Mah Birfday Party! Also, I Think It’s Time To Come Clean About My Living Situation …

January 25th, 2015 - filed under: Furthermore » Inspiration

mah birfday los nidos

Standing in the fence hole. The hole is everything!

You guys, I had a birthday party. Like, for the first time in YEARS! And it was small and sweet and perfect and oh gosh – I felt so loved!

And I really needed that.

A few pics from the festivities:

mah birfday skateboarding

Starting the party off right, with skateboarding shenanigans. I’m *really* excited for lots of skating together this year. (And FYI, super sparkly sequin dress is by Betsey Johnson – secondhand of course)

mah birfday Haley portrait
My dearest Gretchen painted me a portrait of the Harley-dog! IT IS AMAZING (and also matched my ensemble). I am the luckiest. ♥ (and she is available for commission, just sayin’)

mah birfday shenanigans

mah birfday Waits kisses
“Waitsy, take a picture with me!” “Okay mama. I kiss you! I kiss you on the arm, right here!”

mah birfday with Waits
He is my heart. My heart living outside of my body.

mah birfday song
Oh goodness …

mah birfday Waitsy
Cupcake kid! (ahem, cupcake Darth Vader)

mah birfday cupcakes
A brand new gluten-free bakery just opened in Santa Barbara. Our first one! And Jeremy called them that morning, and asked, “Do you have anything that’s vegan?” And whattaya know? They had 2 flavors of cupcakes: carrot cake, and red velvet. GUYS! My 2 favorite flavors EVER! ♥ Birfday serendipity. ♥

So now. Okay, bear with me here. Let me tell you a story about a fence.


In September of 2013, Jeremy and I were deep in the process of falling in love. An awesome process, to be sure. And we had been long-distance up until then – him living in Redondo Beach, about an hour and a half south of me, in LA. But by September, we were in deep, and he was planning a move to Santa Barbara.

My own house in Santa Barbara? Is a gem. A gem by Santa Barbara standards, which means that it’s old, and neglected, and dilapitaded . . . and CHEAP. Built in 1915, my little beach bungalow boasts 2 whole bedrooms and an entire full-sized fenced yard, in downtown Santa Barbara. And it’s affordable.

This, my friends, is a TREASURE. A unicorn. By Santa Barbara standards, a dream come true.

And in September of 2013, my next door neighbor – occupant of the identical, matching mirror-image bungalow to mine – let me know that he would be moving out at the end of the month. And maybe I wanted to find a friend to move in next door?


Back when I was drowning in the depths of my divorce, I read a lot about one of my greatest heroes, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Completely independent, always authentic, incredibly sensitive and incomprehensibly strong, fierce female badass, Frida Kahlo. And I read that she and her husband, renowned muralist Diego Rivera, had decided to build themselves a pair of houses. Two separate houses, side by side. With a sky bridge to connect them.

And I remember thinking, YES!

That is right. That makes sense. That is what I want!


And so, in September of 2013, I asked Jeremy – “Would you like to move into the house next door?”

And him, progressive-minded man that he is, he understood immediately the amazing opportunity that had presented itself.

It was perfect.

Just so absolutely perfect.

mah birfday hole in fence

And so Jeremy moved into the house next door. And we tore a hole in the backyard fence, and made our bridge. The bridge between two houses.

And now we have, essentially, our own little compound. “The downtown bohemian compound”, as we sometimes call it. And we named it Los Nidos – “the nests”.

Mostly, we both move freely between the two houses. Now we have one giant yard, plenty of room for gardening, fruit trees, a fire pit, play space for Waits, and we hope, some day, a hot tub. We have 2 kitchens, 2 bathrooms, 2 living spaces. Mirror image homes that are so similar, and yet so different. The dining table is at my house; the TV is at his. I like his bed better, and his bedroom is much bigger than mine. But I totally prefer my kitchen. And we decorate very differently!

We hang out together when we want, and we also take space when we need to. It is so amazing to be able to take space.

And living this way is the best thing I can possibly imagine, just the very best. We have the best of all worlds, and Jeremy and I will continue to live like this, together, separately, side-by-side, in our little downtown compound, for as long as we possibly can.

Los Nidos Forever!

Here’s a shot from the other side, standing in “my” yard and looking through to Jeremy’s house. The teak table is in my yard, with the fence hole behind me, his house beyond, and the fire pit around the fence to the left. On my side of the fence, to the right there, you can see some familiar sights: my roses, my artichoke plant, and just at the edge of the frame, Waits’s play house with the orange tree overhanging.

mah birfday with Harley

So now you know. Now you know our unconventional living situation.

