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 Life of a News Wife

So this is what it feels like.

In a post that went up a little while ago, I wrote that Bill and I were staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. And then I didn’t tell you a thing about what I was talking about, like a big jerk. Well, I finally have permission to announce that we have in fact pulled the trigger, there are some major life changes underway, and I actually am about this close to have an aneurysm.

In five days, Bill and I are moving to Florida.

Yes, you read that right. FLORIDA. Just about as far as you can get from my lifelong home – my beautiful Golden State of California – without leaving the United States. It is exactly 2846 miles – or a 42-hour drive (39 with no traffic) from our home in San Luis Obispo, CA, to the front door of our new townhouse in Fort Myers, FL. That is so ridiculously far that I simply cannot handle it.

It has been a long while since I’ve posted something on this little heart-of-my-heart blog of mine, and that is because the process has been overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and exhausting.  It has been so hard for me to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to write anything coherent, and I’m pretty sure that I still can’t so bear with me. We also made the decision not to share until contracts were signed and everything was officially official, which was excruciating for me. There is nothing I wanted more than to fill you in, but I couldn’t. So here we are now, and I’m probably smacking you in the face with this news in exactly the same way I was smacked in the face two months ago.

When I chose to marry Bill, I knew that I was choosing more than just a partner in life, but a specific lifestyle as well, and one that was very different from anything and everything I’d ever known. The lifestyle of someone working in news has its glamorous side, which most of you probably recognize. Being a “local celebrity” as people often put it, people saying “hi” on the street, never having a dull day at work, the perks that come with it, and the like. These are all great, and Bill handles each of these so humbly and kindly that my face nearly falls off just watching him sometimes. However, there is a side of the business that not many realize, and that is the nomadic nature of moving up and being successful as a journalist. When Bill and I first met, I wasn’t too aware of this commitment to this imminent upheaval. I was, however, committed to him from the start, and I soon found out that he was to me as well. Going way back to one of our first dates, I divulged a secret. I told him that even though I had just started my job at the station where we both worked, I had recently been accepted to grad school and had made the decision to go. I was so nervous about telling him, mostly because I worried for the security of my paycheck for the rest of the summer and the possibility of severely disappointing my new boss, who took me under her wing and called me her little protege. What I didn’t realize until he told me later in our relationship was that my committing to a two-year grad program could have also meant I might lose Bill, squashing any dreams of marrying the hunk of a man sitting across from me. That was because the end of his first two-year contract was fast approaching, and he had just recently gotten his reel and his resume together to fly off to the next opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t lose him, and he chose to quit his job search and re-sign a new contract for another two years, allowing us to date and eventually get engaged while I finish my grad program.

Within three months of meeting, Bill took me home to Minnesota to meet his family and attend a college teammate’s wedding. It was an incredible whirlwind of a trip, but I will always remember a specific conversation we had while he drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to California. (I was leaving a few days earlier than he was for work.) After such a crazy weekend, we finally had a moment to ourselves, and Bill took the chance to address a giant elephant in the backseat of the car on that Minneapolis freeway. He explained that his business came with interesting circumstances: the promise of relocating with no promise of where. Basically, an agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, manages the job search, blasting out feelers and resume tapes all across the country, incessantly checking openings and communicating with potential landing pads. If the materials catch a station’s eye, the correspondence begins, the journalist is flown out, negotiations get underway, and – BOOM – new station, new city, new life.

As a career counselor currently working in the liberal arts, I knew this, and I explain this process to many, many students in the journalism department at my university. “It’s a difficult business. You have to work your way up from station to station. You may have to take a job in an obscure market and live in a small town for awhile to build up your experience.” It’s a fact of life. I lay it out, no fluff. In fact, Bill and I have always joked about Bangor-freaking-Maine, as the place we could end up, settle down, and live forever until we died in our sleep of old age in that god-forsaken New England town. (I apologize to anyone in Bangor, Maine. I have never been there nor known when to take my foot out of my mouth.) However, despite all this unemotional real talk, it is another beast entirely to live it. Enter into our lives Fort Myers, which I had no idea existed until about two months ago.

