What To Do After a Flood

What to do after a floodRight now a large portion of South Louisiana sits under water. Just mere months ago, North Louisiana experienced the same trauma, and even though Matthew and I have made it through the hardest parts, the pain/fear/uncertainty/stress still feels fresh. A few weeks into the rebuilding process, I joked that I could now write a manual on “what to do in a flood.” Now, when so many of our friends are suffering through the same things we did, the idea struck that I should actually jot down a few pointers from our experience. Keep in mind, every situation/insurance and mortgage company is different, so these tips are based solely on our experience and could vary based on each individual situation.

Here’s what we did:

  1. Start a “flood notebook.” You are about to be bombarded with information, phone numbers, policy numbers, deadlines, etc. and you’ll want all of that information in one place. My flood notebook was attached to me at all times during the first 3+ months and every bit of information was kept there.
  2. Contact your insurance company. If you have flood insurance, file a claim immediately. With a disaster of this nature, insurance adjusters will be swamped and you want to get on the books ASAP. If your cars were damaged, you’ll need to file separate claims for those. (Remember to be nice to everyone you speak to. They want to help you.)
  3. Contact your mortgage company. If you have a mortgage on the property, you’ll need to let the mortgage holder know. They’ll be a part of the rebuilding process and you’ll most likely have to run funds through them to rebuild. Also, they’ll possibly delay your house payments for a few months to help out until you sort things out. (Be mindful that these payments will probably all become due at the end of the delay period. They’re most likely not doing away with those payments – just delaying.)
  4. Register on disasterassistance.gov. We did not register with FEMA at first because we thought they wouldn’t help since we had flood insurance. That’s not true. Register anyway. There’s most likely things your insurance won’t pay for and FEMA can help with that. If you do not have flood insurance, register right away!! This will most likely be your best form of assistance.
  5. Take lots and lots of photos. Hundreds. Thousands. You can’t have too many. Take photos in all rooms, from all angles. Inside closets. Inside cabinets and drawers. YOU CANNOT HAVE TOO MANY PHOTOS.
  6. Find a more permanent place to stay. We were overly ambitious and thought we’d be back home in 3-4 months. We were home before most of our neighbors/friends and it still look way longer than expected. You’re about to be stressed to the max and pushed to limits you’ve never been before. Find a place to retreat. My suggestion would be to plan for something stable for at least 6 months. This way, you’ll be less stressed when you experience delays or bumps in the road.
  7. Delay/pause your excess utilities. You won’t be using a lot of your excess things like cable, internet, alarm services, etc. for a bit so if you can, pause or cancel those temporarily. Some will be great about this, some won’t. Just save where you can. For internet, for example, it didn’t make sense to cancel so we just dropped it down to the very basic plan. Our alarm company let us disconnect and easily reconnect when we were back home.
  8. Call your cell service provider. If you begin to run low on data/service, you can call and ask for help. Once the area is declared a natural disaster, some providers will extend your limits for the month so you’re able to make those important calls, etc.
  9. Write down people to thank in your flood notebook. I kept a running list of those who helped so I could thank them when things settled. (I still have some cards to send.) There is no possible way you’ll remember everyone so start writing down names immediately. And believe me, you’ll want to thank those people. These people will literally be your heroes.

What to do after a floodOnce the water is out of the house, here’s some things to do next:

  1. Take more photos. If you took photos while the water was inside the house, take more with the water gone. Be sure to document any visible water lines. Again, be sure to get inside all cabinets and drawers. You want a record of everything in the house.
  2. Remove any and everything that is salvageable. If it is dry, pack it up and find a place to store it. This is very important – DO NOT PUT ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY DAMP INTO A BOX WITH DRY ITEMS. If you do, you’ll have lost everything in the box by the time you’re able to unpack it. If you think clothes can be saved, launder them immediately. Remember, it’s not just rain water you’re dealing with here. If it’s dry, get it out immediately and keep it separate from anything wet. If it didn’t get touched by water, insurance probably will not cover it. Save it if you can.
  3. Pull anything wet out outside. You want to get everything out that’s holding water. Carpet and rugs need to be pulled ASAP. They hold water in the house, so remove them as soon as possible.
  4. Make note of EVERYTHING, big and small, that’s tossed. As you take something out, write it down. I bought several yellow notepads and some of the girls helping us stood by the doors, making note of everything that was tossed. This will be a LIFESAVER when you go to inventory things for insurance. The more pictures and notes you have, the better. You’ll want to write down the model/serial number of appliances and the other can be general notes…anything that helps trigger your memory of what the item was. It would also help if whoever is writing in that notepad would include their name. That way, if you have questions later, you’ll know who to ask. Also, know how many notepads you have going so you can be sure one doesn’t get misplaced.
  5. If there’s furniture that you think you can save, clean it immediately, especially before you put it into storage. If it’s upholstered or cloth, it’s probably not salvageable. If it’s cheap furniture or not real wood, you should probably toss it. Anything that’s real wood (antique furniture, etc.) might survive if you clean it and get it dried out immediately. We wiped everything single thing that we thought could be saved vigorously with Lysol/Clorox wipes and let it dry before storing it. Some survived. Some didn’t. Again, be careful storing anything wet because it could ruin everything around it. NOTE: Some real wood items might have faux wood backs, etc. If so, rip those off and try to save the rest. You can add a new back later. Just clean it really, really good.
  6. If you don’t have a dumpster, make piles within 10 feet of the edge of the road. It’s going to be a while before they can pick these items up, so put them as far out of your way as you can. If you have someone with a trailer or dumpster, these are good options too. If not, make piles close enough to the road that the trash collectors can legally pick it up and far enough back that it won’t fall into the road.
  7. Begin pulling out sheetrock/insulation. The amount of water you had inside will determine how much sheetrock needs to be removed. Usually, it’s done in 2 or 4 feet increments. It’ll be easier to replace that way. At a minimum, pry away the baseboards. Usually, there’s a gap at the bottom of the sheetrock that’ll allow air to start flowing within the walls. If there’s not a gap or you can’t remove baseboards, knock holes along the bottom of the sheetrock with a hammer. This will allow some airflow. If you’re doing demo yourself, wear gloves. Get gloves for anyone helping you. Pull up flooring, pull out sheetrock, wet cabinets, appliances, etc. Note: It’s ok to do these items before the adjusters come AS LONG AS YOU’VE TAKEN A TON OF PHOTOS. Some people are afraid to start and there’s actually probably a clause in your insurance policy somewhere that says you’ll do everything you can to “maintain the integrity of the home.” In this case, it means getting it dry ASAP. The insurance company will be very unhappy if you simply leave it until the adjuster comes and you’ll only cause more problems that way.
  8. Hire a professional water remediation specialist. These folks will be swarming your area soon and a lot of them do demo too. We used Clean Master and Service Master is another good one. They’ll professionally dry the home once it’s demoed and treat the studs etc. for mold. You’ll want to hold on to the “dry logs” they provide you because insurance will want them and they’ll be handy when/if you sell the home in the future.
  9. Accept help. There will most likely be church groups and volunteers everywhere offering help, food, or supplies. This is not the time to be prideful. These people want to help. Let them. You’ll need strength later, I promise. (Just remember to make a note of who helped in your notebook.)
  10. Choose a good contractor. Your mortgage company will most likely require a licensed contractor to oversee the reconstruction. Pick a good one. The good ones will book up fast, so call as soon as you can. Ask around for suggestions. Listen to reviews. Be sure not to choose a crappy or unreliable contractor.
  11. Be wary of poachers and scammers. Within hours, you’ll notice people scoping your trash piles and offering services with hand-written business cards. Accept help from others, yet be cautious of people just trying to make a buck from a bad situation. Don’t leave valuables outside, especially not near the trash pile. You might also have investors make offers on your property as-is. This isn’t always a bad deal…just be sure you aren’t taken advantage of. If you have questions about this, contact me.
  12. Save all receipts. All of them. Anything you buy or pay for right now should be documented. In addition to my flood notebook, I bought an accordion file to keep all paperwork in one spot.

