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?”

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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 Resolution Revolt

I’m not much for resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I spent a fair amount of New Year’s Eves dreaming up the perfect resolution to make the following year, “the best year yet!” But over the years, as the motivation wained and the results stayed consistently unchanged, the word “resolution” has mostly lost it’s meaning to me. It’s a tradition. A mental ritual. An emotional trick in an attempt to float hope through the rest of the winter. But not a strategy to actually better my life.

The only photo we managed to take on New Year's Eve.

The only photo we managed to take on New Year’s Eve.

Lately, instead of resolutions, I’ve been trying to perform periodic self-evaluations. Anytime something is not quite right or I get a ping of discontent in my life, I try to adjust. Sometimes that means a new workout routine. Or trying something like Reiki. Or planning an adventure vacation. Whatever the adjustment, it tends to be a short term project in the beginning and often times becomes ingrained in my daily life as a healthy habit.

Going to Patagonia was one of the crazier adjustments.

Going to Patagonia was one of the crazier adjustments.

After an insightful co-worker read my post about successful friends, she asked if I had recently set any goals for myself. I quickly (and almost proudly) answered, “Nope.” I was feeling comfortable in life and was taking the opportunity to glide through the latest resolution round-up.

Strongly, she stated, “You should,” and explained that as she read my post, all she could hear in her mind was the song, “Is That All There Is?” playing.

Oh. My. God. I had written, edited, and published a pity party for myself and passed it off in my mind as being “comfortable” in life. The truth is, I am incredibly satisfied in all realms right now, and that has never happened before. I genuinely feel pure happiness every single day. So, maybe I’m scared to shake that up and risk breaking it. Maybe I’m exhausted from the whirlwind of fixing an old house and planning a wedding. Maybe I’m just getting lazy and allowing contentment to take the place of fulfillment. Maybe it’s the fact that 2013 was the best year of all time and what if it can never be beat? Whatever it is, it sounds like I need to re-evaluate my plans for this year.

Sometimes I can't believe it's possible to be this happy.

Sometimes I can’t believe it’s possible to be this happy.

I’m really proud of the work I’ve done on myself over the past year – mentally and physically. But I’ve used that hard work as an excuse to take a break from my evaluation process. So, fine. You got me, 2014. I officially submit my New Year’s Resolution for your records.

I, Mrs. Rathroy, resolve in the year two thousand fourteen to plan my next big adventure.

I have no idea what form it will take (fingers crossed for a trip to Southeast Asia), but I resolve to keep up those periodic self-evaluations, pinpoint and plan the next big adventure in my life (with Mr. Rathroy, of course), and experience it fully.

Now, does anyone have any suggestions?

Malawi Is…Home

We just celebrated the first Christmas of our marriage. It was full of family, twinkling lights, food, and new traditions. It was perfect.

It also included a decent amount of home improvement projects (shocking, I know). From a new fence to replacing a broken door to building a table out of 100 year old farm fence posts, we kept ourselves quite busy with house projects this holiday season. And the more we improve our current home, the more I grow nostalgic for the first home we shared in Malawi.

It was Mr. Rathroy’s home for two years, but for the time that I was there he let me take half ownership (he’s such a good sharer). I can’t imagine what it was like for him to walk away from that house, that village, that country after all he had experienced there. I still miss it and my experiences are hardly a fraction.

As with any approaching new year, I’ve been reflecting on the past – trying to remember lessons learned, laughter felt, and love shared – so that I can make the incoming year the best one yet. Malawi was such a short period of time in my life, but it changed everything. So, I’m finally adding another episode to the neglected Malawi Is… page.

Malawi, just like Mr. Rathroy, is Home.

Ironically enough, our current house is probably only slightly larger than our Malawian one.

Ironically enough, our current house is probably only slightly larger than our Malawian one.

Sharing a twin bed takes talent. And mosquito nets make you feel invincible.

Sharing a twin bed takes talent. And mosquito nets make you feel invincible.

Clean dishes drying outside.

Clean dishes drying outside.

Wringing out the excess and hoping they dry before they mold in the humidity.

Wringing out the excess and hoping they dry before they mold in the humidity.

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.