It’s such a strange thing, to have someone else take control of the job search, if you can even call it that, as it really should be called more of a “job wait”. Once Bill got his reel and his resume together (with a little help from his personal career counselor), he simply sent them off to his agent in Chicago. After a few edits, he continued to chug along at his current gig, sometimes going weeks without talking to the big man in Chi-Town. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Quickly. Too quickly. So quickly that almost two months later, I’m still not sure what’s happening. It was as if Bill was a fish, swimming through silent water filled with fishing lines and hooks ominously hanging still all around him. Every once in a while, one would twitch slightly, causing panic but ultimately being dubbed a false alarm. Then, in the eerie quiet while Bill and I were looking left at the hook at the end of the line from, say, Minneapolis or Las Vegas, one snapped into his gills from the right and shot us both up and out of the water into a strange foreign world, where the sun was too bright and we didn’t know how to breathe the air and the noises were deafening compared to peace below the surface.

“Where in the hell is Fort Myers, Florida?” was likely my verbatim answer, the only possible deviation being the choice of expletive I used.

So fast forward a few weeks, and here we are. Bill flew out on his own and spent two quick nights there, mostly with the station. These days were agonizing for me, as his “interview” and “orientation”, for lack of better words, lasted 13 hours without a chance to call and update his poor little bird of a wife at home. Drawing up an offer seemed to take weeks, but when it landed in Bill’s hands it was all happening way to fast. We deliberated and anguished and lamented and marinated in this crazy idea, letting our imaginations run wild with the infinite possibilities (him) and the imminent crumblings of all that is good and holy in this world (me). We talked about our life plans for careers and a family. We hashed out logistics for three grueling hours at a time. We created pros and cons lists and talked to our parents and lost sleep. I rattled on about alligators and hurricanes and humidity and nile monitor lizards eating our dog and giant-ass bugs flying into my newly frizzy and unmanageable mess of hair. We almost made a decision, and then we didn’t. We got close to saying the words, but they got stuck in our throats. One day we knew we had to go, and the next we were sure we couldn’t. And then one morning before Bill went to work, he addressed what we had discussed so many times before: that the news business can be inconducive to having a family and a home and a steady and secure life. We knew this. While some of his colleagues had made it work through the flexibility and willingness of their spouses and others simply love their careers too much to be anything but truly happy, many of our other journalist friends had faced the difficult music in this area, and we had heard their regrets firsthand. Bill confessed that he saw his soon-to-be-expiring contract as an opportunity to get out of the business, to settle in San Luis Obispo, and to allow me to shine in my dream job, and honestly, a HUGE part of me wanted that more than anything. However, part of my very nature – and one of the reasons I love my job so much – is that I can fully see the light in someone’s eyes and feel the heat radiating from the fire in their bones when their work and their passions are one in the same. It was clear that one of the most vibrant examples of this was staring me in the face with his big, beautiful blue eyes. Bill had wanted this career since the day he came out of the womb, and I knew what I had to do. “You’re right, this might be a great opportunity to get out of the business. But look at us. I have my master’s degree, you’re done with your job, we don’t have kids. There’s nothing holding us back. Maybe this is the time to lean in, to really give this business a shot, and to take this opportunity. This doesn’t happen every day, and maybe we can’t let this slip away.” I didn’t want Bill to spend the rest of his life wondering “what if?” and regretting his decision or resenting me. The next morning I sat on the edge of the bed just after Bill had woken up, swallowed hard, and said, “Let’s go to Florida.” And then we cried.

So here we are, five days from moving day. Our house is utter chaos, and our belongings have been reduced to brown boxes. Goodbye parties have happened (with a few more on the horizon), and I’ve seen some people that I love nearly and dearly for the last time for what could potentially be a very long time. I have two days left at work before I leave a job and an office that have felt more like a dream and a family than work. We have a site unseen townhouse waiting for us in a gated community we don’t know in a city I’ve never been to. I have panicked and sobbed and grieved in sadness, and I have laughed and squealed and hugged in hope.

I do have pictures and tips and ridiculous anecdotes from the journey so far, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the time to include those. Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I hope you know that writing this and sharing this has helped me immensely, knowing that some of you are in this with me. Please know that you are invited to follow along on our adventure of a lifetime, from the roadtrip across the southern United States to the new house to the amazing new friends and opportunities we are about to find in our tropical paradise. And even though I waver between wondering what the hell we have gotten ourselves into and feeling the thrill of an uncertain future, one thing is for sure: we’re doing this.

