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.

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One Year Down

We made it!

One year ago today, Bill and I tied the knot with no idea what was in store for us. The year has been one of surprises, of bobbing and weaving, of taking hard left turns when we expected the straight road in front of us. Last year at Greengate Ranch in San Luis Obispo, we had no idea that we would go through eye surgeries, new jobs, a cross-country move, and saying goodbye to best friends to set out on our own new adventure. We have some amazing times, we’ve had some rough patches, and I know it sounds cheesy, but given the chance to do it all over again… I would. In a heartbeat.

So while we are living it up on an anniversary trip to Miami, here is a little video from our wedding put together by our photographers (and I’m so lucky they are also my brother and sister-in-law) Dusty and Amy from Drozian Photoworks.

In a heartbeat.

Some Special Days

Some days we wake up and the world is a little brighter. The sun is shining, even when it’s not. It’s easy to do what, on others days, would be called “work”. It becomes clearer what is really important, and the petty and the trivial fall away and all you can see is the light, the good, the wonderful in your life.

Today is one of those days. Happy birthday, Billy. You are my light, my good, my wonderful. I couldn’t ask for a better husband, best friend, and partner. Because of you, there is nothing left I could ever want, and nothing makes me happier than celebrating a day that is all about you.Ashleigh_Bill-108

In the words of Elton John…

How wonderful life is now you’re in the world.

Florida Bound Day 5: The Long Haul

Early Monday morning, we punched our destination into the GPS as we pulled out from the curb in front of the Olivier House in New Orleans, and this is what we saw:IMG_5634

Oof.

791 miles. 12 hours and 13 minutes. But we knew it had to be done. We had gotten a call along our way across the country that we had been worrying about the wrong problem when it came to the movers. We were originally told it may take up to two weeks to get our stuff to the new house, which was a little worrisome in itself, until we heard that the driver they had scheduled had been taken off the job for some reason and they needed to find a new one. This meant that they picked up our furniture and boxes on moving day and unloaded it into storage that afternoon, unsure of when a new driver was even going to commit. Well, at that point, slightly unnerved that the movers had a few more chances to break our stuff, we were but thankful and even more frustrated when the company called to let us know a driver would be taking off on that next day – Tuesday – and that if he had known he would have just come straight to our house the day before. So that’s what we had been concerned about so far: when on Earth were our belongings going to make it to Florida? So then it turns out that the day the movers would arrive to help us move into our home was not going to be July 2nd like we had estimated. It would be July 1st instead, at 8 a.m., a full five and a half hours before we had even scheduled our meeting with the property manager to pick up the keys. Cue panic.

So this was to be our final day, in which we thought we would most definitely drive in the most extreme sense of the word, yes, but at least be able to see places like Mobile, Alabama, along the way. Nope. These pictures pretty much capture the extent of the highlights.

First, the Mississippi state line.IMG_5682Next, we did get our lunch in Mobile, but it was quick and inhaled on a smelly sidewalk in a much too quiet part of town. Indy, however, fully enjoyed her break in the park near the restuarant, with more squirrels to chase than she had surely ever seen in her wimpery little dog dreams.IMG_5684Even back in the confines of our car we were unable to get her attention. Bill’s (stolen, AHEM) pink sunglasses couldn’t take her eyes off the rodent wonderland just beyond the windshield.IMG_5685Until, of course, it was time to lose them both yet again. It was a long day and obviously time for a nap, damnit, squished by pillows or not.IMG_5683We found a little salvation at the sight of the Florida Welcome Center. That salvation was short lived, as it was hotter than hell outside the car. But we made it to the state at least, after four and a half intense days of traveling. Pretty momentous for our relationship if you ask me.20140630-123845-45525704.jpgAnd just for good measure, here’s a second look in case you missed just how important our new governor is.IMG_5687 After a brief celebration, we didn’t see much but highway and lush greenery as we sped through Tallahassee and finally got off of the 10, taking a sharp and much anticipated turn south onto the 75. We didn’t see much until… Florida SunsetHoly moly, THAT is a sunset.

