other day with my closest friend and she said, “I’ve never thought of you as negative, you’re just a deep thinker who likes to consider all sides of things.” 😭. I so needed to hear that, and then I also get to connect with this amazing post of yours today! All this to say, I don’t think you are self-indulgent! I’m reminded that a rich, inner life of self-awareness/Introspection makes life interesting, plus when you share it it’s a wonderful way to find your people, which you certainly have found here!

    1. Heather, I was just talking to a friend about this last night! We realized that we prefer friendships that are more than what we think of as “small talk” …tell me about the hard stuff, the real feelings, the secrets of your heart, and I’ll tell you mine, ya know?! That’s how I experience and relate to the world and it’s not for everyone, but, if I’m honest, plenty of people aren’t for me! Glad you have that good friend in your corner that values your deeper perspectives. 🙂

      1. Thank you for your comment! 😊 I completely agree! I could talk all day about real feelings! Put me in a small talk situation and I don’t know what to say! I’m also learning that not everyone is for me, and that’s ok. (So hard to do as an enneagram 9, lol.) Thank goodness for good friends…I hope you have someone like that in your corner, too!

    2. I just heard someone – mention conversations that are ‘arranging the chairs on the Titanic’ . I love that phrase – such conversations do not build true friendships, and somehow, are actually so draining.

      1. That’s a great phrase to describe it, I agree that small talk is so draining! It’s like there is a pressure to turn on your “social filter”, i.e. be charming, funny, entertaining, upbeat, etc.! I love conversations where you can turn off the filter and just say what you are thinking/feeling without the worry of being judged. Those are the ones that really connect us to others!

  46. As a long time follower and So Cal resident, now a 15 year Bendite, I can 100% relate. I fought my husband’s continuous nudging to move to Bend. I thought there was nothing better than San Diego, weather being the main thing. And how could I leave my friends and family to live in rain and Birkenstocks? Boy was I wrong! Granted, Bend is supposed to have the highest number of sunny days in the state, (250/yr ish) but it’s not anywhere close to a warm sunny so Cal kind of day. The first year was the hardest. Cold and windy and overcast in May? Wth? But truly, nothing comes close to the beauty of the PNW. The forests are healing and the mountains are breathtaking. Most people are here for the same reason we are, the slower pace and the welcoming lifestyle. Adjusting to this different environment takes time. Learning to unwind from the frantic ways takes time. Learning to embrace the seasons takes time. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

  47. Loved this whole post. Thank you ♥️ …but also, I’ve lived in SW for five years now and WHERE are you going for these amazing vintage shops? Local minds are v curious. It’s been years since I’ve scored something worthwhile! And all hail Hall Blvd Target 🙌🏼

  48. Thank you for this incredible post. I found myself crying halfway through. So much of what you said resonated -we have small kids and I own a creative business and have felt lost at times. The hamster wheel and wanting to take a step back but not get lost, it’s so hard! I loved the little bits of “woo” mixed in, definitely going to pick up that book. Thanks again for sharing this with us!

  49. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this post resonates with me (although I’m in Colorado from California and constantly questioning our decision). I actually read your analogy to my husband because it’s so similar to the one I use when I describe my feelings about leaving my flawed, true love BF (California) for my steady husband (Colorado). Anyway, I am glad you’ve decided that you made the right decision and hope I can hop on this clarity train of yours!

  50. As a Portlander myself I want to thank you for standing up for our city. We are having a moment, not a great one, but I love this city and so many other people who also love this city are working hard to make it better.
    Also, I’m super excited you’re here and am following your vintage shopping posts CLOSELY!
    Welcome home

  51. I uprooted my family from Los Angeles to MN last year to be nearer to family, and hearing your personal story has been so validating for me. I’ve been feeling so many feels and have had so much self-doubt, and still continue to feel a little lost and maybe a little listless career-wise, but seeing our children bonding with their family and community makes it all worthwhile. The extra space doesn’t hurt either!

    I want to also say – you do not need to apologize for the struggles in your life, just because they are not “capital S Struggles” – regardless of our stations in the world, everyone goes through challenges and hardship and it looks different for everyone – we’re all human! Thanks for your candor, vulnerability, and the beauty you add to the world.

