The Adult Hangover

I woke up this morning with what I’ve decided is the new version of a hangover. My daily, obnoxious alarm rang out at 5:30 a.m. and was promptly snoozed…3 times. Somehow, the glue fairy must have snuck into our room during the night and securely fastened me to the bed. I could not peel myself off that mattress with all my might. And whatever mumbled, post-awakened conversation I had with Mr. Rathroy has been wiped from my memory. Did the dog get fed this morning? I’m still not sure. I feel fairly certain that I showered with my eyes closed and don’t think for a second that I bothered to wash my hair today. I was simultaneously starving and averse to food – coffee was the only thing I wanted – and putting on shoes was torture. Did heels seriously always hurt this bad?! I dragged my ass to an office that was completely empty and proceeded to march through my day. I’m an adult now – with a career and a house and a dog and a hangover. Only problem is, there was no alcohol involved.

As I creep toward 30, so does my social media feed. My entire network is making the transition into real adulthood. Not the adulthood that I panicked about when I turned 20 because my teens were officially over, and not the adulthood I stared at blankly when I graduated college (because really, does college prepare you for adulthood at all? Personally, I was at my most immature in college…). We all seem to be slowly absorbing and experiencing individual things that cumulatively make us grown ups – one wedding or baby’s first birthday at a time, and suddenly we’re slammed with the realization that we’re now the adults that some of us swore we’d never be.

Last night, rather than earning a hangover with booze and dancing and poor decisions about late night taco bell, I was at a work event. I mingled and scanned the silent auction and walked like 7 miles around the venue in heels. I even presented an award to someone on stage. It was a seriously grown up evening. But after a 13 hour day and not nearly enough sleep, I fear there’s not enough coffee in the world to pull me through this adult hangover.

Everyone talks about how much harder it is to deal with hangovers as you get older. I’ll admit that I’ve had some bad ones in my day. You know, the kind where you lay on the couch half dead all day trying to force down some ice water and pizza without gagging? And they have, admittedly, gotten worse as I get older. The open bar at the last wedding we attended almost killed me. But this…this exhausted, dehydration induced non-functioning adult hangover is maddening. Where are the funny stories or ridiculous pictures or confidence that you’re just enjoying life while you can? You know what picture I took last night? This one right after presenting an award to a wonderful colleague in my field.

Tree Hero Awards

And as lovely as that photo is and for how great the work event was, doesn’t it just make the 22 year-old inside cringe a little? I mean, if I’m going to be nonfunctional for an entire day, I’d at least like to have earned it with Jameson.

But, I guess I’ll eventually have to accept that I can’t stop adulthood from rushing toward me. And truthfully, I’ve been enjoying it more than I thought I would. There’s brunch and meaningful careers and silly spouse humor (mostly because Mr. Rathroy brings it to the table) and, if you’re lucky, disposable income so you can do things like go to Patagonia.

Patagonia

So while I’m not particularly overjoyed that working too hard gives me a hangover now, I can’t complain about working hard on something I love. Let’s be honest, I can’t complain about any of this at all.

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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

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!

Escaping the Fear Jail

Today, I walked my dog all by myself. For a lot of people, that happens every day – sometimes more than once. But for me, it’s been about 3 years. I’ve walked lots of dogs before – everything from family pets to shelter dogs. And it wasn’t until Piper came to live with us that I stopped wielding a leash.

I adopted Piper before I had space in my home for her (but there was endless space in my heart). So, she lived with my parents and their dog for about a year until their collars got tangled together when no one was home and they nearly killed each other.

Maggie & Piper

Piper post-surgery

It was $1,400 to stitch and staple her back together but I had no idea how costly the situation had been on my mental state. The vet told us very sternly that the two dogs should be separated forever and so Piper came to live with us. She came on hikes and camping trips and played fetch in the yard, but never really spent time with other dogs again. In fact, whenever another dog was present, she usually yelped and hid or tried to bolt away from the situation.

Piper Adventures

Between her fearful reactions and the trauma that I never really dealt with after being confronted with her possible death, my brain created a jail. What if an off leash dog rushes up to us? What if she reacts poorly? What if people think I have a mean dog and I’m ordered to put her down?

It was a non-stop rush of terror every time I thought of stepping outside with my dog. I had created a fake situation in my mind that doomed us both and I refused to let it become a reality. Nope. We would just play fetch in the backyard and she would never come in contact with the outside world again.

It’s obviously been unfair. Especially to Piper but also to Mr. Rathroy as he drags me, oftentimes in tears, out the door with Piper in tow to prove that it’s okay. And even though he proves it time and time again, I can’t get past my crippling fears that it won’t be okay next time. I’ve worked on it in therapy. I’ve worked on it with Reiki. I’ve meditated and medicated. And still, I feel my heart quicken and my breath seize when Mr. Rathroy suggests a walk around the block. I simply cannot face the possible confirmation of the outcome that I’ve fabricated.

