We recently moved to a very "urban" part of town, and I am constantly struck by how privileged I was growing up. It has been hitting me more and more, which is one of the reasons we wanted to raise our kids in the big city -- they need to see something other than middle-class white their whole lives. The process has been difficult in ways, and uncomfortable, but I think the benefits outweigh the struggle.

First, homelessness is rampant in Los Angeles. Tents are everywhere and our kids ask about them. "Are they camping in the park?" they ask. "They live there," I respond, prompting a gratefulness for our cozy apartment with a solid roof over our heads. At a recent trip to the DMV, a homeless man walked right up to the trashcan and pulled out a quarter-eaten hot dog, taking a few bites before walking away. I can't imagine that being a reality in my life, but it is to a lot of people, and we need to know that and relate to them in some way.

Second, our neighborhood is kind of dirty. I don't really like this part, and it is highly contrasted when we visit our friends that live in nicer parts of town. There, the grass is literally greener, not to mention perfectly manicured. Stay-at-home Moms walk their kids to soccer camp and pick up Starbucks for the whole family along the way, their children indulging on those stupid chocolate ice drinks that still cost $4 for some reason. Honestly, I don't blame anyone for wanting to pay more to have a clean place to live, where everything is nice and safe and contained. But I am also glad to expose my kids to something different -- not dangerous or filthy -- but just a little different. This is the reality for most folks that grow up in this city, and it's good to know what else is out there.

Who could complain with a room like this?

Apartment living in itself is an adjustment, one that has been frustrating for me probably more than the kids. We have been charged with the challenge of fitting a 1500 square-foot house into a 900 square-foot apartment. I always kind of prided our family on living minimally, but I am finding we still have a long way to go! The initial steps of moving in have been a two-week process of taking boxes out, finding a place for the stuff, often hanging shelves or moving things around to create that space, and then moving on to another box. We are almost done but still have to get rid of more to fit it all in! I guess it's good in the long run -- stuff weighs you down, right?

I could go on and on, but as I meet more and more people that grow up in this world, and as we immerse ourselves in it now, I can't help but feel so lucky to have grown up the way I did. For me, college wasn't a far-off dream, but an expectation. It would have been weird for me not to go to college -- I'm finding that isn't the case here. Leaving home to pursue dreams? Not an option with these folks; it is just get a job that helps you survive. We can afford a two-bedroom with enough space for a cool bunk bed with a slide for the girls -- a lot of families here cram four, five, six people into a one-bedroom. How lucky are we?!

You could argue that all of this is a result of decisions we have made in our lives, but even those decisions were planted by the families we were born into, and then supported by those same folks. The whole thing results in an increased attitude of gratitude, and sucks the life out of complaining. How can I complain about anything when I have so much? And in the privileged Western American world we live in, gratitude is so lacking and complaining is so rampant, that I can't help but be thankful even for the experiences we are having right now.