Ultimately, we didn’t quite make it to Fort Myers, more because we didn’t have a house to sleep in and we wanted to see our new city in the morning light. We definitely were tired and broke enough to book the cheapest motel we could find, which also turned out to be the seediest motel we could find. From the weird guy quite obviously on drugs talking to himself outside the lobby just before jumping in his car and speeding through the red light at the intersection to the stained towels and dirty floor and beds I was literally afraid to sleep in for fear of contracting diseases, it was quite the luxury. Luckily, to quell the pain of certain contamination, we had Chicken McNuggets and a working microwave. It had to happen at some point.Florida Hotel RoomTomorrow our trip of a lifetime comes to an end, and a brand new chapter begins. But until then, sweet dreams Bill, Indy, and seedy motel room. I will cherish our 6 short hours together.

Florida Bound Day 4: Headed Down to NOLA

We had one goal today: New Orleans.

Okay, so maybe Indy had a different goal: Not get eaten by alligators. (Bill’s not helping.)

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This was our big welcome into Louisiana. Crossing the border from Texas, I had no idea what we were in for when stopping at the state’s welcome center. I did know two things, though, and those were that I was excited to see the South and I really had to pee. I knew we were getting into some different territory just based on stories from others, but I didn’t expect to have to basically swat my way through clouds and clouds of dragonflies to get to the restroom. Or to find myself trying fortheloveofallthatisholy to use the restroom when a pitch black wasp as big as my face kept buzzing down from the ceiling into my stall causing instant pee paralysis. Or to take Indy out to run around only to find that there would be no running for our perfectly lunch-sized dog due to the above “NO SWIMMING” sign complete with terrifying alligator next to the (not pictured) “Beware of Snakes” warning. So we hustled our way through the bug-thickened air and slipped into the car, slamming the doors as quickly as possible to keep out all the creatures and the beasts and the monsters that live in godforsaken Louisiana.

I was no longer excited. And I still had to pee.

As it would turn out, though, Louisiana is quite beautiful from the sanctuary of your car. It was so incredible to drive across the state on bridges over nothing but swampland, and I had never seen anything like the moss-draped trees growing straight out of the murky water. And let me tell you, New Orleans was worth braving the wild, as it had way fewer bugs and gators and nightmarish life-threatening situations and wayyyyy more music and booze and oh-my-goodness FOOD. But first we needed to check into the Olivier House, an adorable boutique hotel one block from Bourbon Street. We had read that every room was decorated differently just like my beloved Madonna Inn from back home in San Luis Obispo, so walking up the stairs with our heavy old key was full of Christmas morning-like anticipation.

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It was better than expected.

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It came complete with living room, loft, and gorgeous metalwork railings to really hit the unique French Quarter vibe home. The bed was perched high above the rest of the room and surrounded by exposed brick and beams, which Indy quite obviously admired.

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Stomachs growling but never a fan of tourist traps, I did some research online to check out the grub scene around us but ultimately asked the woman sitting at the antique wooden desk in the front hallway what she would recommend. I usually try this, as these people LIVE where I am exploring, and if they themselves frequent the place for some real food, then we’re talking. She sent us multiple blocks away from Bourbon Street on the hunt for a small bar called Coop’s at the very edge of the French Quarter, which promised and delivered a local vibe and authentic Louisiana cuisine.

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We wanted to try everything, so we ended up with a Coop’s Taste Plate and the Fried Oyster Dinner Plate. It’s a good thing the lighting wasn’t great, because the first dish out? Seafood gumbo. We had no idea it looked like this until we looked at the picture a while later… But oh my, was it good.

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Bill wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

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That’s only because he’s never seen this food-obsessed tourist in action before. If I can handle haggis in Scotland – enthusiastically and by choice – then gumbo’s got nothing on me. I’ll take your skepticism and raise you a crawdad claw in the teeth.

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Also on the menu: shrimp creole, Cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, rabbit & sausage jambalaya, fried oysters, french fries and coleslaw. I found heaven in New Orleans.

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After dinner, we meandered over to the famous French Market, but with only a few evening hours to spare, we settled for a selfie in the deserted hall. Just one more reason to come back and catch the bustle.

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We took in some of the history through statues dotting the city, snapping quick pics of one of the most intriguing women to grace the earth, Joan of Arc.

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And what trip wouldn’t be complete without the fried, sugary goodness that is beignets from Cafe du Monde?!?! My mom had instilled a love of beignets in me from an early age (mostly at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square), but I’d always heard there is nothing like the ones in New Orleans. Point taken.