I’m not completely sure what changed today. I don’t know exactly what made me charge through that brick wall of fear and grab the leash. But I would bet it had something to do with the weekend we just spent running around on an empty beach.

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This was Piper’s third time at the beach house and she was no stranger to a mouthful of sand and the smell of crab skeletons. Even though it’s not allowed (don’t tell on me), we walk down to the beach, make sure no one else is breaking the rules with their dogs too and let her run. She ignores everything but the ball. At this point, I’m confident that a pack of wolves couldn’t distract Piper from playing fetch. But on Sunday, we didn’t bring the ball. We just unclipped her and let her frolic (much to my terror).

California dog.

She ran by our sides and then zoomed ahead. She stopped when we asked her to and then ran some more. She was the happiest and most free I had ever seen her. Those moments on the beach helped me realize what an incredible dog we have. It proved that we trust each other and don’t need a physical tether to control the situation – that she is a really good dog and that she deserves more opportunities to show us just how good she can be.

When I came home to let her out of the crate at lunch today, I knew she deserved some time to stretch her legs and I knew that I deserved, finally, to overcome my fear. So, we walked out the door without hesitation, ignored the three years I had spent convinced that something terrible would happen, and enjoyed every single step. We made it down the street and back without incident or trauma, and I’ve never felt so satisfied to be proven wrong.

With this unexpected victory kicking off 2014, I’m vibrating with excitement over what I will conquer next. I know a walk down the street with my dog won’t seem like much to most people, but it’s one less brick in the wall of fear and anxiety that has been holding me back.

So, listen up, Wall! I’m in charge now and it’s high time that I grabbed the leash to my own life too. No limits. No fear. Just life, however I choose to live it.

Piper kiss

Over the Mountains and Through the Woods to Sarah J’s Farm We Go

It’s already been a week since our winter weekend getaway! After packing all of our cold weather gear last weekend, we headed northeast for 3 hours to get over the mountains to Sarah J’s house.

Sarah J's house!

Sarah J’s house!

Before the wedding we spent a weekend helping with farm chores at family farm where she’s beginning her own organic vegetable production! It’s pretty rare these days when we get to spend time with Sarah, and it’s also pretty rare when we get out of civilization, so we figured we’d double up and head on out of town!

It took us about 2 hours into the drive to realize that we’d forgotten almost everything we planned to bring – camera, whiskey, pajamas, etc. And the temperature gauge on my dashboard that read 15 degrees didn’t instill much confidence in our decision.

The very frozen road to Sarah's house.

The very frozen road to Sarah’s house.

But as soon as we arrived, it was nothing but good food, long conversations, farmhouse tours, and snow hikes.

Playing in the snow with the farm dogs.

Playing in the snow with the farm dogs.

Frozen grasses along our hike up the hill.

Frozen grasses along our hike up the hill.

Young trees have it pretty tough up there!

Young trees have it pretty tough up there!

Sarah's favorite tree drops tiny snowflakes in the breeze and it looks like the sky is full of glitter.

Sarah’s favorite tree drops tiny snowflakes in the breeze and it looks like the sky is full of glitter.

As fun as it has been to settle into our marriage and our house now that the wedding craze is over, it’s easy for us to forget how much we both love a little adventure. Even if it’s just 24 hours on a frozen farm, it helps remind us what we’re working toward. We came home with more love in our hearts for our friends, for the amazing and beautiful pieces of California, and for each other.

Up In Smoke – A Girls on the Grid Article

My latest and greatest has been posted on Girls on the Grid! They asked if I could write about, “how to keep your sanity when your wedding is threatened by wildfire,” and after I was done laughing out loud I said, “I can absolutely write about that!”

Because it’s an online lifestyle blog, the description of my nervous breakdown was shortened so as to keep the attention of readers, but believe you me there was some panic. And, as you’ll see toward the bottom of the article, the moral of my story was to have a bomb ass wedding venue complete with coordinator to keep you calm.

But, I would love to hear stories of how other people keep their sanity when it’s Bride v The Universe the week before the big day. I think I might have called it all off and eloped.

For the original article, visit Girls on the Grid! Also, I know that the fire that threatened my wedding was nothing compared to the blaze happening in Yosemite right now. 150,000 acres and counting…I’m sending lots of love to the firefighters that keep California safe every single summer.

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Smokey Ceremony Site

When you start planning your wedding for August in the Sacramento region, there are many things to consider. Things like: people will be transitioning back into the school year, your guests may have already used all of their annually accrued vacation time, the bugs will be out in full force. And of course, anytime I mentioned the date of our wedding, most people felt the need to tell me, “Wow. August. It’s going to be hot!” as if I hadn’t spent the last 27 summers sweating it out in Sacramento.