  52. Another great read—thanks for discussing the hard stuff along with the good, and I’m happy to know so many wonderful things are unfolding for you and your family—and you are able to be present for it all. A huge gift.

  53. We also moved to Portland from Los Angeles and found that it took us a few years to really find our groove. There is a wonderful tight-knit film/television community here – I could help Brian connect with local casting directors/agents if he’s interested. All of the movies and shows that shoot up here do a lot of local casting. You can DM me on Instagram @paperbagwaist.

  54. I really appreciate your honest writing about the difficulties you experience during life’s journey! It is so easy to romanticize celebrities, and I will admit to feeling a minor twinge of jealousy that you’re are able to lead the creative life you do, monetarily speaking. (I bought a fixer upper during the summer of 2020 when I left an abusive relationship, and have such dreams for my house, but often feel I am never going to be able to realize them.) I’m generally a positive person, but I do get trapped in the comparison mode occasionally. Thank you for your honesty in portraying your life, and remind me that the grass is not greener, it’s just different.

  55. My daughter lived in Portland for 9 years. I couldn’t make it through more than 3 days there with the weather you were speaking about. BUT – you have family there and an ability to travel and escape to sunny climate and you have built a gorgeous home. You will thrive! Congratulations on making it all happen. I am sure it was cathartic writing this all down and I thank you for being real and sharing. Blessings to you and your family.

  56. Native Oregonian here. I agree 2022 was a rough year weather wise. Coming up with a coping strategy is so key! My favorite strategy is to schedule vacations to sunny destinations in the part of the year where I start to lose it. For me, it’s when it’s warming up everywhere BUT the PNW. So in March or April, we get out of here. Even if only for a quick weekend to Palm Springs, but ideally a longer trip or a few weekends sprinkled in. It helps a ton to get some vitamin D and wear warm weather clothes. The sauna/cold plunge is also a game changer. I try to go to Knot Springs a few times in late winter/early spring. It’s life giving. I just read the book “Wintering” this winter and it gave me a great mindset reset.

    1. “Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May is a fabulous, introspective book. I highly recommend this one!

  57. I really love this post! It resonated with me pretty deeply. I struggled a lot and more than I expected when I moved from the city to the suburbs, and felt spoiled and crazy for feeling that way. But now that my oldest started Kindergarten and I’m starting to find some community, it’s starting to feel so much better. You put those feelings into words so well!

  58. I so appreciate the honesty of this post. I can’t imagine having my life in the public eye all the time with people scrutinizing my every move and decision. I think Covid and it’s challenges made a lot of people rethink the work/ life balance. The challenges you share are something so many parents thinks about all the time- is this good for my family? It’s so easy to ruminate over decisions wondering if it was the right one; it’s not so easy to embrace the decision. There’s no such thing as a perfect decision. Perfection. Is an illusion. Be kind to yourself.

  59. Emily…what a beautiful, vulnerable and what felt like an incredibly honest and conscious self reflective journey you took us on. Having left LA too (!!) and moved to Atlanta 6 months ago, I’ve learned that moving has given me the incredible gift of getting to know myself in ways I would have never otherwise and that growth and change can be sad and painful but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t right. The importance of aligning my inner world with my outer world became a siren that we could no longer ignore and the peace that brings is something words fail on.

    Like you, our move has included so MUCH community! Something we NEVER felt in LA. Not only does the city itself have that energy, but the neighborhoods here within the perimeter have so much togetherness and pride! And NOTHING beats our specific neighborhood and street! We had people bringing cookies and cards and introducing themselves (that happened multiple times!) and we have multiple couples who’s homes we can walk to and who we genuinely adore both people in the couple! My husband and I looked at each other one night after leaving a holiday party with all of our neighbors and said – this is part of WHY we did this!! We knew we wanted more but had no idea how deep of a need it was!

    Anyhow, so much to relate to, but thank you so so much for sharing. It made me feel not so alone for having some of the same feelings (hello weather)…wishing you so much JOY and light and that the flow be continuous!

  60. This is my favorite post. Thanks for sharing your experience so openly and honestly. I hope the farmhouse brings you great joy!

  61. I am mostly an Insta follower for the linkups and because I suck at decorating and need inspiration. I don’t think I have ever read a personal post of yours. Not sure what made me click today, but I did and read the entire thing (and Brian’s journey too). Damn. You guys can write! I was hooked. I don’t know how often you post this kind of thing, but I’ll be looking for it!