This is the life of a news wife.

Brunch Me: Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

I know that Mother’s Day was more than a week ago. However, I hope that this is more of a testament to how much what I am going to write about is so freaking delicious that I’m still thinking about it 12 days later and less of incriminating evidence as to how long it took me to actually get my act together to write this.  Benefit of a doubt here, my friends.

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, my lovelies: THIS.

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Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata!

Many of you know that I live too far from my family to visit for a typical weekend, what with a 7-hour drive either way and no financially feasible flight options between San Luis Obispo and Redding. Seriously, check it out. It’s absurd. What this means around this particular time of year is that I miss my mom terribly on Mother’s Day. I call her multiple times, I send her plenty of cards, and this year I ordered her a curated album of our wedding pictures. I’m sure she feels the love, but something is still missing here on the lonely mom-less Central Coast. So what’s a daughter to do? Well, that’s where the extreme kindness that is my beautiful friend Danae comes in.

Danae grew up in the area, so she is lucky to have her own family close and local. Her husband Matt’s parents live a few hours south, and a quick drive up the coast is all it takes. Knowing that my family is ridiculously far away and that Bill was going to be at work, and being the amazing event/wedding planner that she is, Danae extended an invitation to join her family’s Mother’s Day celebration at their home. The theme: Brunch for dinner!

The only stipulation (which let’s be real, if I hadn’t complied I still would have been let through the door) was that I make something to contribute. Wanting to put my new cast iron baby – I mean, skillet – to good use, I immediately blurted the word “frittata” so loudly that I would have elicited concerned stares had I been in public. Being gluten-free myself (and note: we’re trying to work certain types of dairy back into my diet, including cheeses and goat milk products), it was easy to tailor the project to the other dietary restrictions and preferences present, which let me tell you, was quite a few. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with eggs, kale, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, so I threw them all together and headed over to the Pearce’s house for an evening of gourmet brunch food, champagne, and the love of family – even if it wasn’t “my own”.

We started off by gathering in the kitchen, which as per usual was styled to the nines for the occasion. Danae had brought home roses from her event the night before and laid out the most beautiful table setting in soft feminine pinks and whites.

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No brunch would be complete without champagne, of course. But to be honest, it seems that no matter where I go I find the stuff, since my general affinity for bubbly has transformed from a preference to a lifestyle. Good thing Danae and I are extensions of one another – or soul mates, as I prefer to call us – so she was ready, bottle already chilling and incorporated into the decor.

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A special occasion calls for unique touches, so leave it to Danae to offer a splash of St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur in our glasses to class the champagne up further, it that’s even possible. Magnifique.

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I have mentioned before that Danae and her husband own their own businesses with Danae Grace Events and Old San Luis BBQ Co., respectively. So while Danae had set the scene, Matt was chopping, whipping, and sauteing up a storm in the kitchen. In addition to my frittata, he created a custom crepe bar, which included ordering up Bacon + Spinach + Feta, Caprese, Chicken Curry, or Sweet Nutella and Strawberry crepes. And go figure, he preceded to pour the batter, fill her up, and fold it right before your eyes before plopping it directly on the plate in your hand. Add into the mix roasted red potatoes and homemade ebelskivers, and we found our eyes and our stomachs in a bewildered state of pure bliss.

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So while I totally and completely wish I was capable of assembling such a fete on my own, I most definitely cannot. But I can tell you that I already have plans to recreate my frittata this weekend so that we may devour the whole thing ourselves in the Halter household. You’ll find my recipe below!

Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients

  • 2 cups torn fresh kale
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 eggs
  • Few dashes salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup drained oil-packed julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or nonstick, oven-safe skillet) over medium heat. Add kale and onion and cook about 10 minutes until onion is tender, stirring frequently.20140523-093923.jpg
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper in medium bowl.20140523-093903.jpg
  4. Pour over cooked  kale and onion  mixture in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook.
  5.  While egg mixture begins to set, use a spatula to run around the edge of the skillet, tilting the pan so the uncooked egg mixture flows underneath. Continue lifting edge until egg is almost set but still shiny and moist.
  6. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese over eggs.
  7. Broil in oven close to heat until eggs are set (about 1 to 2 minutes).
  8. Cut into wedges to serve.Voilà! Free-tah-tah.