Hey, I never claimed I was a normal girl! But I love my weird little life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You only get one shot, right? So make sure that you love your life, and live it on your own terms.

Cheers to another trip around the sun!

♥ ♥ ♥

  • Lacy Davis

    AMAZING. My partner and I have lived together basically since day 1, but he lives inside the main house, and I live in a little shack I built in the backyard. It works SO well, and 3.5 years into our relationship i truly have to say I don’t ever want to be apart from him, but I also never want to not have my own room. It’s the best of both worlds!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    That’s a pretty awesome living arrangement, lady!

    My first husband and I, we had our own bedrooms in our townhouse, and it worked for us.

    Nina’s dad (that would be husband No. 2) and I share a very tiny house, and we are very good at sharing space – most of the time! I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually he builds a small micro-dwelling somewhere on the grounds for himself.

  • Brie

    Happy Birthday! I wish for you a year filled with laughter, sunshine, good food, and happiness.
    I love your living situation. It is such a cool idea.

  • Gretchen Keller

    Yay! Sayward- your birthday party was such a sweet mix of friends, family, and fun; it really was a great affirmation of all you’ve worked towards balancing! And your description of bridging your lives is such a perfect analogy, as well as an actual reality. Keep it up! I painted Harley for you out of love and inspiration :), but thanks so much for the artistic shout-out! I’ll take all the press I can get *wink*

  • veganinbrighton

    Your party looks so fun and yay for awesome unconventional living, your fence hole rocks. Also our hair is almost the exact same colour right now <3

  • JC Carter

    I think your living situation is so cool. It makes sense, at least for some. I live in a conventional living situation, but my fiance travels for work almost every week, I wonder if he had a more conventional job if we would end up with separate spaces. I for one am someone who needs my alone time. Also Happy birthday!

  • Rachel in Veganland

    OH MY GOSH YOU HAVE FRIDA AND DIEGO HOUSES! I’ve said for years (since reading about her myself, and p.s. I’m writing a paper about her body casts this semester which I’ll gladly send to you when it’s done if you’d like) that my ideal relationship consists of Frida and Diego houses. I LOVE that the two of you are doing this, it’s just amazing on so many levels. Also your birthday party looks like it was fantastic!

  • Sonjas

    I totally love your living situation (and your sparkly dress and tiara btw)! What a nice party! Living apart together is such a great concept in my opinion. My boyfriend and I are living in the same city (a 15 minutes bike ride apart from one another), he on his own and I’m living in a shared appartment. I often get remarks about why we are not moving in together but I won’t have it any other way :-) You are such an inspiration to me :-)

  • lysette

    ‘my heart living outside of my body’ -that is breathtaking, beautiful. this also makes me want to dust off my skull skates board and get back on the pavement! harley’s portrait is a treasure for sure; happy belated birthday :)

  • Clare

    Absolutely the living situation I’m looking for, too! My boyfriend recently asked me to build a tiny house with him, but I had to tell him… I want my own! Keeping space in intimate relationships is essential for me. Bravo for you, and happy birthday!

  • Christy Milford

    Happy belated birthday, Sayward! And I love this post, and yours and Jeremy’s story. It’s so cool that you decided to live together-but-separately. Imagine! A unicorn of a living situation to begin with, and for him to be able to move next door, it’s like a unicorn with a four-leaf clover for a tail…or something equally hard to find ;) Happy for you!

  • lleverman

    Dear Lord, I love those living arrangements. and the minute I find some old guy who would like it; I am IN!! WTG and happy B day

  • Alexandra

    this is so cool i can barely stand it. if my man ever agreed to a living situation like this i would never ever have any other way!

  • Angie

    I always loved that about Frida Kahlo and her description of their homes. I absolutely understand adore that arrangement. I am so glad you found what fits you best. Felicidades.

  • Brandy

    Did you say last year that your LL was considering selling your house?

  • rachel

    Omg, I love that! An ideal living arrangement for sure! Congrats and happy birthday!

  • Lisa

    Los Nidos sounds AMAZING. What a freakin cool setup.

    Happy birthday! Looks like a wonderful time was had by all. That painting of Harley is a damn fine gift.

  • Elizabeth

    I LOVE it! Being able to take time/space for yourself is so important. And also, happy birthday!

