Unafraid to Beg

For a while I was one of those who heard the latest news of whatever horrific thing had happened on a given day, and for a moment I ached on the inside. But by the next day, a new and tragic occurrence became national news, and the ache of the day before faded and a new one took its place.

However, somewhere along the way, the aching fog ceased to evaporate before the new storm rolled in, and day built upon day built upon taxing, trying day. Slowly yet surely, 2015 has become the year of my broken heart. From mass shootings to suicide bombings, from corrupt politics to religious extremists, from scarcity of resources to lack of access, and to wars on everything from terrorism to drugs to poverty to hunger to women to everything in between and more, something in me has changed.

I have come to the place where I am frightened. I am frightened of what is, what has been, and what is to come. Let me begin by saying that I have been a child begging for candy or toys or ice cream. I have been a teenager begging for extended curfews and gas money and the newest clothes. I have been a grown woman begging for Chanel bags and Louboutins and Tiffany’s diamonds and whatever else is sparkly and shiny and will most definitely make me whole. This time. For sure.

However, I have now experienced the true meaning of begging, and I am ashamed.  I am ashamed of my ignorance and my frivolity and my naivety. I am ashamed for all of those times I’ve said “I’m starving” when really just I hadn’t eaten for 3 hours. For all of those times I’ve moaned “Everything hurts and I’m dying” after leg day at the gym. For the times I’ve whined “I have nothing to wear” while standing in a walk-in closet full of $200 jeans and boots and tops. For every time I’ve groaned “I don’t want to go to work” simply because I’d rather be lounging around at home reading US Weekly and watching HGTV. For every time I said “I’m so broke”, but I am quite certain I bought myself a latte from Starbucks that very same morning. For all of those times I yelled “I can’t take that goddamn noise anymore” when the neighbors were being too loud. And for all of those times I’ve uttered “My parents are driving me nuts” when they are just trying to take care of me or pay for something or help me spread my wings and fly.

I am ashamed.

There are souls out there who don’t know where their children’s next meal is coming from, nevermind how they will quell the sound of their own growling stomachs while standing tall in the face of their little ones.

Or who lost their limbs or sight or faces or genitalia or dignity or lives in minefields and gas attacks and acid throwing and “traditional” ceremonies and hate crimes and for simply having the courage to go to school.

Or who walk miles and miles a day without shoes for the possibility of a bucketful of uncontaminated, “clean” water, but only if the pump is working that day.

Or who would gladly trade a day of hard labor, shredding their hands and burning their skin and dehydrating their bodies, just to send $1.50 to the family they’ve left thousands of miles away in war-torn countries who may or may not be alive on the other end to receive the envelope they purchased with what little change they could spare.

Or who sleep under bridges or next to dumpsters or under bushes to find some warmth or stay out of the rain or to not be a “nuisance” to the fine citizens of the upstanding town they love but in which will never feel welcome.

Or who fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning and walk through the streets of their cities to a soundtrack of bombs and artillery and screams of the dying and sobs of the barely surviving whose loved ones will never hold them or be held by them again.

Or finally, who were left on doorsteps or thrown out with the trash or kidnapped by strangers or ripped from their homes and may never have parents to know or to love as they are herded from home to temporary home to be shamed, abused, and scarred until the world kicks them out of a broken system into a mere existence, not a life.

For the majority of my life prior to this moment in time, my upper middle class upbringing indirectly ingrained in me that begging was undignified. It required a lack of pride, a lack of self-respect, and a lack of work ethic. This was never explicitly stated in my household or taught in school, but rather in society’s judgments and prejudices and merciless impositions.

And yet today, I have come to understand the true meaning. Dictionary.com defines “to beg” as “to ask for as a gift, as charity, or as a favor; to ask (someone) to give or do something; to implore”. To me this definition only a fragment of the story. It is lacking a necessary, critical piece.

