Excerpt From The Next Book

Excerpt From The Next Book

There seems to be some curiosity regarding this next book in the “Life Before” series. To satisfy inquiring minds, there are currently twenty-three chapters written with the book divided into five sections. A little disclaimer: please note that this book is a work in progress, has not gone through editing, is subject to change at any moment, and is in no way meant to embarrass anyone but myself. All of the stories depicted of the charming and not-so-charming are true, except of course for the ones that aren’t.

Aptly entitled Life Before Happily Ever After and filled with entertaining stories of dates gone wrong and love gone right, I’d like to take a moment and dedicate the next few weeks to excerpts and a sneak preview of what’s to come in the next book. My goal is to reveal a story from each section over the next few weeks in hopes to inspire, entertain, and even encourage those both married or not to live life off the couch and engage in adventures even when you don’t know how they’re going to turn out. There is life before happily ever after…along with life after happily ever after.

Stay tuned for stories from the following sections of the next book, Life Before Happily Ever After.

1. Awkward first date bloopers
2. Relationship bloopers
3. Good dates - they're definitely out there!
4. Times where I'm the bad date

I am a firm believer that life is not meant to be lived on the couch. God gives us dreams to keep our hearts alive and then provides a whole big wide world to go explore. The couch is there to rest, relax, and regroup… and then we are to get up and get out and do something with the life and resources we’ve been given. There are dreams and desires placed in our hearts and there is a wide, wide world out there just waiting to be discovered, experienced, and shared… but it is not discovered on the sofa or in a place of hiding. It is also not discovered in a pity party.

Life is not discovered by hiding out, hiding from, or hiding behind fears and excuses. It is also not discovered by living in the past. As human beings, it is natural to strive to create a world of security and safety. Security and safety are very real needs. The problem though is that comfort zones, although seemingly comfortable, increasingly get smaller if not intentionally expanded. The very walls we create to protect us can turn into unintentional prisons. Prisons of loneliness. Prisons that although “safe” can make us uninteresting and unappealing. We can easily get caught in a world of self-created ruts, thinking that we’re safe and protected from getting hurt when in reality we’re unfulfilled and bored.

Life is not experienced when buried in work, buried in excuses, buried under baggage from our past, or buried behind a shut-off heart. True, there is danger in stepping out. It can be uncomfortable, unnerving, and downright disappointing to try again and again with what looks like little success or forward progress. I’m not even talking about dating or love yet. I’m referring to any dream, desire, or want in life–love-based or otherwise.

Comfort zones in the long run are not good for us. Period. Whether we admit it or not, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. When we’re uncomfortable, we grow. We are wired for challenges and adventure.

Dating is risky. Love is even riskier. Taking a chance of truly opening up and attempting to find, go after, or allow yourself to “be gotten” by a compatible match or someone who “fits” is even more so. But in all honesty, that’s really half the adventure. If you always knew the ending you may not choose to go through the experience. It is the combination of our experiences that make us the interesting person we are. In a way, dating and love is a lot like gambling. It’s risky, the stakes can be high, but the payout can be phenomenally rewarding and hands down worth winning when you hit the romance jackpot.

Let’s Talk About First dates.

First and foremost, when I refer to first dates, I’m not talking about one-night-stands or serial turn ‘em and burn ‘em kind of dating. Of course that’s out there and what some people are looking for, but from here on out “hook-up” dating is not what I am referring to. I’m calling attention to dating with the intention to get to know someone on a personal level. When I say dating, I am specifically referring to the type of interactions with the attempt to eventually or to some degree form some kind of long-term connection with another person. Connections that lead to actual committed relationships.

No matter what your intention or relationship goals—be it marriage, wanting not to be alone, sharing your present with someone, or something inbetween–at the heart of first dates is the intention to determine whether or not there is a desire for a second date. First dates determine whether or not you want to spend more time discovering this person or desire another chance to connect. The big question to ask on a first date: Is this person someone worth spending more time with? Next question: Does this person want to spend more time with me? Our time is valuable. Our hearts are even more so. In a world that is full of so many choices, it is important to be open to opportunities that present themselves but it is equally important to also be discriminating and selective on who’s worthy enough to spend your time with and who we allow into our worlds.