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So there you have it! An easy-peasy frittata that can be whipped up in minutes BUT will bring in the accolades of hours spent in the kitchen. Believe me, I know… I could not for the life of me convince the entire party that my contribution didn’t take much no matter how hard I tried, and I’ve been told on more that one occasion that I could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves – er, something – sooooo….

Anyway, this was a great choice to bring to a party…

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… and it’s just as good for a quiet breakfast at home the next day. Happy frittata-ing!

Weekending: Run or Dye!

I am a child at heart. And not just a child, but an awestruck puppy-hugging, rainbow-chasing, bubble-blowing, anything-with-sprinkles-loving small child. So imagine the squealing that was going on inside the composed grown-up shell we call my outward appearance when THIS happened:

Are you kidding me?! A giant party with dancing and loud music and everyone throwing COLORS at each other??? And these people are SOBER?! (Well, for the most part anyway.)

Basically, what I’m trying to say – but my giddiness won’t let me – is that last weekend, Run or Dye came to San Luis Obispo. This is a huge deal. Years ago, I stumbled across the Holi Festival, a Hindu religious festival of color and love, and since then I haven’t been able to get the gorgeous images out of mind. Witnessing this in person was bucket-listed immediately. So as you can imagine, while I am dying to attend the actual Holi Festival in India, the rising popularity of color runs in our culture is definitely something I’ve gotten on board with. However, for some incredibly frustrating reason, I have missed any and all of the sort that have come remotely near my current location, which has resulted in fairly intense depressive episodes any time color run pictures bombard me through Instagram or Facebook. To make sure that this never happened to me again, I took matters into my own hand by Google searching any and all organizations that travel with these events, even sending in my own request to the Color Run to set up shop at the Madonna Inn at some point (no such luck). But I put my name on every list that would give me alerts on when one was coming around, and lo and behold, earlier this year I got my first announcement from Run or Dye. They got my name, they got my number, and they got my money – all in less than two minutes. I’ve never been faster, cheaper, or easier in my entire life.

After so many painful years of waiting, wanting, and anticipating, my dream finally came true.

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Of course, no color run could be complete without asking yourself, “Which of my amazing friends would be most likely to lose her shit to the same extreme that I will?” and then recruiting said friend to experience wonderland with you. Meet the fabulous Katie, who is by far the closest thing to a small-child-at-heart as I am.

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Here we are, temporarily clean. Please note the sweetness that is my leggings, courtesy of Forever 21.

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Oh, the anticipation.

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The funniest thing about this race is that we were so preoccupied by the “color” part that we almost forgot about the “we-are-running” part. Check out the beautiful El Chorro Regional Park, right off Highway 1 between here and Morro Bay. I will be back here, mutt in tow.

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In all honesty, I wanted to punch some people because 1) they were walking, and 2) I WANT TO RUN THROUGH THAT. (I didn’t punch anyone.)

Check out this quick video, and be sure to listen for Katie revealing her real age at the end.

BEYOND ADORABLE.

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Can’t wait for the blue!

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3.1 mile domination.

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As it turns out, the run itself was not the greatest deliverer of color, but it was sure as hell so fun to run through it all. The after party, however…

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…was delightfully out of control, even at 9 a.m. We finally joined up with some of my favorite people – Courtney, Emily, and Ryan – and I’m definitely winning in the “Must Have Rubbed My Face In It” category at this point.

In fact, it got laid on so thick at one point that…

Yes, that was necessary.

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So there you have it. It has been a LONG time since I have had that much fun or that much permission to let loose. We all agreed afterward that we are all hoping to find one in a bigger city and do it all over again. I mean, who wouldn’t want to relive that?

Now, what is the obvious thing to do after a morning like this? Well, go to brunch of course. In public. At a place that serve mimosas (i.e. classy).

Looking. Like. This.

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Peace.

 

Weekending: Boots and Ballgowns

Do you ever meet people and have the profound feeling of “these are my people”?