  62. As I sit in my Airbnb in Bend, pouring over the pros and cons of this beautiful city and contemplating a move to Oregon myself, I couldn’t be more grateful to have happened to see your Instagram post which lead me here. As current LA residents, so much of what you said, resonates with me and I am so appreciative of all of the points you made. Am I trying to validate a decision to move here? Maybe, I but I also appreciate that you said that sometimes we have to do that. I really don’t think it was happenstance that you published this when you did and I came across it when I did. Thank you for sharing. The details mattered to this reader.

  63. Emily, you still need to understand that you truly have SAD and that by latest October 1, 2023, you will need to start light therapy to escape the loop of living in your dark hole again. It’s not a weakness; it does not mean you have lost your superpowers or that you should move back to Arrowhead. It means that genetically, you are predisposed to changes in light. Join a very big community- you are really NOT alone. Ir crazy or lazy or deficient or any of the other ways changes in light make you feel.
    Best of luck continuing your evolution and reclaiming mojo.

    1. I don’t know if you need to be so forceful in telling Emily that she has SAD-but I will share that I moved somewhere in 2018 and they had the rainiest year on record and I thought I was depressed. I had experienced a bit of an “impending sadness” feelings most late Septembers/early Octobers before that in another climate, but I felt like I had to very actively fight for happiness in the new rainy climate and I didn’t feel like that was warranted since my life situation being relatively positive.

      After consulting with my doctor and doing my own research (I am NOT one to jump on pop science bandwagons-and this is not pop science!), I got a Verilux Happy Light the next year and started it October 1. For me, I don’t even have to do it all winter. The transition to shorter days seems to be what triggers me. 15-30 mins in the mornings in front of the light for a few months while I drink my tea/coffee is all I need to feel substantially better.

      Emily, I would gently suggest that you get a light with the right lumens and place it in the right spot and give it a try. It may make a big difference for you! But of course that is totally up to you! I do agree with this commenter that there are many of us out there who struggle with SAD. I have never connected with the community but seeing how much it has helped me makes me realize I should share more in case it helps others.

  64. Beautiful post. I’ve been in Eugene a while and am raising my kiddos here, but am originally from Aurora (the antique capital, lol) and have been so excited to read your posts about moving back to Oregon. Followed you since HGTV and its been so fun seeing all the local businesses you are supportin and your whole journey. My dad is from Tennessee and, while he loves it here, has some pretty intense seasonal depression and the crazy weather this last year has not helped. Oddly enough, the rain has been a bit of a relief since we live close to where all the wildfires raged these last couple summers. Constant rain followed by smoky summer days was hard, especially when the kids just want to go outside. We spent weeks stuck inside cause the air levels were dangerous. I’m hoping things level out this year.
    I would love to hear more about how you manage working from home! I absolutely feel you when you talked about loving being closer to family, but feeling a disconnect with work. I’ve transitioned to working at home during Covid and it has been the most amazing, positive change for my family and I am treasuring the extra time with my kids and being there for all the things I would have missed if i had been at the office, but the work dynamic is very different now. And our den/playroom/art space is now a makeshift home office, which has been challenging.

  65. This post resonates so much. We moved several years ago from Chicago to Milwaukee WI. It was a huge change of life that was so hard in so many ways but also so right. My daughter -our whole family really- is thriving. Life here is easy & manageable. It’s not as exciting as big city living but in this season, it’s the right thing. I hope you continue to find the same peace and that your family thrives too.

  66. Hi Emily,

    I am 29 years old and I don’t remember life without you. I was in middle school when you were on HGTV and I have been a fan of you and your designs since. I have read your blog throughout the years every single day, bought read and reread both of your books, and just generally have had you/your work as a regular and significant part of my day/life. Yet this is the first time I have felt the need to write a comment, but today I really do feel this way and I genuinely hope it makes it to you and is received in the spirit with which it is written (which is with kindness and respect).