Awkward moments are just a regular part of my world. Quite honestly, I live in awkward-land. As hard as I’ve tried to live a “normal” life, somehow normal just seems to evade me. Those close to me have come to terms with it and the best ones have embraced it. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. These somehow unavoidable awkward moments ensure I will never be bored. At the same time, they also prevent any type of normalcy and security that a girl could crave.

My life and the road I have been asked to walk in my journey is not safe, it is not normal, and those who choose to stand close run the risk of getting hit with the shrapnel thrown my way. Nothing about my story is “normal.” I have come to terms with that little fact. A part of me yearns for a normal story (whatever that means), yet another part of me would be disappointed if it were. Jokingly but not, I find myself having to warn new people in my life that if they hang around me long enough they’ll at the very least get some weird and unusual stories.

A-w-k-w-a-r-d. This seems to be an ongoing theme in my life.

Picture some of these lovely moments.

  • A first date that ended in an emergency room.
  • Or being taken into a jewelry store on date #3 and told to pick out anything I wanted.
  • Or the date that unexpectedly brought his six-year-old daughter on the first date.
  • Or the date that crashed and totaled the rental car.
  • Or the date that didn’t believe in tipping restaurant servers. Ever.
  • Or meeting his whole dang family and even some of the neighbors as they lined up in the driveway on date #4…including the six dogs.
  • Or the date that accidentally hit a bunny with his truck while we were on the way to dinner.
  • Or the first date ending in ankle deep trash.
  • Or the date that got pulled over by a policeman for speeding while I silently sat in the passenger seat watching him try and talk his way out of a ticket.
  • Or the first date that yelled at me at Disneyland… the happiest place on earth.

I still smile and blink in disbelief at some of these moments that made me squirm. I am no relationship expert by any means. I am not a therapist, psychologist, matchmaker, or love guru. I can, however, tell stories from my personal experiences and stand here and say that no matter where I’ve ended up in relationshipville, I have no regrets or doubts on whether or not I have “put myself out there” and chosen to get off the couch, out of the pity party, and live life before happily ever after. Life is a gift and it is way to short to live it in isolation, live it from the sofa, or live it in a pity party.

When choosing to go out on a first date, be it a long-time friend turned spark, a setup, a chance encounter, an online match or something in-between—we are choosing to take a step past our past and move forward in a direction that we otherwise could’ve chosen to avoid. Many people do.

Go make some stories. I did.


dating bloopers

Excerpt From Section One: Awkward First Date Bloopers

CHAPTER THREE: Ending up in an emergency room.

I don’t care who you are, first dates should not end up in an emergency room. Mine did.

He picked me up in his truck and we had plans for a nice lunch at his favorite sushi place just blocks from where I was staying for a conference that week for work. I was feeling cute and classy in my little red pea coat and loving the crispness of fall and the fact that I could enjoy my favorite fashion season–boots and jackets! It was a good hair day and the waiter gave a sly smile at us as we settled in for appetizers.

Things were going well…until they didn’t.

A few bites in, something caught him off guard and he started to turn red. The uncomfortable look on his face quickly morphed into short gasps for air. My date was choking right in front of my eyes! It was a little more than just a drink-some-water-and-clear-it-out kind of choke. Excusing himself to the restroom, I sat there and waited for him to take care of whatever was going on and return. He didn’t.

Sitting there alone at the table helpless and having visions of him passed out on the restroom floor by himself, concerned, I finally pulled the waiter aside and asked him if he would please go check on my date in the restroom and make sure he was okay. Looking back, perhaps that was weird and a bit forward of me to ask, but the alternative was worth the embarrassment and awkwardness. I would ask for forgiveness later.

The waiter came out with his eyes big and panic in his voice, “He’s not okay.”