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This is Katie. She is my people. And her people are my people.

I was lucky enough to get a whole lot of this last weekend. My beautiful and amazing friend Katie is getting married at the end of May, and I was so excited to attend her bachelorette party. Now, Katie is not your typical lady, and this was not your typical bachelorette weekend. In fact, it was a huge but welcome contrast to mine last year in Vegas, which was chock full of the outfits, the decor, and of course, the shenanigans that we come to expect from this type of gathering. Katie knew from that start this wasn’t exactly what she would call her ideal, so last weekend was a little different. First of all, the events of the weekend took place in Placerville, CA. If you have never been to Placerville, picture a small California gold-mining town of about 10,000 people 45 miles northeast of Sacramento. Middle. Of. Nowhere. The buildings are charming and a river runs through it – the only other time I’ve been there was for an ex-boyfriend’s family reunion to white water raft. The second amazingly “Katie” logistical detail of the weekend was that our accommodations were in the form of a rented-out updated Victorian house, complete with parlor and sitting porch, staircases with landings, and original crown molding and wainscoting, among other interior details. Katie and I shared the master bed and bath, but there was plenty of room for the 10 other amazing women on the trip.

Upon arriving at our humble abode on Friday night after a 340-mile drive from San Luis Obispo, I quickly learned I was the first “non-family” person there. I write “non-family” in quotation marks because I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of that thought. I first met Katie when I was 3 years old, and after attending pre-school, kindergarten through 8th grade, high school, AND college with her, it would be an understatement to say we grew up together. We made it through heartbreaks and prom and finals together. She was my first solid memory of a best friend, and her family is my family. Her mom helped me through my first sleepover. I looked up to her older sisters Becky and Julie as if they were my sisters. Her brothers were always at my house. And on many occasion we stifled late night giggles while her dad snored in the next room. She stood next to me as Bill and I said our vows last summer, and I am so excited to be a bridesmaid in her upcoming nuptials. All of this goes to say that arriving at this unfamiliar Victorian and hugging Katie and her mom Annie felt so much like coming home.

I know they felt it too because I was IMMEDIATELY roped into the Pinterest-worthy projects of Becky’s incredible mind. I put my luggage down and got to work helping to pin, sew, and hot glue handmade hair pieces constructed of felt, feathers, buttons, and random bits of tulle. We had a big day the next day, and you simply cannot face such an affair without the proper headpiece. A few more fabulous ladies rolled in around midnight, and I worked until my allergies sent me to my big fluffy resting place and I said my goodnights.

The next morning I awoke to laughter on the floor below. Padding softly down the stairs, I entered the living room to find Becky surrounded by yarn and cheerfully crocheting wine slings at 8:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right. WINE SLINGS. Sheer genius. The woman was making everyone their own apparatus to wear around our necks that completely cradled a wine glass, either full or empty, freeing both hands for any and all mischief we may encounter for the day. Attached to each was a nametag bearing the title of a flower. The plan for the weekend was to travel around the county attending a wine festival, and since Becky was unsure of the guest list at the time she purchased the tickets, she registered everyone as flora. Katie designated me Gardenia, and a new persona was born. And so we spent the rest of the morning fueling up on breakfast and Propel, primping, and dressing ourselves in – you guessed it – boots and ballgowns.

The Tales from the Cellar Wine Passport Weekend was about to go down, and our short bus was waiting for us.

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The beautiful bride in her $26 thrift store wedding dress, so proud of her chariot for the day.

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Arriving at our first stop of Nello Olivo, we knew the day was going to be a good one. A winery housed in a huge Victorian, servers dressed in top hats, unlimited wine, and appetizers such as steamed clams and gourmet meatballs… What did we just walk into?! Heaven is the answer, my friends. Heaven.

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It wasn’t long before the wigs started coming out (thanks to Annie’s fabulously spirited friend Francie, in the red wig… for now), yet we still managed to look this classy by the second winery.

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At this point, by winery three or four, we were still focused enough to notice and appreciate the beauty of being out in the country. This is Jennie, modeling the gorgeousness that was the landscaping at a Don Quixote-themed winery. Not pictured: the choreographed dance we performed in the courtyard to the tune of Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” just minutes after this was taken.