The Failure Monster

Fifth grade was the first time I really noticed how terrified I was of failure. I had forgotten to do a homework assignment for the first time in my life and I was issued a pink warning card.

“This is it,” I thought as the teacher placed the pink paper on my desk, “I’m a delinquent.”

After fighting back the panic tears, I vowed to never be in this position again. And truly, I never really failed at anything after that. I did all of my homework (plus other people’s homework if they asked me to). I tried sports here and there but never anything competitive – never something with a win or lose score. I applied to one reach school knowing that I wouldn’t be accepted but applied because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do (I’ll take that $55 application fee back if you don’t mind, Berkeley). And then I worked. I worked every day. I worked up from an intern to a staff biologist. From a cafe waitress to a program coordinator. I worked for jobs that I knew I could get and keep (despite the not totally infrequent boredom). I stayed where I knew I was valued rather than where I would value working.

I avoided things that I wasn’t immediately good at. Sure, I’d try something once, but the second that I felt frustration tears welling up, I stopped. I’ve been so afraid of sucking at something that I don’t know how to snowboard, or play in an adult recreational softball league, or even mix a cocktail for someone other than myself. I mean, it’s booze. Who is going to complain?!

When faced with any potential failure, little fifth grade Kelly just looks up at me, pink card in hand, and points out the pain that I might cause myself.

So today, after toying with the idea of never blogging again in order to avoid the shame of my infrequency, I decided it was time to for me and little Kelly to throw down. I snatched the pink card out of her hand, ripping it up into a million pieces in my mind. I pointed out that no one had ever EVER cared that she didn’t do that one homework assignment. I went into a frenzy over all of the fun that we’d missed and in my rage pointed at her to place the blame.

Except that I was pointing at myself. I was the only one that cared about the missing homework assignment. I was the only one that cared if I tipped over on my dirt bike while it was stationary (true story). I was the only one telling myself that I might suck at something. And who would really care if I did suck? Just because I don’t allow myself to fail in front of people doesn’t actually make me good at things. All it does is banish me into a corner of self-doubt and shame. And though I have limited experience, I’m pretty sure it’s easier to bounce back from a failure when you have teammates or friends or family cheering you on.

I’ve never given people around me something to cheer for. As I’m facing life changes like marriage, debt, starting a small business, even parenthood (eventually), I realize that I can’t hold up the perfection facade for much longer. I have no doubt that each one of those life changes will come with a large dose of fall-on-you-face-failure. If they didn’t, how would I ever actually succeed in them?

I’ve let the Failure Monster lurk under my bed for long enough. So, with this very long overdue (but not a failure) of a post, I hereby banish said monster from all of the dark, scary corners of my mind. Twenty two years later, I’m finally ready to light up all of those corners with love for myself, support from my community, and a large dose of humor (if you laugh when you fall down, it doesn’t hurt as much).

Now, who wants to watch me snowboard?

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Honeymoon Registries – Trending or Tacky?

Our wedding venue is amazing in so many ways – the mostly inclusive packages, the on-site coordination, the trees, the food, the bar, I could go on and on. But one of my favorite things about them is that they run their own blog. It’s a place for brides and grooms (past, current, and future) to read about wedding ideas and get inspiration. A supportive and informative community in the otherwise stressful wedding industry.

The ceremony site at Forest House Lodge.

The ceremony site at Forest House Lodge.

Recently, they put out a call for bride bloggers to discuss their experiences during the planning process. They thought, “What better way to convey useful information than to feature our own couples?” And lucky me, I get to be one of them! The first thing that came to my mind for a Forest House Lodge blog post was the controversial honeymoon registry. Mr. Rathroy and I decided that our main registry would be for our honeymoon since we didn’t really need anything else and we would be a little low on funds after the wedding. We planned a pretty awesome, once in a lifetime trip to Patagonia, Chile and a post-wedding adventure is really the only thing we wanted.

Hiking through Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

Hiking through Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

Some people respond fabulously well to the idea of a honeymoon registry. Some people scoff at the blatant request for money. And you can read my thoughts on it at Storybook in the Sierras – The blog of the Forest House Lodge!

And if you’re wondering, “What does a wedding registry look like anyway? How does it work?” Feel free to take a peek at our Patagonia registry. Maybe it’ll be the right path for you too!