Powers and Passions

Well, this was unexpected. In the span of 48 hours, I applied for, interviewed, and was offered a job. And even though I went into the interview thinking the job wouldn’t be for me, I was severely torn when I got the offer.

The process had been a whirlwind and they expressed such excitement over my application that the situation immediately escalated in my mind. I began to imagine my future with the company – full of pencil skirts, hand shakes and promotions in the heart of downtown. Truly, the opposite of my current path – full of muddy boots, low paychecks, and uncertainties. Wallowing on the floor of our living room, trying to decide between the two jobs, I watched my life divide into two possibilities in front of me.

After hours of conversations, pro-con lists, and even tears, I finally circled back around to the basics – the job that I was currently being offered was not what I wanted. Imagination and potential aside, the reality of the situation lent itself to a very easy decision. So when I got the call with an updated offer, I felt prepared. What I had not prepared for was a conference call with the position’s supervisor and the Executive Director of the organization selling me on the imagination and potential in this job. These two, successful, leading women called me to very earnestly persuade me to join them in a path filled with opportunity (and pencil skirts and promotions).

And I lost it.

Which direction should I choose? Where should I be steering my career? What if an opportunity like this never comes again? I circled through the exact same conversations, the same “what ifs” and the same wallowing. And then my mind exploded. I’ve spent my career educating and inspiring youth to become future environmental leaders. Was it time for me to realize that maybe I was one of them? Maybe this was my chance to kick “saving the world” up a notch and lead an organization into the next generation of environmental battlefields. But, instead of using my passion for education and direct interaction, I would be using my personality powers and morphing into a professional event organizer, fundraiser, and shmoozer. And holy hell would I be good at it. Almost everyone I talked to mentioned how perfectly suited I would be for that role – how naturally those things come to me. There was no question that I would excel at it, so was I just afraid to take the plunge?

I’m certainly no stranger to fear, and I have no problem calling it by name. I was very much afraid – of change, of failure, of making the wrong decision. But what I feared more than anything else on the list was turning away from my passion.

An amazing friend, who was also the first person to hire me out of college and catapulted me into the world of environmental education, talked through every step with me. We analyzed the nuances, the possibilities, the feelings and then we discovered it. It was the difference between my powers and my passions.

I possess certain personality traits – my boss qualities if you will – that make me really good at things this job was asking for. But those powers are innate and while I’ve chosen to own them, I didn’t really ask for them. What I have asked for, and what I strive every day for, is to make the world a better place by igniting a love of nature in others. My passions drive me to ignore salary ranges and promotion potential for the promise of watching a person realize for the first time that they are part of something so much bigger than themselves. My passions have caused me to chase ducks and hug trees and work weekends and suffer from farmer’s tans. They’re the entire reason that I work at all (I mean, aside from bills and stuff, but you get the idea). The path I’ve chosen is the only reason I have any faith left in humanity – if I can make them feel why it’s worth saving, maybe they’ll help me save it.

Chasing Ducks

So, while I’m still young, while I have Mr. Rathroy to support me (in my decisions and our finances), and while I succumb to tears when I consider diverting from this path I’ve chosen, I’m going to push forward. I can always fall back on my personality powers, but not pursuing my passions for as long as possible is a choice I would forever regret. Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to combine them both and save the world single handedly. Until then, I’ll be out chasing ducks and hugging trees and watching other people light up when they do it too.

Loving Trees

The Lion, The Witch, and The Entryway Bench

It has been a week, folks. A week that started with me reciting, “Kelly and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” on Monday morning and feels like it may never end.

I’m transitioning out of two of my jobs and back into just the one full time original job. Which, I guess in this awful land of grown ups, just means that I get more work to do. If someone could do the math on that and let me know how it makes any sense at all, that would be great.

We’re also in the throes of a monster furniture build. Good friends contributed pretty heavily to our electronics collection (i.e. Xbox) so when they mentioned they wanted an entry way bench, we were all like, “Tradesies?”

IMG_1810

This project has raised the bar – for our tool collection, our skill set, our patience, and our tolerance for working after work. Between Mr. Rathroy’s creative vision (and extreme talent) and my organizational brainpower, we created a design, calendared our deliverables, delegated actions, and went full-bore into the business of building. And it has been no joke.

Our evenings are filled with sawdust and power tools. And with 8:30 p.m. dinners and bedtimes that are way too late for us. And since Mr. Rathroy’s techniques often lead to artisan joints and precision routing that can only be done by one person, I support however I can.