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As you can see, the wigs became much more of a “thing” as the day went on. That is a group of ladies who are ENJOYING themselves.

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And blonde became a new thing, too. You will notice, however, that my champagne bottle is unopened… My allergies were so terrible that I decided to ease off on the partaking throughout the day. The didn’t stop me, however, from fully embracing the blonde.

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Things, of course, got a little rowdier as the day wore on, but I just love this picture because you can just feel the vibe of the day. No pressure, no drama, just pure amazingness. It really was a celebration of Katie, and we were all so grateful to be involved.

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Look at that face. Just look at it. It is amazing to see someone you love so much THIS happy.

And so the day ended with pizza from a small local pizzeria that had only seven types of pizza on their menu. (If you’re wondering what the GFDF like me did, I ate a bowl of cold marinara sauce. No joke. They ONLY had pizza.) An older couple we didn’t know joined us on the street and bought the whole party several bottles of wine.We wandered into a dive bar with a few lonely patrons silently nursing their drinks, saw the sad small town Saturday night state the place was in, and immediately cranked the jukebox. Dance party ensued. Katie acquired a pink unicorn stick horse at some point, which we named Cornelius. We cut cake at the house. And then we all changed into our cozies and cuddled up to watch Katie open presents. One of those presents was Frozen, which we popped into the DVD player immediately until we all eventually headed off to bed.

So that was it. By the time we all packed up on Sunday after eating breakfast and watching Frozen – yes – again, the general consensus was that it will be hard to wait another 5 or 6 weeks until the wedding because that’s how long it will be until this family comes back together.

And until the wigs come back out. Francie pulled me aside as I said my fare-thee-wells, and let’s just say that Gardenia may be making another appearance in the near, near, possibly inappropriate future. But until then…

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What happens in Placerville, stays in Placerville.

This Is Your Wake-Up Call

I got a wake-up call not too long ago.

At first it came in hints. Panic attack here, panic attack there. Anxiety at work here, tear and tears there. And then the big one: “Would you like your prescription faxed over, or do you want to carry it out?”

Paxil.

Paxil is considered a bit of a wonder drug of sorts. Its uses have been studied across the board, and it has been found to be effective in a variety of conditions and circumstances. The reason I was getting it was two-fold. First, it has been known to help with stomach and digestive issues, so GREAT. Help me out there, please. But also, it’s one of the most common anti-anxiety drugs on the market, and although we were using is as an experiment to see if it helped my stomach aches, my doctor made sure to emphasize that it will “help with all that anxiety and stress as well”.

Oh.

I’ve always been aware that I am a high-stress person. An overachiever. A perfectionist. I push myself to the limit, and I do what I need to do to get it done and get it done WELL. It used to be a strength, but I’ve slowly become aware that I may have surpassed that point.  Once my doctor’s words hit my ears, a cacophony of voices from the past came surging in. I heard my nutritionist saying, “And I want you to take a magnesium supplement to help you relax a little bit.” Counselors asking me if stress has always been such a problem. (Answer: yes.) And in the past, a few of those closest to me have warned me in the best way they know how that I may, in fact, embody these qualities to a fault. I heard them, but often these comments came in less of a supportive fashion and more of a “you-are-ridiculous-you’re-killing-yourself-STOP-NOW” package. And then there’s my favorite of all time, of course: “You’re too sensitive/high-sturng/uptight/whatever.” I’ll admit, I don’t respond well to all of this. In fact, that last one REALLY does it. I get defensive, I get hurt, I get confused, and I get angry. It makes everything harder.

Why is that? Looking back now, I’m starting to realize that these comments bothered me so much for a few reasons. For one, all of those descriptions – including my own – are labels, and they sound permanent. It feels like there was something wrong with me and will always be wrong with me, and I was the one to blame. Ironically, in direct contrast, I feel out of control of my anxiety, but I didn’t understand that. Whenever someone told me to “stop”, I wanted to scream (and did on one or two occasions), “STOP? DON’T YOU THINK IF I COULD I WOULD HAVE DONE THAT ALREADY?!?!”. Not constructive in any way shape or form in nurturing your relationships and support system. Yet, despite the lack of control I had, the dichotomy charged on, and I truly believed it WAS my fault, that I WAS doing this to myself. I’ve been in counseling for this for quite some time. I have tried self-talking my way through everyday, telling my mind to quit going a hundred miles an hour, and this isn’t life or death, and I was ruining my life worrying so much about it. However, it didn’t matter how many times I would recite these mantras, that tightness in my chest would continue to squeeze and that tension in my jaw would cause me to clench even harder. If I couldn’t stop the stress myself, the only conclusion was that I was making my bed and I will just have to lie in it. I should be able to relax, to let go, to chill the f*** out – and all on my own.