    I just want to say thank you for sharing your life with us in such a vulnerable and transparent manner. It is because of this willingness that I, and I’m sure majority of your readers, can feel like we truly know you personally in some sense which is so weird when you think about it since you don’t know us but that’s beside the point! ANYWAY what I want to say is that throughout the years I have seen all of the hard work, dedication, perseverance, and willingness to take risk and bet on yourself that has gotten you to where you are today. You have earned your success and after following you all of these years through your hard work it bums me out that you write today as though you have to justify your feelings of frustration/sadness/regret/doubt because of your success??? You are more than allowed to be brilliant at your work and successful and also a human being with subjective feelings, thoughts, and worries without apologizing for it.

    For what it is worth from someone who has looked up to you for interior design inspiration and learning as well as a role model for going after your dreams in life, I think you are amazing through and through and I hope you will always allow yourself to be 100% you without feeling bad or worrying how it may come off. It just seems too exhausting and not fair to yourself.

  67. I am sooooOOOOOOOOOOO glad you are feeling better Emily!!! We spend a lot of time in our minds so we might as well make it a nice place to be -no longer comparing ourselves to others and, as my therapist used to say: “no should-ing on yourself” are both great places to start : )
    Again, I am just so, so glad you are feeling better.

  68. I think about SF as my extra hot heartbreaker ex bf who slowly killed my spirit and PDX as the one that can hold, love and accept me for me indefinitely. I do miss the weather and the daily ocean presence in SF. Otherwise, this is the place for me for many of the reasons you detailed. It was lovely to read your transition experience as it has been an interesting one for me, no regrets but of course not a simple thing.

  69. I moved to Seattle 18 months ago and had an absolutely miserable first winter. This time around I decided to lean into the cozy. I got a ton of lamps and candles. We light the fireplace constantly. I gave up on believing my house could be an open air California oasis and decided this was a modern but cozy, book- and candle-filled home with lots of soft and warm fabrics. TBH I did the same to my wardrobe and got tons of comfy warm sweaters and knitted socks. It has completely helped.

  70. Thank you for sharing all of this!! This really could have been written by my husband and I. We worked through so many of the same considerations and adjustments when we moved to Portland during the pandemic after years of dreaming of moving there (my family is also from OR). We were there for a year and a half and sadly didn’t stay, because once I got pregnant we chose to move back to California to be closer to his family. But I still miss Portland a ton! So much so that we’re even renting a house in NE for a month this summer so we can hit up all of our favorite spots and go on all of the pretty hikes we miss. Anywho, so glad you guys have settled in and are feeling great about your decision. I wish more people talked about the challenge of deciding where to put roots down as a young family- it really is A LOT!

  71. Hi Emily… love following you.. we are in the midst of moving to Portland. Housing is difficult (low inventory and not much that we like) and we have already put our kids through a transition year in San Francisco. My daughter is so looking forward to her own room etc. Looking to construct or renovate but it’s all so overwhelming…. Plus the apprehension regarding the weather…also we have no friends or family there. Basically I am full of doubts nowadays.. we love PNW so holding on to that… I dunno where I am going with this.. just felt like sharing. Thanks for listening….

  72. Thank you, Emily, for this post. I’ve been reading your blog for about ten years now, but I’ve never commented before. When they showed Secrets from a Stylist on Finnish TV (I’m from Finland), I found your blog and kept coming back every week. Like so many, I lead a busy life, so I love reading your blog on weekends to get some design inspiration and food for thought. I think that your authenticity and honesty (in addition to great design content, of course) are the reasons why I keep coming back to your blog. So thank you! 🙂

  73. Em, it makes me so SO happy that you are loving your new chapter up in Portland!! i can’t imagine the journey it’s been, and how hard it’s been physically and mentally, but i love seeing y’all looking truly happy. this post was so genuine and wonderful — thank you for sharing. sending all my love ❤️

  74. Emily, I loved your blog! It was honest, refreshing and insightful. I’ve adored you and your family, and as a former mountain neighbor, I’ve also struggled with having moved away from that mountain paradise. My reasons were very different than yours, and I’m happy to say I am thriving in my new location as well. I love the reasons you chose the farmhouse, and all of the positive results from those decisions. You have shared your life and family with both of my daughters and impacted their lives in such a gloriously positive way, and I am so grateful. By the way, I also started the year reading the same book as you! Did you do her manifesting journey? I will continue to practice what I learned from all of that. Big hugs to you, Brian and the kids- looking forward to continuing to follow your journey.