As soon as we booked our wedding at Forest House Lodge, in Foresthill for August 18th, I made this plea to the universe: “I know it’s going to be hot. I know we’ll have to keep our ceremony short and remind the bridesmaids not to lock their knees for fear of fainting. I know we’ll get a few mosquito bites. But please, just don’t let California be on fire.”

For anyone that has lived in California (or watched the news) for more than two summers, you know that about every other year, the entire state combusts under the pressure of extreme heat and its endless amber waves of grain (or whatever those fields of dead grass actually are). So you can imagine our surprise when, in the weeks leading up to our wedding, it was as if California flung itself into an early fall. We frolicked around Sacramento in the 85 degree weather and watched the 10 day forecast as it continued to deliver good news – the triple digits had expired in July! With a forecasted 91 degrees, we finalized our last details and went about enjoying the business of being engaged for the last few days.

And then, Foresthill went up in flames. In sync with Yosemite and 25 pages of other fires listed on the Cal Fire website, the state ignited. My first reaction was, “Figures.” I pretty much knew I had jinxed it the second I tried to bargain with that heartless Universe, and everything else had been going entirely too smoothly. Plus, what was a panic attack really going to do? Not put out a 12,000 (currently 25,000) acre fire, that’s for sure. I put on my best calm Buddha smile and only secretly checked the incident report online once a day. We had seven days and it’s not like wild fires are something new. They’d have it out way before our wedding date.

Except they didn’t. The only thing that fire did was quadruple in size every single night. It went from 5% contained to 45% contained to 31% contained. My incident report checks went from twice a day to twice an hour. They closed roads and issued air quality warnings and a dark plume of smoke arose out of the Foothills and settled over all of Placer County. With three days before the wedding, after poorly disguising my mania in an e-mail to our coordinator, she responded with details of the smoke, the safe distance of the fire, and a complete lack of worry from their end – the show would go on without a firey hitch.

And it did. Our morning arrival was greeted with dense smoke from Madison Avenue all the way up the hill, but by ceremony time, just like our coordinator said it would, the smoke rolled back and you could barely smell a hint of campfire. No one fainted from the heat and swatting at the summertime bugs offered a humorous break from the emotional ceremony. Even the never-before-seen August rain shower (yes, fire and rain on our wedding day) that immediately followed our ceremony provided for cute photos under an umbrella.

It seemed like California gave us a taste of its worst on August 18th but all it really did was make me enjoy each moment even more. Once I fully accepted that there was nothing I could do about heat, bugs, rain, fire, or any other natural aspect of our outdoorsy wedding, I was able to stop worrying about them and focus on all of the friends and family that braved the same natural forces just to watch me get married.

As much as I would like to take all the credit for being incredibly calm and enlightened during the fire storm of crazy that lead to our wedding, I couldn’t tell this story without giving my eternal thanks to Forest House Lodge. Every meltdown and malfunction was anticipated and solved without mention and I wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to execute my wedding with a wild fire down the street. Their confidence gave me confidence and somewhere in between primping in our private bridal suite and stuffing my face with pre-ceremony fried artichoke hearts, I forgot altogether that there was a fire. In my mind, I was a bride, and not a firefighter, and that was all I could have asked for on August 18th. And a new husband, I guess…

Blooming Wedding Flowers

Remember that awesome farm work day we had to prep for and plant our wedding flowers a few months ago? And remember the little sprouts that we got to plant in our own yard to supplement the wedding decor? Well, I’m so excited to report that the flowers are starting to bloom!

Young Flower Blooms

Under the expert guidance of our farmer friend, Carina, we’ve added fertilizer and are getting ready to snip away at these early buds (and use them for household arrangements of course!) to encourage even more blooms as the wedding approaches. I can’t wait to have a windowsill full of yellow and white as we count down the few weeks before the big day!

Yellow Marigold

Our tiny patch of flowers has helped boost my confidence in gardening and I will definitely be experimenting with more color and variety in our next spring garden. Our tiny patch also reminds me of what a huge span of blooms Carina has been tending to and I cannot believe the amazing green thumb (and amount of generosity) that she and the whole farm family have. We certainly would not have flowers at the wedding if it weren’t for Winterport farm (which also raises amazing, organic, grass-fed, free range beef if you’re into that sort of thing). Mr. Rathroy and I are so very blessed for the wonderful friends and family that we have supporting this crazy wedding!

And speaking of Mr. Rathroy – he spent the entire holiday weekend working on wedding tasks and household chores and finally broke down tonight. Even though it was nowhere near our “project” list, he disassembled and sanded down our entire dining room table. Looks like I’ll be painting it white this week to add a lighter dimension to our dining room. Personally, I think he just needed a construction project after all of the seating chart and groomsman gift talk. I would wager that checklists aren’t as satisfying for him as they are for me…

Sanding a Dining Room Table