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.

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Like a Boss

I’ll admit that I’ve whined a bit on this blog about the small scale on which my life seems to be measured. Most notably, after a visit to Southern California success town. Sometimes, I let myself wallow in “how did I get here” thoughts rather than actually looking back and assessing how I actually got here. They’ve all been choices. They’ve all been MY choices. And when I actually do retrace my steps, I find some solid decision making skills co-mingling with hesitation and self-doubt.

For Christmas, I asked for Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In (yes, I ask for books for Christmas) and the first night I cracked it open, I knew I had found something special. In the first chapter, she pretty much pointed her finger at me and said, “This book is about you.” It led to a lot of underlining and note taking and trying to share passages out loud with Mr. Rathroy (much to his delight as I’m sure you can imagine). And it has since led to many a deep thought on the paths that I’ve chosen in the past and which ones I’d like to take in the future.

For lots of reasons, this book has spoken to me. From making (or more likely abstaining from) career moves based on future potential children, to taking on socially prescribed gender roles, to selling myself short, this book points out all too common and overlooked obstacles that women face when deciding who they will become in the world.

When I was in elementary school, a caricature artist came to our school to draw us as our future selves. Basically, an exercise in the “who do you want to be when you grow up” department. And because, for as long as I could remember, I either wanted to be a marine biologist or a military pilot, I had him draw me as a high powered military leader giving a speech in my dress blues. I’m pretty sure the President was drawn into the audience. That was my goal when I was 10 – back when I competed with the smartest boy in class for fastest timed math tests (it got pretty heated), when I ran and won a campaign for Student Council President, back when “bossy” wasn’t in my vocabulary.

Since that caricature, I’ve gone through a series of personality variations that included apathetic, manipulative, doormat, and am finally circling back around to extrovert. I don’t know of a specific moment where things in my mind turned from ambition to unattainable, but over time I fell in line with what I thought was conventional female behavior. I became passive, kept my head down, did what was asked of me, and focused a lot on how I was perceived.

Sandberg captured this movement away from myself in various passages:

“Young women internalize social cues about what defines ‘appropriate’ behavior and, in turn, silence themselves.”*

“In order to protect ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.” *

I couldn’t count the number of my homework assignments that I let a boy copy. Or the number of group projects that I completed but allowed a boy to present to the class. In college one time, I even wrote two separate papers for one assignment – one for me and one for my boyfriend at the time. His got an A. The one I turned it got a B+. This was the doormat phase and it lasted for a long time.

“While compliant, raise-your-hand-and-speak-when-called-on behaviors might be rewarded in school, they are less valued in the workplace. Career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself – traits that girls are discouraged from exhibiting.”*

I spent the first 4 years of my professional life trying to stay afloat in a department of all men. I never spoke at meetings until the round table updates came to me, and when my update began, so did their side conversations about chewing tobacco and duck hunting. I was directly told that my salary was the lowest in the organization ($12,000 lower than my male boss that I replaced). And yet I spent years thanking my lucky stars for that job and willingly withdrawing my voice for fear that it would jeopardize anything.

As I continue down my professional path, considering gender roles, potential future children, and all other factors that play into career moves, I’m emboldened by my younger self. The girl that didn’t think about the social or family factors that would affect the high profile military career of a female 4-star General. The girl that quite effectively marketed herself up and down her school into the top student leadership position. The girl that won writing competitions and worked to beat boys at being the smartest in class. The girl that was unaware that “bossy” was a hurtful stigma.

I think I still have that elementary school caricature buried in my childhood closet somewhere. That rendering of future Kelly represented more than my childhood career goals – it portrayed my personality and some of my greatest strengths before I was made aware that those strengths might be unladylike. My plans for military greatness may have changed over the years, but my 10 year old gut feelings about what I would be really good at in life haven’t. I can lead. I can be a boss. I can do more than be assigned tasks by other people. And thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, the support of Mr. Rathroy, and my parents that have always known what a boss I am (and never discouraged it), I feel like I’m finally ready to shake that doormat phase for good.

I wonder where my aspirations toward military greatness came from...

I wonder where my aspirations toward military greatness came from…

Big moves are being made. And I can’t wait to finally jump into the game with my boss face on.

——-

*Please don’t put me in jail for plagiarism. These are passages from Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. I haven’t written a real reference since college and frankly, I’ve completely forgotten how.

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.

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

The Bachelor Bride

About an hour after Mr. Rathroy walked out the door for his weekend-long bachelor party, our ceiling started leaking. As it turns out, what we thought was an old water stain leaking through the previous owner’s crap patch job was actually still a very active problem.

In tears over the impending financial burden, I called my parents as I watched the paint on my dining room ceiling crumple and give way to a steady stream of water. I knew what this meant. Sell the dirt bikes! Cancel the honeymoon! We can’t afford silly things like that anymore. Instead, we’ll pour every penny we make into this stupid 1946 lathe and plaster house that we were so excited to buy. Stupid house.