  75. Appreciate the vulnerability that you’ve shared about the move to a new community. Yes, that rain and daily gray gloom can really get in one’s way of experiencing joy! I hope you can find tools that help you boost your mood. I swear by accupuncture, ashwaghanda, happy lights, and hot tub/sauna/soaking pools in the PNW. Portland has some great ones! I look forward to hearing more about your discoveries in Oregon. Admit I got a little excited when I read the title and heard your IG story intro to the post… I was thinking it was going to be a different type of post about your new state/town/community and what’s happening in Portland, but… still appreciate hearing about your internal journey. Best of luck, love your design style! xo

    1. Also, Vitamin D! I remember going to the doctor after living in Portland for a while and needing a prescription level dosage to get my levels up. Regular over the counter vitamins weren’t enough but once I got them up through the RX, I was able to maintain with a daily… It’s a real thing!

  76. Thanks, Emily. I’m right this moment trying to decide whether to move back to Portland Now as summer approaches, from Austin where I’ve lived for 35 years for the sunshine- but summer approaches! I hate cold and rain and gray skies, so it seems nuts to consider moving. However, I have long-term friends there, and a sister, and we’re all in our 70’s. If I’m going, it’s probably time.
    Any thoughts?

  77. I read this with great interest, and was so pleased to learn that a stranger on the internet is settling into her new life well after a hard season.

    I’ve lived in seven different countries, and each big move has taken about a year to process. At the six month mark in a new place (and this only counts once I’m settled into permanent housing), I find myself seeing the worst in my new home. Experts call this this six month dip, I believe. Sticking with it, finding coping strategies, and focusing on the good things pulls me through to the one year mark, when I tend to find that I really like my new home, have made new friends, and am enjoying my new life.

    Also wanted to add that building up a bad weather tool kit is KEY. I lived in Saudi Arabia for six years, and the summers were BRUTAL. They required serious coping strategies to survive, and it took us a few years to figure out what worked best for our family. It took intentionality, planning, some big purchases, and a lot of creative thinking.

    So glad you’re all thriving!

  78. Thank you for this! I loved reading every point and am so happy for your family! I do appreciate the honesty and depth.
    I too am about to embark on a big move my family this summer, from the San Francisco Bay Area to Charleston, SC. It’s going to be a huge adjustment for my California girls (10 and 7, whom I haven’t told yet), and I have very similar worries and concerns and hopes for what our life will be. After a really hard year of cancer battles, I’m ready for the change. I hope being closer to family in GA and NC, building a huge house that would easily be 4x more expensive in the Bay Area, living in a safe community, and the southern hospitality will be worth it. 🤞
    I believe a piece of you always remains wherever you move from, and I’ll always be a CA girl at heart, but know for now, it’s time. ❤️

  79. We moved to Corvallis 12 years ago, after living in San Diego for the first 25 years of our lives. My parents are from the Oregon coast but, to your point, visiting the rainy coast every year is not the same as living it! During my first year there, I had a dear friend very lovingly tell me not to reliably expect sunshine until the 4th of July. I was VERY saddened by this news, but it really helped me temper my expectations. We’re in Southern Oregon now, with more traditional seasons and year-round sunshine, but dearly miss the Valley in so many ways. The green summers! The beautiful spring flowers! The magical fall weather! The restaurants! We also purchased a house with property (1.6 acres with zero landscaping). We’re three years in and I have to constantly remind myself of exactly what you’re saying. This is going to take YEARS and that’s ok. (I can’t tell you how wildly helpful this is to hear from you as a designer!) Hugs to you and yours – you’re doing great.

  80. Just wanted to let you know that I love the new slowed-down, eco-friendly version of yourself. Your experience of the pandemic, and where you wish to take your life now completely resonates with me and how I lived the pandemic.
    I’m in the process of quitting my job, selling my house, and moving to my vacation beach house (privilege, privilege, privilege, I know) to lead a slower life surrounded by nature & a strong community. Like you, I’ll be moving to a really rainy part of the country (but in France), where I grew up. And, as my husband says « hopefully we won’t get moldy from all the humidity »!
    Thank you for sharing your ups & downs & your thoughts along the way. Not perfect & genuine is always more interesting to read (& easier to relate to!)

  81. As a Los Angeles to Lake Arrowhead family, it was fun to read your take. We also moved up around the same time, and it’s been an interesting transition to get to know “real life” here with smallish kids. It’s probably not forever for us, , but we are enjoying our mountain lives so much.