To those who have truly had to beg, you know that begging does not simply mean to ask. It comes with a sensation that overcomes your whole being mentally, emotionally, and physically. Begging comes with an ache, a throbbing, an excruciating pain deep within not your chest, not your heart, but from within your very SOUL, and you cannot come back from it. To beg comes with a searing need for the most basic good, which should be so easy, so simple, and yet is being withheld for no obvious reason. One that feeds into a circumstance so unfathomable that it shouldn’t exist at all… but there it is in front of you, around you, within everything you see and feel. When every cell in your body, every inch of your skin, every fiber of your being is silently screaming for someone, anyone, to help relieve the unnecessary burden that has become our world, then you will know what it truly means to beg.

So it is with a heavy broken heart, a cloak of humility, and an ocean of tears in my desperate eyes that I beg.

I beg for peace.

I beg for kindness, for goodness, for compassion.

I beg for wisdom, for mindfulness, for patience.

I  beg for courage, for acceptance, for generosity.

And above all, I beg for you to join me.

Begging for Peace

12 Put on then… compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other…14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14
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Little Girl Dreams, Big Girl Dreams

You hear it all the time: Every little girl dreams about growing up, falling in love with a handsome prince, and getting married.

But then little girls grow up and dreams evolve into something a little more… complicated.

All of a sudden we are 25 years old, and we’ve seen some things. We are no longer looking simply for a prince, but now for a good-looking, gainfully employed, DECENT human being who:

  1. Loves us unconditionally
  2. Doesn’t mind our flaws
  3. Cooks gourmet meals every night
  4. Cleans like there is no tomorrow
  5. Rubs our feet (every once in a while)
  6. Buys us flowers (every once in a while)
  7. Carries his own weight (all the time, please)
  8. Has the same house/babies/travel/babies timeline and expectations, and…
  9. Doesn’t snore

But then you find the love of your life, and it doesn’t matter that the only thing they can operate in the kitchen is the microwave, their shoes are everywhere ALL THE TIME, sometimes you have to pick up their slack, and they aren’t sure about the whole house/babies/travel/babies thing because, well, MONEY.

But let’s be honest, you’re only half-decent-looking, finding a job is harder than you thought it would be, you burn everything you cook, you leave YOUR shit all over the house ALL THE TIME, and you’re not even sure you want the house/babies/travel/ohmigodwaitbabies/all-I-want-is-to-quit-my-job-and-travel thing at all anymore because, well, QUARTER LIFE CRISIS.

All the things you thought you wanted don’t matter anymore because after all the frogs you kissed, here he (or she, for heaven’s sake!) is here in front of you, being all perfectly imperfect, and that’s just fine with you, and you’re all like #ithinkiwannamarryyou.

Oh, marriage. That’s a sweet idea.

But marriages usually mean weddings, and what a gargoyle that is. What used to be a sweet little fairytale playing in your head has now transformed into a monstrous beast. Now that dream must be living, breathing, and perfect or you might as well not have a wedding at all. And then there is the adjective-of-all-adjectives: PINTEREST-WORTHY. There will be no compromising, negotiating, sticking to the budget, or anything less than impeccable about it, or pretty little heads will roll. With the wedding industry constantly upping the bar with ever more ridiculous, more spectacular, more “they did what?!?!”… Well, it’s getting harder and harder to measure up.

And the holy grail of  wedding perfection? The Knot, obvi.

The online mecca of anything and everything nuptial receives submissions for ceremony after reception after elopement after happily ever after, so to make it onto their Real Weddings feature seems like a pipe dream to most.

So imagine my surprise when we made it.

Yes, WE MADE IT ON THE KNOT.

Behold…

A Cheerful Yellow Wedding at Greengate Ranch & Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, CaliforniaThe KnotSweet, sweet validation for the hard work, the stress, and loving each other enough to still get married after 13 months of wedding planning.

It’s not often that we receive this kind of acclaim over here on Do(hot mess)ticated, so let us rejoice in this fleeting victory.