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And if you need proof, check out the sugar snob himself diving in full face.

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I knew I needed enough willpower to take a poised (and pretending not to be a sticky sweaty mess) picture…

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But let’s be real. This is more like how it happened.

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Not too enthralled with the smell of vomit wafting through the sidewalks of Bourbon, we chose a more romantic evening stroll along Jackson Square instead of the slop-fest of tourists drinking their faces off. Besides, we may have done a little of that ourselves the night before in Houston, and hey, livers need a break too.

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Almost a year and he still steals me heart with those GD baby blue eyes.

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We eventually did watch some shenanigans from the sidelines, although somebody does look like he himself was caught red-handed up to no good.

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But the wildest we got was finding our first gator among the beads and tchotchkes.

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We promised we would be back.

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Goodnight, New Orleans. You must think we’re so innocent.

Next time you may not be so lucky.

Florida Bound Day 3: Ten Hours of Texas

The herd was up and moving early on Saturday. We raided the continental breakfast, repacked the car, and hopped in, knowing we were in for the long haul today. Starting in El Paso, where we had splurged on a nice hotel room with wi-fi only to spend about 8 hours in it, we wanted to make it to Houston in time to see Bill’s childhood friend Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. Even though we had a long way to go, I made sure Bill knew I wanted to see Texas along the way. The main goals: eat some real Texas BBQ and stretch our legs in San Antonio.

As it turns out, the spontaneous stops along the way were exactly what we didn’t know we were looking for as well. We found an old crumbling schoolhouse on a random exit we took with the intention of a bathroom break for Indy (and maybe Bill… oops).

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Having just seen the movie Chef, in which we had no idea they were going to be taking our exact same road trip in the opposite direction – cue baffled looks at one another here – we HAD to get ourselves some brisket. So thanks to the help of Yelp!, we found Wagon Wheel BBQ in Ozona, TX. We missed it the first time we drove past, and when we walked in, it turns out it’s pretty much an old gas station converted into a restaurant (sort of) in the front and a house in the back. They served us out of crock pots that had been simmering all day, and I filled up my own sweet tea from a drink dispenser by the door.

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The (very) young woman inside took us to a wooden picnic table to the left of the building, shooing her pouty son away so the “nice people” could sit down. And even though we were doing some shooing ourselves (ugh, the FLIES), it was well worth it in the end.

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And even more worth it at the very end, when I devoured the homemade peach cobbler. So much for my gluten-free and low-glycemic eating habits, but I was not about to pass THIS up.

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From the moment we started talking about our trip, we knew we wanted to stop in San Antonio, but I’m not sure we knew why. Everyone kept insisting we visit the Riverwalk, but with all the chaos before the move and shotty internet after the trip started, I never got the chance to research our itinerary. This lead to exciting spontaneity and slight anxiety over worrying we would miss something, but it also delivered some amazing surprises, like one of my new favorite places in the U.S. Despite only having about 40 minutes to spare to walk around, the Riverwalk was gorgeous.

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I was in heaven with the sights, the restaurants, the music, the people… and the escape from the heat. Oh lord, it was HOT in San Antonio, but down there? Beautifully cooler and un-sticky.

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You can’t visit San Antonio without visiting the Alamo, so we ventured up to street level on the hunt for the landmark. The architecture along the way was so intriguing, I forgot about the humidity for a second in order to try to capture the energy of the town.

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And we found the Alamo. Obviously.

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Take a look at Indy in that last photo… That’s how we all felt, poor little thing.

We finally rolled into Houston at about 8:30 p.m., and we were beyond excited to get out of the car and see Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. The plan had originally been to go out and “raise some hell” as Bill calls it, but Sanja had just broken her foot doing box jumps at the gym, making it very difficult for her to get up and down the two flights of stairs to their apartment. So while Bill and I showered (separately… out of the gutter, please), Jim whipped up some Strawberry Margaritas under Sanja’s scrutinizing seasoned-bartender eye. As you can see below, it was a pretty casual affair. And Indy looks possessed.

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But ultimately it ended up being a great night with great friends, and we were appreciative of a cozy place to sleep after a longggg day. Some of us took advantage while the party was still underway, but I won’t name names.

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This is what pooped looks like.

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.