New Home

After my hardworking father crawled into our attic and strategically placed buckets along our air conditioning vent system that was drip drip dripping into our rafters, I frantically went through the motions of an adult homeowner in crisis:

  1. E-mail the real estate agent. We had only just bought the house in November. Maybe there’s something she could do?
  2. Sob to your dog about the inevitable collapse of your stupid house. She’d understand.
  3. Use every ounce of will power not to call your fiancé. It’s his bachelor party weekend and you’re a big girl.

And there I was – in the middle of a 110 degree heat wave forecasted to last at least 5 days – with a non functional air conditioner and an automated home warranty phone system. Yes, I would like to submit a service request. Any chance a real person could tell me how to do that?

Ceiling Leak

So, instead of working on our ceremony or deep cleaning the house like I had planned for my weekend alone, I pretty much just sat around in my underwear, sweating and feeling sorry for myself. Piper did the same thing.

Piper Mope

I didn’t even cook. I ate a tortilla for dinner both nights. And a beer. Who wants to do the dishes when it’s 108 degrees outside? I mustered up about an hour of general yard work one morning and then couldn’t even motivate myself to shower the sweat off until I knew I had to leave the house.

I blamed it on the heat, on the leaky ceiling, on the long night of watching “She’s the Man” starring Amanda Bynes, but I think the truth is that I’m the real bachelor in this relationship.

Seriously, the second Mr. Rathroy came home, I got busy with the meal planning and the cleaning. I even cooked myself a well rounded lunch (my first real meal in 48 hours). It was like I needed the motivation of someone else living in my mess to really take care of it. Turns out, when no one else is looking, I can be pretty sloppy.

Despite the feeling of a wasted weekend, it was nice to not feel obligated to a task list (or a standard of healthy living apparently). I was free to mope about our broken house, to read my book, and to watch bad TV without a hefty does of self-imposed guilt.

Maybe one day I’ll actually understand that Mr. Rathroy never judges me (even when I watch a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress) and that there’s really no reason to feel guilty for taking a mental time-out. But for now, I’ll get back to packing our daily smoothie ingredients into individual containers to make our mornings more efficient. There’s nothing like a fresh fruit and veggie smoothie to start you on a big day of self-love right?

Babies on a Farm

This past weekend was so full of friends and family that I thought my heart might burst with love! On top of a fabulous Father’s Day celebration that blended both of our families, it was Carina’s baby shower!

Carina is our wonderfully talented friend that also happens to live on a farm and is growing our wedding flowers for us. She also happens to be pregnant with twins, so she’s been growing a lot of things!

This weekend, in celebration of her and her belly, we all gathered at the farm to eat, craft, swoon over baby gifts, and love on this awesome momma.

Could she be more adorable?

Could she be more adorable?

Just one of the many food options.

Just one of the many food options.

Nothing like hand-decorated onesies!

Nothing like hand-decorated onesies!

Babies on a farm are just too cute!

Babies on a farm are just too cute!

I was too busy doing all of those things to take pictures of all of the creative, thoughtful, amazing details, but I will have you know that some of the food dishes were garnished with already blooming wedding flowers! In fact, I was so preoccupied having fun instead of snapping photos that the only picture I took of the changing table was on my way out!

It's green!

It’s green!

Carina was truly glowing and I am so honored to have been a part of the celebration. She is one badass little lady and I cannot wait to meet those little twins!

And now that we’ve built an incredibly sturdy changing table, I can’t wait to tackle our next project either. Keep your eyes peeled for a post on my lessons learned for painting furniture. That table didn’t paint itself bright green after all…

And finally, before we ran off to celebrate Father’s Day with our families the next day, Mr. Rathroy got some quality time in with his dogchild too.

They are a sleepy pair...

They are a sleepy pair…

I hope you had a great weekend!

Baby Flower Update

Remember when we had a farm work day to prep for growing our wedding flowers? We built cold frames and raised beds and even had a farm photo shoot!

And just recently we revisited our baby flowers on the farm (being grown by one of our amazing friends) to make sure they were free of weeds and had space to spread their leaves.

Baby flowers ready for bigger pots!

Baby flowers ready for bigger pots!

Some of these little guys were even sent home with us to plant in our own garden! We’ve been doing our very best to keep them alive in the heat (113 forecasted for this weekend…) and finally got to put them in the ground over the weekend!

Getting the layout right!

Getting the layout right!

I’ve never wanted something to grow so badly! Our talented flower farmer swears that we planted too many between our two gardens, but we still have 3 months before the wedding and I’ve killed plants a lot faster than that!

 

For now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for late summer blooms of white and yellow!

Just a little row of baby flowers!

Just a little row of baby flowers!

The rest of our garden is plugging along nicely too! Tomatoes are swelling, hydrangeas are blooming out of control, and our very first eggplant flowers have popped up!

Garden surprises!

Garden surprises!

I really want to make fried green tomatoes, but something tells me I’ll be jumping the gun…