Router Sawdust

I man the shop-vac. I round corners with the hand-sander (and they are smooth corners, let me tell you). I pick up all the things that he throws down throughout the house after his office job because he needs to get to work in the garage as quickly as possible. And I cook. And oh sweet Jesus do I hate defaulting to that stereotype.

Hand Sanding

Because I’ve had a more flexible schedule, I usually take it upon myself to plan the menu and do the shopping. And I’m usually head chef when it comes time to cook, but I always know that Mr. Rathroy will help anytime (and has been known to kick me out of the kitchen completely for throwing a tantrum about how much I hate being stuck in the kitchen). But with my sub-par woodworking skills, and a quickly approaching deadline, it’s clear that my service to our marital partnership is needed elsewhere. And I made it up until tonight.

Routing

Tonight, I ordered pizza. And while it soothed my rage toward our stovetop, it did not remove the dark cloud brooding over my head. The dark cloud that made me snap at Mr. Rathroy and loose patience with Piper. The dark cloud that has been hovering over my optimism and makes me resent this bench, our tiny garage, and even my husband’s work-ethic because they’re all taking away the relaxation time with Mr. Rathroy that I so look forward to each day. They’re all the reason that I only get to see my husband through clouds of sawdust and the reason we can’t have a conversation because his mind is too pre-occupied with the details of his design. It’s the bench’s fault that the pizza was so expensive and that my dog barks at the mailman and that I’m still tired when I wake up in the morning. Right? RIGHT?!

The Hustle

I wish I could blame this project, but I know that’s not a real solution. We chose to take this on, just like we always choose the most challenging of all the options. We bought an old house. We got married in the forest during wildfire season. We honeymooned in one of the harshest places in the world. And it just is not always sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes it’s tense, scary, infuriating and unbelievably frustrating. Sometimes I have meltdowns and sometimes Mr. Rathroy gets tired of dealing with them. And sometimes, he finds me stress eating spoonfuls of Nutella before bed.

But after each adventure is over, we’re immediately looking for the next one, and I don’t think it’s because we’re gluttons for punishment. I think it’s because we love to learn, love to create, love to challenge ourselves, and love to strengthen our relationship through working together. Most of the time, we laugh at our stupid mistakes, we dance when a good song comes on, we find the fun in the work we’re doing together. The sunshine and butterflies might not always be obvious, but you can create them if you try.

The “Me” in Marriage

It’s been 7 months since I officially became Mrs. Rathroy and while sometimes I can’t believe the time has gone that quickly, it also feels like we’ve been married forever (in a good way). I’ve noticed that my grip on single Kelly has almost completely slipped away – stories from my life pre-Rathroy have seemingly been deleted from my brain to make space for new memories and stories that we build together every day.

But, losing those stories, along with my maiden name, threw me into a bit of an identity crisis. It’s bad enough that my new signature looks like Kindergarten scribble (no, I didn’t practice signing my married name before the wedding), but now I can’t remember what I used to eat or how I used to spend my evenings before I was a Mrs.

To be fair, I was in Germany.

To be fair, I was in Germany.

I spent some time silently panicking about “losing myself” in this lifelong relationship, and then I realized how silly that sounded. I was unmarried for 27 years and most of them were great. I did things like travel to Costa Rica and play beer pong and try to fix boys that “just needed to be loved.” Overall, a solid showing for my first 3 decades. But, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be married to Mr. Rathroy for like 75 years and I can’t even imagine all the stories and memories and personality traits that will fill all of those upcoming decades. I went through some pretty radical transformations in just the last few years, and I’m so curious about who I will become throughout the course of our lifelong marriage.

So, instead of wallowing in my attachment issues, I’ve started taking note of the things that I’ve already learned about myself since our wedding. I don’t know what it is, but something changes when you’re married. Maybe it’s the joint checking account or the perma-bling on our fingers or (more likely) something a little less tangible, but I’ve quickly learned that things are different now, including myself.

Wedding Ceremony Through Truck Window

1. I talk a lot. There are a few people that have always known this (mainly my ever so patiently listening mom), and I noticed that I babbled nervously around Mr. Rathroy when the romance first got real in Malawi, but boy can I talk. All the time. About almost anything. This is highlighted by the fact that my husband is extremely soft spoken in normal, daily life. He values silence, especially when the lights are off and he’s ready to go to sleep. Which is exactly the time that I have the need to discuss our weekly meal plan or the exchange rate to the Chilean peso.