Pin away, bitches!

PIN. A. WAY.

A State of the Universe Address

Dear Fellow Citizens of the World,

(With a special shoutout to the general public of the City of Fort Myers, FL)

I think it is time we put this all out on the table. Are you ready? Because this may just rock your world, as it is something I’m not sure you’ve ever been made aware of before.

Here it goes: I am not more important than you, and you are not superior to me. In fact, despite what you’ve been taught, we are existentially equitable. There are even some people, like say the world’s most prominent historical figures, philosophers, thought leaders, and perhaps even your own God, who believe we are all one. In this together. We all suffer, we all bleed red, and the like. Quite the concept, isn’t it?

So, feel free, at any time, to stop aggressively cutting me off daily without so much as a turn signal, purposely ramming my cart with yours at Costco while making eye contact, taking the liberty to physically move me out of your way without so much as an “excuse me”, attempting to walk through me at the supermarket, darting across three lanes of heavy traffic with complete awareness that you are putting yourself before the safety of others, talking over me at any given moment to talk about yourself, aggressively inserting yourself into my space bubble sans invitation just for funsies, and just generally going through life with conscious yet utter disregard for the existence of other human beings.

Yup, that just happened. You can read it again, just in case you don’t believe I actually wrote it. I know it may sound controversial, crazy, ABSURD even… but I’m not worried about your reaction. I’m not concerned you are going to say something stupid or put me down or even run me out of town with pitchforks because, well, you are apparently already trying.

At first, I chalked up your outrageous behavior to cultural differences. Maybe people here are just different than where I grew up, because we sure don’t act like that. Next, I checked the mirror to make sure there was nothing distasteful about my appearance or offensive about my odor. I then did some self-reflection on my own behavior, examining whether or not I may be contributing to such a hostile environment. Finally, I even spent some time assuming that I am more sensitive than most other people and that probably played a huge part in the self-important airs you put off.

Now after all of that, I’m not so sure it’s me anymore. Actually, I’m quite certain it’s you.

I have tried being patient with you. I have tried consulting with those who have managed to be polite, respectful, and all-around-wonderful individuals in this dog-eat-dog world as to what may be going through your egotistical heads. I have tried practicing to maintain a peaceful inner environment while your obnoxiousness wafts through the smug air. I have tried putting vibes of graciousness, gratitude, and benefits-of-a-doubt out in the universe in hopes that like attracts like. I have even tried employing the passive RBF (for those of you who do not have one, I am referring to Resting Bitch Face) that I have been so fortuitously blessed with, in hopes that you will please just leave me the fuck alone.

In summary, I have tried killing you with kindness. However, your thoughtlessness and lack of consideration just WILL NOT DIE.

The only tactics I have yet to try would be going completely ballistic on one of you in public or exploiting the cathartic benefits of the writing process through ranting on my blog. And while the former is by far the more tempting option, you can see I have chosen to go with the latter. You can thank me later, when you finally manage to pull a certain cerebral body part out of the specific orifice into which you have elected to insert it.

With that explanation-cum-cry-of-outreach, I have now officially gone 99% of the way for you, but there is still the issue of that measly 1% still waiting to be reciprocated. Let me give you a hint on how to accomplish this.

Choose one of the following, and employ it. I’ve even made you a list so you don’t have to think that hard. All you have to do is pick one: consideration, kindness, courtesy, compassion, patience, empathy, grace, altruism, honesty, benevolence, respect, good will toward men (and women and everyone in between – yes, there is an in-between)… Hell, I’ll even give you common decency to try on for a change.

I highly encourage you to give any or all of these a go. Because let’s be honest, the world already has war. The world already has natural disasters. The world already has hunger and poverty and abuse and terrorism and oppressive politics and race/sex/age/all-the-other “–isms”. The world has depression and anxiety and fear and hopelessness and sadness. The world has people walking around with cancer and scars and unequal rights and loved ones they will never see again. And the world absolutely has more than enough assholes without you nominating yourself as the crème de la crème over and over every few minutes or so.

