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

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.

A Swift Kick in the Ass

I finished my book today. I sat down to read through what promised to be another insightful chapter only to realize that it would be the last. Only pages upon pages of references would follow this chapter, and then what?

Sheryl Sandberg_Lean In_Book Cover

For the last few weeks, I’ve been thoughtfully and ravenously making my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. It’s been a daily dose of inspiration, motivation, and learning about my own inner boss. Since starting the book, I’ve made long term career goals for the first time in my life, we’ve started shifting toward an equal division of labor in our household (because I finally let go of the need to do everything myself), and I’ve even registered for my first continued education course since graduating college in 2007.

It’s been a big couple of weeks.

So when I turned over the last page of narrative, I went a little pale. The Acknowledgements and References at the end of the book made it look like there was still so much to read – so much wisdom to gain and mental power to build. But, alas, it was over. I had underlined and dog-eared my way to the end. And now I was done.

In a daze, I surveyed the room, looking for something, anything with meaning that could fill the unexpected void. I sent a text to Mr. Rathroy knowing that he would sympathize or joke or somehow make it better. And boy, did he deliver.

Text_Book

He responded immediately and my eyes welled up with tears before I could even open my lock screen. It could be literal. It could be metaphorical. It could be anything I wanted it to be, and that’s exactly the point. I needed the swift kick in the ass that Sandberg’s words gave me, but all of the follow-up was of my own doing. I’ve started making moves and leaning into my own career and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m capable of creating whatever life I want.

So, yes. I will write my own book. It may never be in print, but it will be a powerful, real life example. And I hope it helps inspire someone else to create the same for themselves.

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…

Money and Marriage

It’s no secret that Mr. Rathroy and I are opposites in a lot of ways. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. He’s good at math, I’m good at words. He likes to read fiction, I like to read non-fiction. It’s a mystery how we make this relationship work at all.

Of course, we have our common ground as well – our love of adventure and travel, our desire to constantly improve our 68 year old house, our hopes of retiring on lakefront property in one of these bad boys. But, like in many marriages, one of our largest philosophical gaps is in money matters. Mr. Rathroy and I treated money very differently during our single years. As an example, part of the down payment on our house was birthday money that I had been saving since I was 13. While I have no hard evidence on what happened to Mr. Rathroy’s 13th birthday money, I would bet that it disappeared well before we bought our house.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

It was easier to deal with money in Malawi. We were the richest people in the entire country.

I’m a saver to say the least. And while those anti-spending habits set me on a safe financial course as a single gal, merging money in a marriage has a few more complications. I can’t in good conscience make Mr. Rathroy eat ramen noodles every night, especially when his pay check is contributing to our grocery bill. And he can’t buy a motorcycle on a whim because my paycheck contributes to our existing debt like student loans and car payments.

Leading up to our wedding, we had lots of money talks – should we keep it separate, should we combine, should we work out some sort of proportional bill pay, etc. We compared notes on what our parents do with their finances. We asked our friends how they deal with paychecks and bills. We approached every single angle of the issue and finally made a decision: we would play to our individual strengths to best benefit our marriage (and bank account).

I accepted the position of Chief Money Saver while Mr. Rathroy advocated for monthly allowances that we could spend at our own discretion (so that we could still have some fun). We merged all of our income and big bills so that we could better understand the monthly cost of our married lifestyle. And we signed up for a Mint account so that we could set budgets and track our spending. It took months to design a system that worked for us as individuals and as an eternally united couple, and it still undergoes adjustments when necessary. And while spending that much time and energy talking about money can be a drag at first, it has created a sense of comfort and trust between us that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It was a crash course in compromise and allows us to talk about our money without the emotionally charged contention that a lot of people face.