2. I’m the boss. Maybe it’s because I’m the middle child, but I sure love being in charge of things. I’m a professional delegator and a die hard coordinator. And thanks to Lean In and their Ban Bossy campaign, I’m finally not ashamed to admit this. Though it doesn’t exactly help ease tensions with the Mister when going through a bathroom remodel or a garage reorganization…Thankfully, he fully supports my “leadership skills” and knows when to push back.

3. I love routine. There was a time when I thought I wanted a life of constant, unstable adventure. And while I absolutely need a certain dose of excitement to look forward to in life (a honeymoon in Patagonia, for example), I also really thrive with routine. Waking up at 5:30 every morning to make a smoothie never felt so easy and on Sundays, I bake granola. If someone had told me that about themselves 5 years ago, I might have cried for them. But now, my routine helps me focus, manage my expectations, and work for more when I get bored.

4. I’m really not that stubborn. Despite my boss-like tendencies around the house, I’ve really loosened up on the whole stubborn pride thing. If it’s important to Mr. Rathroy, I am happy to compromise (just don’t tell him or I’ll lose my bargaining chips…). Plus, my negotiating skills are at an all time high!

5. I need alone time. Not a lot of it, but without it I just start following Mr. Rathroy around the house and looking to him for my entertainment, thoughts, and general activities. Which, as you can imagine gets pretty boring for me and pretty annoying for him when he’s working in the garage or playing video games. Plus, it’s hardly healthy. But, with some alone time I reconnect with myself and my needs and it makes our interactions more appreciated and less demanding.

I’m staying tuned in with myself and taking notice of the small shifts that will eventually create a lifetime. I know marriage isn’t always sunshine and butterflies, and that sometimes I’ll still get pangs of nostalgia for who I was in my early twenties, but as long as I keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart open, I know that I’ll become exactly who I’m supposed to be.

Wedding Ceremony Site

And, as always, many thanks to Mr. Rathroy for walking softly by my side as I stomp through the unknown.

The Apple of My Eye

I pride myself on being a good dog owner. To me, a big part of owning a dog (and especially a pit bull), is the responsibility you take for their behavior. I want nothing but positive feedback on my silly, lazy, wuss of a dog. So, when she barks her face off at the doorbell or pees on the floor when we have visitors, it doesn’t bode well for me.

Mr. Rathroy and I have spent a serious amount of time teaching Piper the rules and boundaries of our lives. Our teamwork in dog training is actually one of the biggest producers of my baby craze – it’s like training wheels for raising a kid. I mean, if we can teach Piper to sleep in a crate at night, certainly we can handle a baby, right?

Don’t answer that.

But, because of her squishable face and incessant desire to cuddle, Piper gets spoiled by almost everyone else in her life. And when those people watch as we flatly tell her to go to her bed while ignoring her puppy eyes, we take a lot of flack for being too strict. No, she can’t get up on the bed. No, she’s not allowed in the kitchen when we’re cooking (Mr. Rathroy is barely allowed in there. Have you seen the size of it?). And no, she doesn’t get a treat for doing what she’s told – that’s what she’s supposed to do.

I’m pleased as pie when we take her into a coffee shop and she lays down at our feet while we order. I love that she sticks her nose over the top of the mattress to say good morning instead of stomping on my head to take over my pillow. And I beam with pride when she goes into that crate without a fuss. But sometimes…

Sometimes, her face is just too squishable. And her cuddling is just so incessant. And her manners are so stellar, that we break down.

And we break down hard.

Piper_PeanutButter

Lap Dog

Piper Cuddles

I mean, if you’re going to spoil a dog, at least make it special, right?

I couldn't lick both mixers.

I couldn’t lick both mixers.