  82. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs with this update- It’s a lot to be online and exposed as you are especially with the expected exchange with your audience. We live up in the rainforest islands of SE Alaska where precipitation is typically 60-100 inches. I’m from here but went to college in Oregon and have oodles of extended family there. I remember as a child visiting family and the cousins immediately retreating inside while my brother and I had a ball playing in the warm rain. Here or there, I continue to work on taking my own advice: use the happy light, take Vitamin D, but most of all get out in it. If you are worried about looking weird in full raingear, don’t, you’ll remind some Oregonians to get out in it. It usually looks way worse from inside than it is. I don’t mean to trivialize SAD symptoms because I struggle with them too sometimes. Good luck with all of it and takes for continuing to share your journey. I’ve been reading since book 1 came out and your honest ideas have really helped me set up a home in this fixer upper we are still fixing up!

  83. This summed up a lot of my moving around as well.. even when the transition/ place is so familiar (like where you grew up!), its all so different every time. Thank you for your vulnerability and shared EH!

  84. I’ve been following you for ages and want to thank you for your openness and honesty. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the farmhouse change before my eyes in such a thoughtful and beautiful way. I wish you much success going forward and hope the work/life balance continues to be successful. You’ve got this!!

  85. LOVE that picture of Brian roughhousing with the kids. It’s like you can see the children’s development right in that image from their dad. I really appreciate how transparent this post is, Emily. Long time reader here. <3

  86. Thank you for sharing. I feel like it unlocked my own feelings about moving to a new city. I especially was so moved by the having family nearby, cousins, sisters, mom teaching piano; like tears in my eyes. I just really felt that and felt grateful for the family that I do have nearby, even though my parents and oldest sister are still in SoCal. I’m also super empathetic so I could just be feeling the writing feelings, but I want to say that I don’t think it’s self-indulgent because I think it also encourages me as a reader to look inward and go to what I know is good for my heart.
    Also curious what the experience is like in Oregon. I understand the PNW to be super white compared to CA. Would be great to think about multiculturalism and antiracism. Im still trying to figure out what I can do..

  87. Thank you so much for sharing this post! I’ve had to move a lot for my husband’s job, it’s always work but sometimes it’s easier than others. We are currently in a place that I just can’t make work despite years of trying… but as we plan to move again this post helped me feel like we’ve identified many of the same priorities as you and have found a place where putting the work in will be worth it!

  88. I’ve lived in Portland for 25 years and last spring was the worst I can remember. It rained thru JUNE! Not ok and not typical. It made me angry too and I hope it’s different this year.
    Also I’ve been living a stressful and incredibly expensive remodel this year – I’ve done it before but costs are out of control! I appreciate you sharing, it makes me feel less alone on these ups and downs. Can’t wait to see the exterior work at the farm. Keep going!! 🙂

  89. Interesting reflection! It’s always fascinating to hear about people’s experiences living in different cities. Your thoughts on Portland after a year and a half are honest and relatable. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  90. Seemingly endless (or nearly so) resources won’t save us from the pitfalls of chasing happiness and meaning externally, when the challenge lies within. That’s what this, and spending my childhood as the middle class kid in an affluent area taught me. I’m not sure the “my surroundings have to live up to how special I feel I am / how will I ever be special enough to live up to my circumstances” internal battle is ever able to be won. Seems like fame is a right b*tch. If what you truly want for your family is a quiet, normal life, I hope there is still time to make the necessary adjustments to achieve that. If you enjoy the stimulation, attention, and money that come with living this public life, maybe just own it? “Owning your privilege” doesn’t have to mean expressing real or feigned guilt. It can mean living a certain lifestyle, guiding each other through the tough bits, and not whining about how particularly difficult it is to raise kids to be humble and grateful “under your circumstances.” It’s a challenge for everyone to raise kids to be some idealized combination of amazing and humble with a built-in sense of whatever flavor of justice we believe in. Maybe just roll with it. What you model is more important than what you say, and treating happiness like some kind of complex algorithm that can only be solved through self-help books, diet, exercise, wackadoodle therapies, and a whole lot of extra-introspection may make the goal – happiness – seem pretty darn unattainable to the very people you are hoping to amaze and delight with your joy. Maybe just… vibe out with the family?