But apparently I can’t. And so that first dose of Paxil really threw me for a loop. I finally had someone who wasn’t a parent (sorry, Dad), a friend (sorry, Jen and JJ and Danae), or a husband (oh Bill, I’m SO sorry… I don’t mean to put you through hell) tell me that this may, in fact, be a REAL problem. Maybe I couldn’t do this on my own. Maybe, instead of just a public service announcement on the state of my affairs, what I needed from everyone else was actual help.

So enter my therapist, who is amazing, and Paxil, which I am not too thrilled about. Picking up my prescription was strange, as I have never seen myself as someone who needed something like medication to deal with something like anxiety. I have always been told I am so composed, so put together, so with it. But that comment itself implies such a widespread and problematic belief permeating our society in the form of stigma. I’m really starting to understand what it means to need assistance, and I can see where that compulsion I have to tell everyone that Paxil is supposed to help my stomach issues first – and then oh yeah, it’s for anxiety too – actually comes from. We’re bombarded with ideas that this type of help makes you weak, and we should all be embarrassed. Not only is something wrong with me, but something is even more wrong with me because I can’t fix it on my own. With that in mind, and zero ill judgement on anyone taking prescription medications for similar issues, I am hoping to not rely on Paxil for long. I was given the lowest manufactured dose and instructed to cut it in half, but I personally would rather work through things naturally with nutrition and meditation and exercise and talk therapy. However, I have to admit, it’s working.

And in more ways than one. That conversation with my doctor really gave me the push I needed to realize that it’s time to take care of myself. It’s time to take some pressure off. Read more. Be present. Shift my perspective. Go outside. Turn down an invitation when I feel like it. Unplug. Say no to adding to my plate. Love myself more.

And so, last Saturday, instead of feeling obligated to make THE BEST plans and drink LOTS of alcohol and dance and laugh SO MUCH and post pictures about the SO GREAT AND AMAZING time I was having all over social media, I thought about what I really needed. And that was some peace and quiet, a long walk, the ocean, and time with my dog. So that’s what I did. And instead of powering through that walk to burn more calories, clock more time, and cover more distance, I was pleasantly surprised at the things I saw when I fully applied that same intentionality to being present. It wasn’t easy, but it happened. And so I come to “Things You Learn When You Slow Down On Purpose”, in order of revelation:

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First, I live here.

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No seriously. I LIVE HERE.

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Things like flowers exist and are pretty.

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They also come in more than one color.

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Stopping is nice, especially when just for your own viewing pleasure.

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And that activity where you put your dog on a leash and take her outside is called a “walk” because dogs actually enjoying walking, as opposed to what I used to call a “walk” but was actually more of a “dragging”. Indy knew the flowers were there all along, and she likes to smell them too.

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This little guy is adorable. He also sings.

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Awe is a cool feeling, especially when followed by day dreaming sans pressure to meet society’s ideals and get ahead and own that immediately. Simply appreciating is just as much, if not more, fun.

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And did I mention I live here?

I’ll admit that this was a difficult post to write, and it took me a while to gather up the courage to post it. But that Saturday evening walk and this post are first steps. And first steps may be small steps, and days come one at a time… But seriously. The world is already looking brighter.

 

Small Steps, Big Dreams!

Today is a big day.

Want to know why?

Of course you do.

I’m happy to announce that…

It’s official! I pulled the trigger, and my blog is now

http://www.dohotmessticated.com

Because I have often heard that…

Dream A Little Bigger Darling{Image from mycrazy-beautifulife.tumblr.com via Pinterest}

And I tend to listen to very good advice.

Celebrate with me, please!

xo