So here’s the deal.

Your current modus operandi doesn’t make you better than everyone else. It actually just makes you suck. So I want you to think about this: take a second today to contemplate your place in this world. If everyone just stopped being a dick for a minute, that’s a whole lot of minutes without dicks. And even better, if everyone just actively behaved with a little more integrity, imagine what could happen! I would gladly emulate Oprah and make sure everyone in the audience got a little integrity to take home. Or maybe this is out of the question, but would it be too much to ask for you to throw a random act of kindness out there once in a while? You would be surprised by what one simple gesture can manifest into when 7 billion simple gestures happen in the same day.

As for a conclusion to this passive aggressive soapbox rant, let’s play a little game. Put the spotlight on your reaction to reading this. If you thought, “She’s right, and I can be a kinder/more thoughtful/all around better person,” you are most likely on of the “polite, respectful, and all-around-wonderful individuals” I mentioned above. But if you’re the person reading this and thinking “Yeah, those assholes are the worst” or “This girl’s an idiot”, or if you’re even having an inkling of simple denial with “This surely isn’t about me”… Well, actually, it probably is about you. Sorry to tell you this, but it’s time to get your shit together. Because when you get to end of your life and you DIE, do you want everyone to thank their God, whoever He may be? Or would you rather they ask Him to make more people like you? Think about it. Think about it hard.

With all my love,

Ashleigh Halter

The New Nest!

Okay, okay, okay…

I know I’ve been getting a lot of flack because I haven’t told you all what happened with the house. Well, here’s the deal:

My husband and I bought a house.

I bought a house with my husband.

There is this house, right? And my husband and I bought it.

So, um, basically…

WE GOT THE HOUSE!!!

I had to write that first part three times. This is for a couple reasons. First, because it doesn’t quite feel real, and secondly, because… this can’t really be real, right? The last few weeks have been INTENSE. We made an offer, he countered the offer, we accepted his new offer. We had a home inspection, and we had an appraisal. We’ve been signing loan docs for so long, we step outside and forget what the sun looks like. We negotiated repairs, and got denied those repairs. We had professionals come out and inspect all sorts of things, and with those opinions, we made more repairs requests. And then those were accepted! So here it is, my lovelies…

Home Pic

The Halter Hacienda! She needs a little tender love and care, just the way I like ’em. Big dreams are coming true everyone. Big dreams.

Let the countdown to closing begin.

Crossed Fingers, Beating Hearts, and Held Breaths

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep. In fact, any endeavor to fall back into dreamland would be rendered totally useless at this point, so I’m up and at my computer telling you all about it. I’m a hot mess.

One of the reasons we decided to move to Florida was that the ridiculously affordable housing market (compared to California *sniff*), hit hard in 2008 and hopefully on its way back up, would allow us the opportunity to buy our first house.

Fingers crossed.

So after 8 months in Florida, we have a loan pre-approval letter and are in DEEP with the house hunting. I’ve been maintaining high alert on the MLS, constantly flipping through pictures and favorite-ing and possibly-ing and running down the hallway from my office to that of my coworker-slash-real-estate-agent Jessica. We’ve seen who-knows-how-many houses, probably over 20, and none of them have really done much for me. Until last night.

One house has been on my mind from the beginning of this darn search. I’ve looked at the photos over and over, oohing and ahhhing over all the fun things to be had and the upgrades to be made. I’ve driven past it on 3 separate occasions, and I’ve begged Jess to get us in to walk through it. Every attempt to view it was declined due to something on the seller’s end. But then came yesterday, when Jess worked her magic, and even though Bill was at work, I got in it last night.

Be still my beating heart. I am in love.

I loved everything about it. As I walked through it, I saw my family staying in the guest rooms. I saw our Christmas tree in the front room. I saw myself cooking in that kitchen. I saw the potential to upgrade and invest in every room. And for goodness sake, I saw our (currently non-existent) baby in the den off the master. I want this place.