  • Bel

    This sounds like such an awesome living arrangement – togetherness but space. Absolutely ideal!! Also love the dress, cupcakes, yards, fairy lights, orange tree, fire pit, tiara, bringing the Kahlo-Rivera (love em!) and Harley Portrait. But all in equal order! Happy Birfday Sayward – here’s to another year of utter joy for you.

  • Rebecca Carnes

    Happy (belated:)) Bday!!! Looks like you had an amazing weekend full of Waits time, friend time and love time:) I just want to say as a single mom you really do inspire me to keep a positive outlook on life…especially through life’s bumps!
    And I am in love with Los Nidos! So amazing:)
    Cheers to an awesome year!

  • Frugal Vegan Mom

    Happy Birthday! Love the bold sparkles, it’s exactly what I would wear. And the houses, well that is serendipity!

  • Aderann

    Good for you, that sounds awesome. I am all about both the solitude and the ease of spending time together. So cool

  • Andrea Clausen

    This made my heart swell so much. I am so pleased you have this happiness in your life.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I love the idea of a separate tiny house! I’ve often thought that if we ever do have to move (which we might soon, sadly) that I’ll probably try something similar to a main house and a tiny house. Kinda harder when you have a kiddo, but I’d figure it out.

    Glad to know we’re nt the only crazy couple doing things this way!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You should talk to Lacy (above) – sounds like what she’s doing living in a tiny house in her boyfriend’s back yard. Such a cool idea!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much Brie!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much for being a part of this celebration, and so many others for farther back than I’d like to admit (when you start speaking in terms of multiple decades, you know you’re getting old). I love you so much sweetie and look forward to much more Gretchen time in my 2015! Muah!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I saw a pic of you on Instagram yesterday and thought the same thing! Hair twinsies!! ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Hear hear on the alone time thing! Nice that you have it sort of built into the relationship. ;-)

    Thank you!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    YES I would love to read that paper, please do send if you can! She is one of my greatest heroes and inspirations. And girl, yes. It really is an amazing way to live. Like you said – on many levels. I hope you get to do it some day!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Sonjas! I definitely see the appeal of co-habitation, but I also think too many people just rush into it because it’s “what couples do”, without necessarily evaluating their own actual wants and needs. Sometimes it really makes sense – and a stronger relationship! – to maintain some distance.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Lysette. It is very true. And yes, beautiful . . . and terrifying!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I think two tiny houses side-by-side would be amazing though!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Christy! We really do feel so lucky to have found this situation. Unicorn indeed! ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, totally Linda! Here’s to finding the guy! *cheers*

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Alexandra, I was pretty stoked he said yes!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Angie! ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ugh, yes. =(

    So there are ~16 little cottages all bundled up together in the downtown bohemian compound where we live (only our two have the fence hole, of course), and they have to be sold together because of the land/historical relevance. And last year, they were sold to a new Corporate Owner.

    There have already been some evictions, as the developer starts going through and fixing the places up one by one, and then of course jacking the rents through the roof. The first people to be evicted were my very close friends. The whole thing has been just heartbreaking.

    So, yes, it is a very real possibility that we will have to move. Next year? Tomorrow? Who knows. We’re just trying to enjoy it while we can.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Rachel!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you Lisa!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Elizabeth!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, aww thank you Bel! I love your list – so much to love and makes me feel so grateful!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much lady – and that goes right back at you! I am a share parent, but you are a full-time single mom and you manage it all with such positivity, joy, grace, and mindfulness. You inspire me!

    Also I meant to comment on Instagram – I know you liked Waits’s Beatles shirt and I was wondering if you’d want it for P? Waits is growing out of it, and a few other cutie vintage things as well. If you email me your address I’d be happy to mail them to you!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you! I’ve never been much of a pink-lover, but sometimes, dangit, you just need sparkles and a tiara! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you, it really does feel like the perfect balance. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Aw, thank you so much!

  • rebelgrrrlraechel

    Happy belated, fellow aquarius! What a lovely soiree and such a perfect description of your living/loving set-up. : )

  • Emily

    Happy belated birthday to you!!! Looks like you had a wonderful day! I learn so much from you with all your posts, so thank you! :)

  • Rebecca Carnes

    That would be Awesome!! Our thrift stores down here are lacking in fun finds… or I’m too slow to find them in time lol. And thank you so much for the kind words, very nice to hear:):) Raising little humans is the hardest job out there, single or not – hopefully I can show P that we can make some lemonade out of the lemons in our life and just keep the positivity flowing:)

  • Rebecca Weingart

    Your living situation sounds quite ideal! I need my space! It’s important for a relationship. Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!