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…

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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.

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

Back In Action

I most definitely disappeared for a while there, didn’t I?

Well, I’m back. Like, right now. Here I am.

Things have been a little crazy lately, which unfortunately meant that writing fell on the backburner for awhile. Isn’t is strange how when life gets busy, the first things to fall on the priority list are those we love the most?

Speaking of failing miserably… One of the reasons I’ve been M.I.A. is that my computer died. And I mean OUT of commission. I’m talking crashing-programs, CD-drive-not-opening, zero-second-battery-life, cannot-even-connect-to-the-internet DONE. And get this – the little devil decided to do all this the week before the biggest presentation for the most important job interview since the beginning of all these Florida shenanigans. But there is a happy ending to this story, and it looks a little something like this:

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She’s a beaut, let me tell you. She’s a beaut. We’re going to do a lot of incredible writing together, if all goes as planned.

I do, however, have to pay tribute to my last laptop, may she rest in peace. That baby was a gift from my father after some freshman year debauchery led to a tragic accident in the living room of my first apartment. My roommates were interpretive dancing – one crouched low to the ground and waving it like she just don’t care, the other on her stomach on the kitchen island like a beached whale – and I backed out of the way a little too far and… well, to be honest, I sat on my computer. Enter my saint of a father with a new, cherished, not-to-be-messed-with saving grace of a laptop, which got me through undergrad, grad school, and two years of this blog. She managed to make it through the college years with grace, all parts intact. But her poor little letters started rubbing off during the era of graduate research papers, and scarcely a popular Wheel of Fortune letter does she have left. She got me through a lot. And then she gave up in the most dramatic fashion possible, right when she knew she’d be screwing me over the most. I only have myself to blame for that one though. She probably learned it from her mom.

So I just mentioned before that I was just about to deliver the presentation of a lifetime when the technological soap opera began. That’s the other reason I fell off the face of the earth. One of the last posts I wrote (which you can find here) detailed the struggles I was having as a young professional who has found herself unemployed and housewifing it up 3000 miles from friends, family, and a little place called home. I was having issues breaking into my field on this side of the country, and for reasons completely beyond my control. Well, I am happy to report that I have had the longest three months of my professional life and have now completed a total of four phone interviews, five in-person interviews, three high-pressure presentations, and countless sleepless nights. I haven’t accepted a position yet, but exciting things may be just on the horizon. Fingers crossed! All will be revealed shortly, as things begin to solidify themselves. So with all that over and done with, my unplanned hiatus is up, as are my hopes.

So that’s my little love note to you. Big things are happening, little things are happening, and I’d love for you to stick around while I continue to navigate whatever life can throw at me when I least expect it.

And just for the record, that is not a challenge, Life. While I’ve caught the career twists and health surprises and the cross-country moves and the falling in love with extremely tall blond Midwestern men, I am officially letting you know I need a break, okay? I know, I know, I hear you laughing. I guess, it’s time to gear up and crouch down Posey-style.

(P.S. My Giants won the World Series. Did you think I was going to leave that unsaid?)

xo

Right In Our New Backyard: First Gator Sightings

A few days ago, Bill and I decided we needed to get out of the house. He had an unexpected day off, and we found ourselves sleeping in (like we always do), going to the gym (like we always do), and still trying to figure out what to do with our day by 3 p.m. (like we always do). Still without a job solidified, I’ll be damned if I spend one more day lounging around the house when there is a whole new Florida world outside.

Oh man, did we find it.

Now, we’ve eaten at a lot of new restaurants, we’ve checked out the movie theaters and the comedy club, and we’ve seen our fair share of the inside of Fort Myers’ bars. What we hadn’t seen yet was the REAL Florida. Being from California, we weren’t really sure how to get outside in this part of the country without – first – melting, and – second – finding ourselves at the beach. Complaining about the former? Yes. Complaining about the latter? Not a chance.

But in all seriousness, we moved from a beautiful area with hiking galore and vineyards everywhere and amazing running trails and long bike paths and sand volleyball courts and amazing beaches. Not that they don’t have some of those here, but with the miserable humidity and the severe lack of local knowledge, I’ve been missing me some nature.

So I googled “Fort Myers hiking”, which was stupid because this place is FLAT. What came up wasn’t hiking, per se, but a plethora of nature preserves and trails and what have you. Well, we picked one. And HOLY SHIT.

We drove about 8 miles east, which took about 15 minutes, and found ourselves at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Now just a reminder, a preserve is an area of land that is protected so that the plants and animals can remain safely in their natural habitat. Safely in their natural habitat… both FREE and WILD. So imagine our delight when we found that this particular preserve built a boardwalk trail winding past lakes and ponds and through a forest about a foot above a swamp. The skinny planks did have a railing on either side except for when it didn’t, and there was really nothing from stopping any of the wildlife from climbing up there with us.

You guys, we found FLORIDA.

We started out the walk next to what was called Gator Lake. We stopped at the man-made viewing point to stare at the water for quite a few minutes before realizing that the namesake gator was not going to show himself. Bill made some comment about how placid that lake was, and I wanted to punch him a little because it reminded me of that monster movie from the ’90s about some made-up lake in Maine that was home to an enormous man-eating crocodile, and there actually is a Lake Placid in Florida. Oh, and I am apparently terrified of the very idea of alligators, because even though we hadn’t seen one yet, I know they are out there and it’s been giving me nightmares. (Apparently the thing to say if you’re Floridian and you are talking to me is something like this: “Just assume there is an alligator in every body of water. Even if you can’t see him, he’s in there…” Um, thank you? That’s terrifying.)