After a stock exchange-style evening, during which I was at home alone (as per usual) and on the phone with the alternating line-up of Bill, my dad, and Jessica, the stars seemed to be aligning in a little ways. My morning was unexpectedly cleared for today before this mess even appeared, and the selling agent agreed to let us in again with less than 24 hours notice before Bill goes to work. We calculated out our monthly mortgage payments, discussed our options, and debated long and hard. This was doable.

But in true Florida fashion, the listing agent informed us that he is expecting two offers – one last night and one this morning. This puppy is about to get swept off the market like every other stinking house in this joint. As with all the other homes out there, it could quickly slip through our trembling little fingers. So what do we do? Well, we are going to make an offer, which in every way is both excitingly adult-like and absolutely terrifying. I don’t want to like you so much, little house. I’m afraid I’ll get my heart broken.

But if we want this little big dream to come true, we’ve got to carpe that diem. So today is the day.

I’m holding my breath. Maybe you could too?

♥♥♥

Thanks, WordPress, for the “2014 In Review”

Just got my annual report from WordPress! I’ll definitely be trying to beat this in 2015 (if I can ever get my head wrapped around my crazy new job…

Thanks to the WordPress.com “stats helper monkeys”!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Are You There Career? It’s Me, Ashleigh.

After months of asking the universe this question, it FINALLY ANSWERED.

I have now officially been employed for three whole days, and even though the world can’t get much brighter than November in Florida, it most certainly has. On Monday I got up at 6 a.m., made my safe a healthy protein packed breakfast, and dusted off my old work wardrobe. Heading out the door felt good. Really good. So how did all this finally come about?

I took a risk, that’s how. A huge, scary, life-threatening (okay, maybe not) risk. Long story short, I applied for a double-digit number of jobs, and at first, I was having very little luck getting through HR as I relayed in this post from a few weeks ago. My final big push of applications went through in the middle of August, with a few trickling randos to follow. I ended up getting four phone interviews and four final interviews for five different jobs, which was both amazing and amazingly stressful at the same time. However, things became really complicated as I learned more about each opportunity and met more people, and one particular position stood out among the others. It became even more interesting when that hiring process got pushed back and prolonged, while the others swiftly took off at breakneck speed. My greatest fear, of course, was not getting a job. My second greatest fear was having to take the wrong job.  One by one, the positions for which I completed final interviews called with offers. What came next was a full 24 hours of feeling honored and nervous breakdowns, trying to decide whether to take it or go full-out for the one I really wanted. My heart knew where it wanted to go, but my head was panicking. Ultimately, I chose to risk it, and as a former career counselor, I know full-well that these risks can go either way to the extreme. In my case…

It paid off.

I’m officially an Eagle.

FGCU Shirt

I’m so excited to report that after five painstaking months of unemployment in a state where I knew no one, I accepted a position as an Academic Advisor for Special Populations in an amazing office full of incredible people at Florida Gulf Coast University. A school that is well-known for it’s dedication to sustainability, service-learning and… Dunk City! Check it out:

Already I feel a sense of purpose, a life-permeating stimulation, a welcome exhaustion. Not to mention that after two years of major life changes (jobs, graduations, surgeries, getting married) and major risks (moving to Florida, quitting my job, you know, the usual), I finally feel a small sense of stability creeping in. I know where I am going to be in the next couple of years – a concept that is alien to me. We’re officially DINKS (dual-income, no kids) again, and although we have some catching up to do, we are off to the races. FINALLY.

So today I am thankful for my career. For the opportunities I am so lucky to have. For finding a purpose in helping others. For Bill supporting me through this rough patch and some very dark days.

Oh, and the teeny tiny, completely unspectacular, not at all awe-inspiring view from my office window.

Office View

How on earth did I get here? This is was gratitude feels like.

xo