We both understand our financial big picture and are both aware of every day transactions which helps us each learn to balance on the save-spend scale. Mr. Rathroy now looks forward to meeting a big savings goal and I’ve started enjoying occasional indulgences like a $10 cocktail. The topic of our money comes up multiple times a week and it’s never started an argument. Plus, now we have some rainy day insurance for days like today when we learned that the gas lines have under our house been leaking for over a year. And even though a $300 plumber bill isn’t great, at least we don’t have to chose between food and our house not exploding.

Our method of over-communicating about money is obviously not for everyone. To be honest, it wasn’t really for Mr. Rathroy at first. But once we had all the cards on the table, we started making long term goals and planning things like vacations, new kitchens, and retirement. We’re not always on the same page about everything, but we’re learning to write new pages together instead of tightly gripping our single life philosophies. And while I’m certainly not an expert on marriage, I’ve learned that letting go of some of my pre-wedding mindset helps me better grasp the new philosophies that we create together.

I don’t ever want to feel like I have to bite my tongue, especially not with Mr. Rathroy or on a subject that has been proven to make or break lifelong commitments. We’re in this together, and money is never going to disappear, so we chose to be friends with it instead. And, really, who doesn’t want to be friends with money?

Real (Kid) Talk

Mr. Rathroy is the cool uncle. He hangs you upside down, he makes awesome truck sound effects, and he’s really comfy to nap with.

Cool Uncle

He’s so awesome with kids that it makes my ovaries physically ache. And it makes me really self-conscious about the ways that I interact with kids when he’s around. Because, let’s be honest, no one wants to follow the guy that hung you upside down and incited the biggest giggle fest of your life.

After spending Thanksgiving with his brother’s kids (my new niece and nephew thanks to that sweet wedding we just had), I was forced to confront the fact that I would be the boring parent. I would be the mom that causes eye rolls in our pre-teens and he would be the dad that causes excitement screams when he comes home from work.

Despite my efforts to play race cars or start dance parties before the turkey was done, I always ended up filling a lull in activity with an interview. Seriously, if a kid comes up to me with a toy, instead of ripping into it and using funny voices to participate in the fun, I just ask the kid a bunch of questions.

A sample interview from my Thanksgiving evening:

Kid: “Look at these cool cars!” (One Formula 1 and one Nascar)

Me: “Wow. What kind of cars are those?”

Kid: “Um, really fast ones that race!”

Me: “Oh, cool. Do they race each other?”

Kid: “Um…yeah…and they go really fast!”

Me: “So, they participate in the same kind of race? Like, do they use the same kind of fuel?”

Kid: Re-iterates that they’re both fast and then runs away because I obviously do not understand how awesome and fast his race cars are.

After that exchange, I spend most of the rest of the evening projecting as much awkward, non-verbal kid repellent I could muster. I mean, I’m the new kid on the block with this family and the last thing I want is to look dumb around a 4 year old in front of everyone. So, I sipped wine and sat in the formal living room with the adults and stayed a safe distance away from the race cars. My first Thanksgiving as a wife would not be ending in confused child tears, thank you very much.

But as bedtime approached and giggly turned into sleepy, my niece and nephew migrated over to the couch (no doubt because I was sitting next to their cool uncle). They climbed up, toys in hand, ready to sabotage my plan of avoidance. And suddenly, they snuggled. They snuggled with me just as much as they snuggled with Mr. Gigglefest Rathroy and I felt my heart swell as their sleepy faces disappeared in our arms.

As we drove home, we joked about our opposite interaction styles when it comes to kids. I love that Mr. Rathroy is such an awesome uncle and I love the way he talks and teases with kids (it’s also usually how he talks and teases with me). He brings so much laughter and comfort into their world. And, as it turns out, he loves the way I speak to them too. My favorite thing to do is watch children learn and when they realize that they actually do know the answer to one of my ridiculous questions, I like to think that it builds their confidence. Even though we’re considerably different as individuals, I think the Rathroys will make a pretty dynamite parenting team. Between all that laughter and confidence building, you’re bound to turn out like a good kid right? Right?

That’s just what I’ll keep telling myself…