So here’s our placid lake and my wonderful husband.IMG_6587

At this point, which was really only a few minutes into our walk, I was starting to think we wouldn’t see too much. But the lo and behold, what I believe to be a flamingo flew by. I say “believe” because while this is the second time I have seen a flamingo actually flying in Florida, and even though I have googled it numerous times and confirmed that, yes, in fact, they do live here and they do fly… I still can’t wrap my head around it. But, THIS.Flamingo

We walked a little farther, and soon we heard a rustling just off the boardwalk that did not make us jump. This little guy was munching away to our right, where the railing had disappeared. Not in the least bit scared, was he.

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But then we heard a rustling behind us on the lake side, which made me pretty much jump out of my pants. Whipping my head quickly around to scan the water where the ruckus had come from, I saw small scaly stripes worming their way through the algae floating near the edge of the lake. “Bill, what is that? Is it a lizard? A snake? WAIT. Are those…?” BABY ALLIGATORS.

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Now, I don’t know about you, but I count SIX of those things.

Gators

Okay, one more time. Closer.

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If I know anything about alligators, it’s that mamas don’t like anything or anyone messing with their babies. These puppies are so brand new that she can’t be far. Time to keep walking. FAST.

The pathway lead us away from the lake and into the trees, which was unlike anywhere I’d ever been.

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I couldn’t believe we were in the middle of this.

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Just below was the murky swamp water, generally swarming with activity from bugs or frogs or other I-have-no-idea-what-is-in-there things.

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I couldn’t take enough pictures.

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The first turnout we came to led us down a bridge to Wood Duck Pond. We thought for sure we’d see a gator here, but instead we just heard bog noises coming from over here and over there and never seeing what made them. It’s a little unsettling when a giant splash happens a little way to the left, and all you see when you look over is a huge ripple in the water.

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Continuing on through the trees…

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…admiring the beauty around, above, and below us…

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…nabbing the photo ops that abounded. Here, at Otter Pond.

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After a few hot and rainy days, the sun was finally showing it’s face again, highlighting the gorgeous Florida clouds. Seriously, they’re the coolest.

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The colors and the textures were mind-blowing. Who knows what’s under there though…

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Okay, so time for a dirty little secret. I’m a birder. Like, for reals. I have birding binoculars and field guides. I guess that would be a “nerdy little secret”, wouldn’t it?

But right after I’d made some comment about not seeing any birds and how disappointed I was about that (I mean, come on Ashleigh… AMIRIGHT), Bill was the one to spot this little Black-crowned Night Heron standing as still as a statue on a log. Whether he was hunting for food or pretending we couldn’t see him, I didn’t care. He stayed put long enough for me to get a good look at him before continuing down the line and leaving him be.
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I knew we were about to come to a little place called Pop Ash Pond, a name which I am rather fond of. Childish? Don’t care.

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What happened next was entirely unexpected at this point.

THEY’RE REAL.

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Please forgive the quality of my iPhone camera, but COME ON.

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He was just chillin’! Hanging out! And couldn’t care less that we were sitting there watching him! AND HE DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO COME OVER AND ATTACK US.

But a lack of gator attack (which is ridiculous to begin with, I know), didn’t mean that Florida was going to let us out without ramping up the grand finale in the worst ways possible. NOPE. Of course it would just throw one of these at us, in the form of Bill walking right by it without noticing, and me, who isn’t too afraid of snakes, pointing it out to him in the worst way possible. “Omigod, BILL. Look left!”

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SEE. I told you there was nothing stopping them from getting up there. But so far, I had handled everything. The gator had probably been the worst part, since now I can’t ignorantly pretend that they don’t exist. The snake? Ain’t no big thing. In fact, I know myself well enough that as I kept getting closer and closer to take a picture and being fully aware that I don’t feel the level of fear necessary to keep me away from such things, I asked, “Bill, is this stupid? Am I being stupid? I want to get pictures, but I need you to tell me if I’m being stupid.” Apparently, I was being stupid.

BUT THEN. Oh my goodness, BUT THEN. I didn’t lose my shit until this guy popped up. And then another one showed up on the railing, and then I had to walk a foot by another one. It was as if my worst nightmares were crawling out of hiding just in time to finish off our awesome afternoon in the worst way.

I. HATE. GRASSHOPPERS.IMG_6561

That thing was the size of my finger, and I’ll have you know that picture is blurry because it was purely for the purpose of this blog and not for my own well-being or enjoyment. In fact, I may have taken it while walking in the opposite direction very quickly. Let’s be real, it was time to get the hell out. After all that, when the bugs come out, I’m done. I seriously CANNOT.

So now we’ve had our formal introduction to Florida. We got down and dirty and exclaimed, “ohhhhh holy shit” enough times to pass the test, I think. And here we are, in the thick of it, just the two of us coming out swinging.

Unless there are bugs. Then, hell no.

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Let the adventures continue…