    Anyway, all the best to all four of you (that’s your “unit” – not your employees, not your sponsors, not your followers).

  91. I love this. I’m so glad you’re happy there now, even if it was a journey to get there (and understandably so!). It’s tough when you have something you’ve always thought would be right for you isn’t immediately perfect.
    Also, I totally get the yearning for Arrowhead. In summer 2020, we went up to Maine and stayed in my dad’s summer house for a month–at that point there were no camps, no school, and it was amazing to get away from COVID (kind of), have freedom to explore and amazing weather and see family and still be able to work. When we left I was so sad–we COULD have stayed longer, maybe forever! The kids could have done virtual school from there! But in reality/retrospect, it would never have been practical. We didn’t have the safety net of my parents there, or daycare, and being so far from home/real stores/etc would never really work long-term–surely the charm would have worn off. But it did prompt us to start going up there for a month every summer since, which has been so great for our family and a blessing that never would have happened otherwise.

  92. Thank you, Emily, for sharing this vulnerable post! I’ve been following you since the Brass Petal days and you have never changed. Your circumstances have changed, your life has changed, your style and income and priorities have changed, but YOU have not. My husband and I just recently watched your season of Design Star (which holy cow was awful – what a terrible time for television) and it was so unbelievably refreshing to see the exact same person I see every day on this blog/social, even nearly 15 years ago. Thank you for everything you do!

  93. Please take this with the kindness with which it is meant. While positive thinking, gurus, and happiness conferences can be wonderful, if you haven’t already, please consider talking to your doctor about the deep depression you experienced last winter and anxiety that this move has brought you and have your Vitatmin D tested. Low vitamin D is incredibly common at your latitude, even with hours of outdoor walks due to the angle of the sun’s rays and inadequate sunlight. Low vitamin D can be very harmful to your health (not just SAD, but also bone health and cardiovascular health, and dietary supplementation is not always very successful.
    Maybe all you need is a February trip to Hawaii…that’s what a LOT of people in Alaska do to combat low vitamin D, but there is no shame in medication (vitamin D supplements or depression/anxiety medication) or a light box if that’s what you need.

  94. I felt a lot of this in my soul as I experienced basically all these things in my experience moving from Los Angeles where I was born and raised to the suburbs of Pittsburgh. The town and community I’m in is idyllic and wonderful but the weather can definitely bring me down. A month or so ago I was so done and wanted to move because of crippling SAD but the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot better. Skiing helps, getting outdoors during times of sunlight helps, getting together with friends helps. My life is a lot simpler here. Everything from getting from A to B, affording housing, schools for the kids is easier. We even got to see Hamilton and it took 25 minutes to get downtown and parking was $5. It’s wonderful.

  95. As I said over on IG, as an older adult who recently relocated from LA to Portland (Beaverton) – this sh*t is hard. I don’t have the kids (ages 31/29) to help find a new community, though they do live here. I know all the things I need to do – book club, join a like-minded group, play a sport – it is paralyzing to start. Seriously, we need a support group for this new season of life. Cheers to all you do, Emily. Thanks for talking about the hard things.

  96. I dunno if you’re familiar with the kids show Dino Dana, but I once read an online review which praised it as first and foremost a show about human beings and family relationships with the added bonus of “oh look, it’s a velociraptor!” That sums up my feelings for your blog…I catch up with several other interior design blogs but even if tomorrow you decided to write solely about souped-up cars or something else I have no interest in, I’d still come here every day to read posts like this which are so so relatable and honest. Thank you.

  97. Such a beautifully written, heart wrenchingly honest post. My husband and I like to remind ourselves– wherever we go, there we are. Meaning, until we find joy and contentment in our own skin, no change of geography will fill that need. It sounds like you are learning that lesson and it’s truly wonderful to read. There is something in our culture that tells us to always be striving for the next thing, when what we all really need is to simply be content to just be where we are.
    PS– I’ve read that it takes 7 years to truly feel at home in a place. So giving yourself (and Portland) plenty of time and grace seems like it will make all the difference. And perhaps already has.

  98. Thank you so much for taking the time to describe a lifetime process — it’s great to get a linear sense of how you’ve ended up happy in Portland : ) And also, fwiw, I very much appreciate that you’re protecting the kids’ privacy and safety. Well done.