Priorities 101

Welcome to your crash course in adult priorities. The class is Pass/Fail and there will be a test every single day. Some days, you won’t even know it’s a test, and on those days you can rest assured that you are failing.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been on a parkour course between the workplace and the home place – trying to keep a handle on the revolving door of adult life. You mean I have to do laundry again this week? And why are people still sending work e-mails at 8:00pm? Nothing ever settles or stays clean or is laid to rest and I’m left with an ever increasing list of tasks that need tending. And on the opposite team are my beloved Mr. Rathroy, our dogchild, my new favorite workout routine, and the oh so anticipated drama of House of Cards. Not to mention quiet time that a person might use for some light reading or blog writing…

Despite the juggle routine, I had been feeling pretty smug about my pass to fail ratio these last few weeks. Sure, I haven’t blogged in a while, and our house is a tad less tidy than I would prefer, but I was killing it at work, finding time to exercise, and everyone had clean underwear. That sounds like winning to me. That is, until a particularly rough Monday landed me and Mr. Rathroy on the couch with beers and a couple House of Cards episodes. Normally, I would allocate that time in my mind as a deserved break or fun bonding time with my husband, until I realized the next morning that there was no food in the house.

Mr. Rathroy would have Carl’s Jr. for lunch the next day (not that he minded), and I would spiral into guilt-town for spending an entire evening on my ass instead of taking care of something, anything productive. Where were my priorities? And from there, the snowball grew. It chased me down my mountain of to-dos like a bad Indiana Jones dream until I found myself on the floor of our bedroom, huddled in the corner next to the outlet so that my phone could charge while I held it to my ear to discuss a work emergency at 9:30pm. Smug doesn’t last long in the corner…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the rule of thirds lately. It’s been applied to everything from social media posts to personal finances, and it might be time that it applies to my own priorities. I still feel like I’m being chased by the insatiable snowball at times, but I’m hoping that setting goals and standards for task hierarchy will help me stop running and start accomplishing.

1/3 Work

1/3 Home

1/3 Fun

This is, so far, just a theory. I am currently not the leading expert on setting appropriate priorities as indicated by my muddling through these words after an 11 hour work day on a laptop in bed with a snoring husband next to me. There are a lot of things about this current picture that would change according to the Rule of Thirds, and that’s exactly what I’m hoping for. Whether it stands the test of time as the greatest Priorities 101 lesson remains to be seen. But it will be a shift toward balance, and I think all of the thirds in my life will appreciate that.

Divide & Conquer

Last night, Mr. Rathroy made dinner. On top of an already busy week, I had signed up for a special 6 p.m. preview class at U Barre, the latest (and greatest) workout trend, with Girls on the Grid. I was even less in the mood to discuss our dinner plans than normal, especially because it meant a trip to the store during grocery rush hour.

That morning, I had gotten out of bed an hour and a half before Mr. Rathroy. In that time, I got myself ready for the day, took care of the dog, made our daily green smoothie, and even baked a fresh batch of peanut butter granola. And even though I had chosen to do all of those things, I found myself very annoyed. Why did I have to take care of everything (and in the dark no less) while he ignored his alarm and went into work later than usual? Doesn’t he know how much work it is to curl my hair and feed him every morning?

By the time I went into our dark, sleepy room to say goodbye before I left for work, I was in full domestic rebellion – not a great way to start our interactions for the day.

After a few hours of reflection in my cubicle, I sent an apology text and, because Mr. Rathroy is the greatest and most understanding man in the world, he responded with a heartfelt thank you for everything that I do. I knew that I was being a martyr and that I had never even asked him to help that morning. I just grumbled about how nice it must be to sleep in and how lame it is to be the lead homemaker. I decided to ignore the fact that I my lead homemaker status was self-appointed.

So, when it came time to discuss the fact that we had nothing for dinner, I knew it could go one of three ways:

  1. I could take it on as my unspoken responsibility to feed my husband and trudge my butt to the store so that he could eat while I went to the barre class
  2. We could split the responsibilities and he could take care of dinner since I was already scheduled to be out of the house
  3. I could have a meltdown about being a square peg in the round hole of traditional female roles and we would order Chinese food

We went with the second option and It. Was. Awesome. We each picked a couple dishes that we’d like to have on our menu for the week and drafted a grocery list together. Mr. Rathroy went head first into grocery rush hour and cooked up a storm while I flailed around gracelessly on my tippy toes during my ballet-inspired workout. By the time I got home, I was elated about my newfound exercise routine and Mr. Rathroy had made roasted vegetable mac & cheese from scratch and puff pastry wrapped jalapeno poppers…Uh, why had we not made him Head Chef of the Rathroy household yet? The kitchen was spotless, the food was still hot, the dog was curled up in bed, and he was patiently playing Forza4 until I was home to eat dinner with him.