Turns out, this was one of many choking episodes from my date’s past and a recurring medical issue that was now happening at a very inopportune time. He silently tossed me his keys and we jumped in the truck to try and find the nearest emergency room. To add to this strange encounter, not knowing how to react, the waiter had boxed up our food and was following us to give me the leftover to-go bag as we were rushing out the door. Ummmm… I didn’t mean to be rude or skip out on the bill, but I had other things to worry about. No thank you!

Adding to the panic of the moment, admittedly, I am directionally challenged. Not something I am proud of, but unfortunately a fact that is inescapably true. I joke that I can get lost in a hallway if given the chance and that I am the reason why GPS was invented, but sadly that is not all that far from the truth. On top of the stress of this sudden emergency situation, I now had the responsibility of locating under pressure the way to get us to the nearest emergency room before he passed out! Finally, pulling up to the hospital entrance, my date would not let me give the keys to the nice and convenient hospital valet at the emergency room entrance. Instead, he made me pull into the hospital parking garage and park his beloved truck all the way on the deserted top level. Uh, ok. I would over analyze that interesting choice later.

After quickly being admitted and having the very capable nursing staff get the situation under control, it came down to the fact that my date would ultimately be going into surgery. Adding to the ever increasing awkwardness, the nurses treated me as if I were a long time girlfriend or spouse and shared more medical history and treatment details than I ever should have known. Ever. Yet he never corrected them, nor did he give me the option to wait outside in the waiting room. I tried.

Although he had a sister and other family living in the area, he never called any friends and refused to notify any family members that would’ve taken the responsibility and burden off of this first date gone wrong. I would definitely over analyze that decision later on as well. Not believing this was really happening, I blinked as strange just kept getting stranger.

Squirming, I didn’t know what to do. As much as I wanted to, it didn’t feel right withdrawing from the situation and I couldn’t bring myself to leave him to wake up alone from surgery. No one deserves that. Besides, I didn’t have a car since he was a gentleman and picked me up in his truck. I eventually settled into the reality that I was in this one for the long haul that night. Apparently he would be groggy and in no shape after the surgery to drive, leaving me no choice but to wait through the surgery and be his ride home.

As the nurses gave me instructions for his after care, it dawned on me that I barely knew this man, had never been to his side of town, and I didn’t even know where he lived! In a rare moment we were alone amid the beeping machines and cords, I awkwardly and discreetly asked him to text me his address before he was out of commission and off to drug-induced la-la land.

Nine hours after starting in laughter and sushi, this miserable first date was finally close to coming to an end. In pure Ashlee-fashion, I texted my best friend to meet me at the address I sent her and that I’d answer questions later. Thankfully, I have amazing friends who were by now quite used to the unbelievable situations that I get myself into. Sometimes I think my friends keep me around purely for their own entertainment. (I say this because they’ve actually told me so!)

What happened next still makes me laugh in disbelief.

Ever punctual, my fabulous friend arrived before me and my drug-induced date got there and patiently waited in the dark outside this strange house that she knew nothing about after driving well over 45 minutes out of town. I can’t imagine what was going through her head as she saw this unfamiliar truck pull up in front of her, watch me get out of the driver’s seat and help this obviously inebriated man inside. Leaving the instructions for his prescriptions and post care the nurses gave me on his kitchen counter, I walked back outside after this extremely long day and slid into her passenger seat, melting in exhaustion and relief into the safety of her car.

I will never forget the goofy smile on her face as she stared at me and said, “You sure know how to liven up a Tuesday night!” Giggling the whole way, she sweetly dropped me off at my hotel.

He asked me out again, requesting a “re-do date.” I just couldn’t do it.

(As for him, there was no second date.)


Ashlee Bratton - Life Before The Lottery

Ashlee Bratton – author of the book “Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket” is a professional photographer, freelance writer, and inspirational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and master’s degree in business administration.

Along with completing 29 of the 30 things on her 30×30 list, her writing contributions include numerous publications such as Vail’s EAT magazine, creating a 56 page Visitor Guide for a mountain ski town, blogging and guest blogging, being featured in multiple newspapers and e-zines, and various other projects.

Currently, she keeps her camera in hand in Southern Colorado, is a complete and total foodie, and takes plane rides for fun. She likes things that go.

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