  99. I’m going to be running a revitalization study in downtown Portland in a few months, and I just completed my first scoping visit there. Totally agree with your observations, but was really heartened in my discussions with some of the major downtown stakeholders, who are very committed to finding a sustainable and equitable way forward. It’s a great town, full of motivated and committed people, and I firmly believe the future will be bright. Congratulations on your move.

  100. Thanks for sharing your reflections. I think there is a lot to relate to, even if I have not move to Portland. I am a long time follower, I am here for the reveals but even more for the personal posts.

  101. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. Glad you are all thriving despite some setbacks and unexpected challenges. You most definitely got this!

  102. Thank you for sharing. Have been a long time reader (and lover of your blog for years) God bless you and your authenticity girl!!!

  103. Once I got over feeling insulted that you HATED L.A. and had to move away …. completely my misinterpretation … I feel you’ve made the best choice for you and your kids. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have to make that choice. My niece and nephew-in-law and their kid moved to Washington state, so seeing it through their eyes helped me understand. The gloomy PNW is not for me, but I wish more Angelenos would make your choice. I miss being able to move around easily.

  104. Emily, when it is time to do plantings for your landscaping, please consider native plants. There is an amazing book from the designers behind Phyto Studios called Planting In A Post-Wild World. They make a case for gorgeous and ecologically functional gardens. It’s planting for the next generation 🙂

  105. Emily, this was so helpful to read. Yes, you’re very privileged (oh my days, what I wouldn’t give for that farmhouse myself!) but I appreciate how self-aware you are too.
    After discussing it, making promises about it, contemplating it… We are finally in the beginning stages of planning our enormous emigration from the UK to Canada. After 12 years in England (with an English husband) the reality of it is equal parts daunting and exciting. I’m Canadian and want to return for so many of the reasons you highlighted about Portland (family, community, better childhood, etc.) so it’s reassuring to read about someone who’s also taken risks and seeing their efforts (and tears and stress) pay off. I hope our journey goes as well as yours!

  106. Emily,
    I love how vulnerable your post was and truly very relatable. I started following way back when you were designing on t.v. And I have enjoyed reading how truly transparent you are with your readers. Thank you for reminding us that we can fall into these moments of despair, no matter how silly we feel because we are blessed, but also so very human. These are stages and it is okay that we go through these motions. Stages of self doubt and unsureness are natural emotions. Well, I’m not sure if you’d really read this, but I just want to thank you for reminding us that it is perfectly fine to be human. It’s not falling that counts, it’s the getting back up portion. We’ve contemplated leaving Cali as well, but much like you, fear sets in with currents of wanting more space and something different for our kids. I love hearing that you are enjoying your life now and don’t feel bad if you have tugging moments. The only difference between you and dreamers like me are, that you actually took the plunge. You dared take a chance. Those like me dream of doing it, but coward in the corner with fear and “what if” thoughts. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

  107. This is such good writing, it reads like a short story with a full-on arc, hero’s journey, and 3-part act culminating in a beautiful ending – which is actually the beginning. Talent indeed! Thank you for sharing.

  108. Echoing the gratitude for this post. I’m really glad you acknowledged + realized that you were in a space of a lot of self judgement- calling yourself a baby, calling yourself on your privilege but in so doing invalidating your feelings and experience in the process. It’s a tricky line to walk, acknowledging privilege without rendering yourself mentally/emotionally/otherwise incapacitated with crippling self judgement. Privilege can be used to advocate, build strong community, provide so much goodness for your kids and everyone in your sphere of influence—all of which you’re doing—but not if you are drowning in self judgement. Ofc we all have continued work to do unpacking our privilege, but I loved the tone shift at the end with greater kindness toward yourself. Thank you for sharing all this.

  109. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing your journey over the past few years! I’m so glad you’re happy where you’re at right now.
    I’m sure you know about this place, but I just wanted to share that last time we visited my father-in-law in Vancouver, WA just across the river, we went to the cutest place on the Waterfront. Next to nice wine bars and an ice cream shop, there is something that’s a cross between art, a memorial/monument honoring indigenous tribes and their relationship with water, and kids’ splash pad! It’s so beautiful and in full view of the river, but also fun for kids. I just found it so magical! A place to check out if you’re ever over there in the summer.

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