I quickly realized that I had become a bulldozer. I took it upon myself to try and take care of everything around the house. My office is closer, my hours are more flexible, and my paycheck is smaller, so why wouldn’t I make up for it with meal plans and freshly baked granola? I took those life responsibilities off of his plate without even asking him. I made it my obligation to keep the house clean and do the grocery shopping, which in my mind, meant that no one else knew how to do it correctly.

Mr. Rathroy is not only fully capable, but is happy to pitch in and work for our lifestyle as much as I do. And when we split up the mundane responsibilities, they become less of a burden which means we’re both happier to contribute. And after devouring half a dozen homemade cream-cheese-filled jalapenos last night, I’m happy to release control of the menu and share the tasks that create our daily experiences together. And who knows, maybe I’ll be the one relaxing with Forza4 and a freshly prepared meal next time…

Life Among the Trees

In the 4th grade, we did a huge rainforest project. Each student selected one flower, one animal, one fungus, and one bug that lived in the rainforest and researched it extensively (as extensively as a 4th grader could research before the internet was invented). Our finished product was a life size rainforest display in our school cafeteria for open house. Complete with a rainforest sound track, water misters, and 3D artistic renditions of each researched critter, this project was the peak of my elementary school career. It was the reason that I traveled alone to the jungles of Costa Rica and one of many motivations for my two trips to Africa. It’s the reason that Madagascar is still on my bucket list and why I appreciate decomposers like the dung beetle.  But it’s not the only experience that pushed me to be a professional in the environmental field.

From being told to go play outside when I was bored to camping trips with my family, I was repeatedly exposed to the outdoor world and how much bigger it was than me. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started thinking the world revolved around me (my parents might contest that based on some of my teen years). As a kid, I understood that I was a small part of something really big. Something worth having around. Something that made me feel magical and calm and happy.

Tree Planting

After a stint working with ducks that taught me how to do tick checks and made me face my fear of fish (seriously), good timing and a solid reference got me a job with trees. I knew that I was passionate enough about broad environmental issues that I could peddle trees no problem, even if I didn’t have specific arboricultural experience. It was expected to be a 6 month, grant funded position so I tried not to get too attached. Two years later, I’m still peddling trees and it’s given me similar feelings of magic, calm and happiness that I felt when I was a kid. It’s been obtuse and difficult to pinpoint, so I just enjoy the dirt under my nails and the smile in my heart.

Tree planting hands

I talk about trees all day, every day. I notice trees no matter where I am. I judge entire cities based on their trees. Mr. Rathroy is sick to death of trees. Because it’s my job. But, while I couldn’t articulate the driving force behind it for a long time, I really REALLY care about trees above and beyond my job duties. And yesterday, I finally learned why.

I attended a 9 hour workshop about trees yesterday. Yeah, we talked about trees for 9 hours. I met people doing research on the economics of wildfire (an issue near and dear to my drought-ridden Californian heart), people that have received national awards for their work in climate change, people that cared even more about trees than me. I learned about research that links faster rates of recovery from stress to a view of trees. I learned that life expectancy can be predicted based on the amount of available green space and tree canopy in your zip code. I learned that trees can improve your focus, prevent asthma, reduce crime, and benefit your psychological and physical well-being. I saw numbers and graphs and references and scientific proof of how important trees are to our communities.

Staking a young tree

And after the 9 hour science based workshop, I went to a 3 hour dinner with speakers, board members, and executive committees to debrief on the day. After we settled around the table with wine and ravioli, we were asked to individually share our “tree story.” Having worked in the tree world for a couple years, of course I knew my tree story – a peach tree that my parents planted where I sat for many afternoons reading aloud and sharing stories with its leaves. But as we went around the table, I was amazed at the breadth and depth of others’ stories – trees connected people at this table to their marriages, their parents that passed away, their childhood home, their favorite memories. And after all of the science and all of the logic behind the importance of trees, the most important fact of the day was that trees make you feel. Whether it’s magic or calm or happy or any other emotion, trees are deeply rooted in our hearts.

Not everyone is interested in the facts and figures, but everyone has a tree story. Maybe it’s a tree from your youth. Maybe it’s a tree that you have yet to meet. Whatever it is, honor the memory and the emotion that it brings you. Plant a tree. Hug a tree. Read aloud to a tree. I bet that if you reconnect with trees, you’ll feel that magic all over again.

What’s your tree story?

California redwoods

For extra inspiration, check out this video from one of the tree organizations that I work for. I even have a cameo in it!