One Year Later

I innocently put Otis Redding on my Spotify tonight so I could slow dance with myself while cooking dinner. And now that the pot of quinoa is on simmer and I’m listening to the lyrics, I’m sobbing as I sway back and forth.

Slow dancing always makes me think of Mr. Rathroy. Even if he’s in the next room, a good slow dance song makes me physically miss him. The way his giant hand covers mine, the way I can turn off my brain and just follow him back and forth. Mr. Rathroy is a good dancer, and he chose to dance with me, forever.

First Dance Photo

Somehow, when I was 16, I walked into a summer school class and became the luckiest girl in the world. It didn’t matter that for 10 years I ran away, pushed him away, followed him to Africa, lost myself, found myself, and confused myself – he never lost faith in the possibility of me. He hugged me tightly every chance I let him. And when I finally stopped being afraid of what would happen if I didn’t let go, he really delivered.

Mr. Rathroy married me one year ago. Among a forest fire, a flood of tears, and a hundred of the people that we love most in the world – we finally made the forever that we had both always hoped for (though he hoped for it a little more obviously while I took a slightly more convoluted approach).

In this past year, I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about my husband. I’ve learned new ways to communicate, the art of patience, the beauty of silence, the importance of sharing responsibility, and the necessity for vulnerability. Every day I become more comfortable with the person that I am and more appreciative of the balance that Mr. Rathroy brings to my life. He is gentle where I am harsh. He is hilarious where I am high strung. He is reserved where I am extroverted. He is Wu Tang where I am Otis Redding.

He is so much more than I thought a person could be and he has made marriage way more awesome than I ever could have imagined. We’ve gotten the, “So how is married life?” question a lot in the past year and we’ve never come up with a very good answer. “It’s good. It feels totally normal,” we reply after looking at each other and shrugging. It doesn’t make for great conversation, but it’s the truth. I’ve never felt more comfortable, more at peace, or more excited about my daily life than I do with Mr. Rathroy. That’s not to say that I don’t have meltdowns about hating my body or confusion over my career or a deep hatred for weekly laundry and meal planning. It just means that I get to work through all of those things with my incredibly supportive, crack-a-joke-about-it husband.

One full year later, we are going strong on our wedding vows, and I couldn’t be more blissful about the “totally normal” married life we lead.

Wedding Ceremony

———-

Today, I choose you to be my husband
I accept you as you are
And offer myself in return

I promise to stand by your side
In sickness and in health
In joy and in sorrow
Through conflict and tranquility

I vow to support you in a lifelong pursuit of happiness
Both as an individual and in marriage
Knowing that through our union
We can accomplish more than we could alone

I promise to always make you a priority
And to love you as my partner
And my best friend, without reservation
All the days of my life

———-

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Sunset Wedding

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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 “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.

Unavoidable Angst

Ever since my angsty tween years of journaling, I’ve knows that it’s harder for me to write when I’m happy. Contentment is just not as entertaining as awkwardness, anger, or apathy (the miseries of growing up, really). It’s much more interesting to watch Lena Dunham play out the romantic and professional woes of a twenty-something on HBO than it is to follow around a happily married young professional with a healthy savings account.

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Where’s the drama? Where’s the hyperbole of hysteria over the bad dates and binge eating and credit card debt? Where is that black hole that I wished for so long would just open up and swallow me to end the existential suffering? I filled journal after journal with words dowsed in despair over my youthful heartbreaks, self hate, and unrequited love for Nick Carter.

Nick Carter_Backstreet Boys

As I grew up, looking back on those thoughts and experiences became almost embarrassing (who’s not embarrassed by their 14 year old self?), but I could never get rid of the journals. Every time I tried, my fingers just flipped through the worn pages – that familiar angst – and I would end up clutching them even closer. They still live with me. And with Mr. Rathroy, I guess, though he’s too much of a gentleman to admit it if she’s peeked inside any of them…

“The pain returns with such eager delight. So quick to remind you of your expendable existence in another’s heart. Your body, rendered undesirable, wilts. Your mind, proven unnecessary, deteriorates. And your heart, mercilessly rejected, explodes.”

I seriously wrote that when I was a teenager. I mean, yikes.

The words that teenage Kelly wrote, oftentimes in despair, have served so many purposes. They were an outlet for a tortured heart, a creative exercise to mix my tragic words with those of Shakespeare, a voice for a girl that just sought to stay anonymous. But scanning through those words now provides an entirely different perspective – an acknowledgement of what it took to become who I am. Yes, it would be really boring to follow me around with a camera today. I’ll admit that I am entirely too happy to be entertaining. But that angst, that awkward phase, that rebellious streak, that desire to have a black hole open up and swallow you – that’s our common thread. For some of us, those feelings and phases mercifully fade when you graduate high school. For others, it might seem like there’s still no end in sight. But those are shared struggles – something that almost everyone can relate to.

I’m thankful for the Carrie Bradshaws and the Hannah Horvaths and the Liz Lemons because they make it seem not so uncommon to stumble and even be miserable at times along your life path. They give legitimacy to periods in life that most people hide in journals or in the depths of their own hearts. Falling down is how we learn to get back up, and there should be no shame in that, especially when it’s a universal experience.

Fourteen-year-old Kelly couldn’t have known the impact that her words would have in the future. All I wanted at the time was to pour out my feelings and in doing that, I gave myself concrete proof of how far I would go. It’s really easy to forget the pain once it dissipates, but anytime I question my journey, question my progress, or question my writing skills, I can look back on those worn pages, filled with that familiar angst, and know that I’m heading in the right direction.

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.

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…

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.