What to do after a floodAnd a few more practical/sanity related tips:

  1. If you’re not attached to an item, do not save it. Now is not the time to save anything that doesn’t mean something to you or than you don’t need. Storage will be scarce and once you’re ready to move back in, you won’t want to clutter your new, pretty home with old junk. If it’s damaged or if you don’t love or need it, get rid of it now.
  2. If there’s an area of the house or items that are important to you, have someone close to you work in that room. My closest friends/family worked in my closet because they knew better how to handle those personal items. They also knew to just toss what was ruined without me seeing it (after writing it on the damaged inventory) because that was easier than me having to face that item at that moment.
  3. If photos got wet, pull what you can apart gently and lay them out to dry ASAP. They won’t be perfect, but you might can salvage some this way. I also had friends help with this task so maybe I wouldn’t even remember photos that had to be tossed.
  4. And possibly most importantly, remember that this sucks and it’ll be really, really tough. However, IT’S TEMPORARY. You won’t have to live this way forever and someday things will level back out. I think that the only way I kept my sanity is by constantly reminding myself that I can handle anything for a limited amount of time, and this nightmare is just temporary. As with any situation, it is what you make of it. It sucks and if you let yourself wallow in that, you’ll only make the process worse. It can be positive or negative…you decide your outlook.
  5. When the new wears off and the volunteers go back to work, you’ll feel the most alone you’ve ever felt in your life. However, there’s a group of us out there that will be constantly thinking about you and cheering you on. I’ll be constantly thinking about you and cheering you on. And I know that you’ll pull through. You’ll come out on the other side with a new perspective on life and you’ll feel invincible. I promise.

These steps are not something I worked on for weeks and I haven’t even proofread. The thought just came to me to share my tips in case it helped just one person find their way in this tough time. I wish I had someone to reply on for instruction when this tragedy first happened to us. If you have questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to help in any way that I can!

I haven’t shared much yet, but you can find some of our story here or check the #100daysofrebuilding hashtag on Instagram. If you’re struggling today, know that I feel your pain and I’m on this journey with you.

Much love, Pamela

EDIT 8/19/16:
Call the tax assessor. This isn’t something that needs to be done right away. However, make a note to call them when you have time. They’ll keep a tally of damaged homes and this is how they’ll determine whether tax breaks can be given for the year. (Thanks, Madeline, for this reminder.)

*These thoughts and suggestions are all my own. I’m not a professional, nor are these hard and fast rules. This is just my experience and what I did to survive it.
**The last, overhead photo was taken via drone by a neighbor.

Four Years!

Wedding PhotoThe hubby and ITwo years Happy Three Years!Today is our FOUR YEAR wedding anniversary. I can honestly say that this third year that we’re wrapping up has been one of the toughest yet. Along with some bold business moves allowing Matthew to come work with me full time, our home also flooded. That alone, has tried and tested us more than you could ever imagine. Without a doubt, our marriage and our relationship will be stronger because of it, and I’m certain that we’ll see more tough times along the way. Looking back on the last several months, I feel pretty certain that I couldn’t have tackled this struggle with anyone else. Even when we disagree (and by disagree, I mean stand firmly on the POLAR OPPOSITE ends of a spectrum), we still make an awesome team.

Usually, we try to take big adventures and explore new territories when we travel. Instead, this year, we’re going to unplug. We’re going somewhere quiet where there’s nothing to explore or rush off to. We’re going to rest, relax, and rejuvenate after the tough 5 months we’ve had. After all, we’re going to need some energy to finish this fight!

The photos above are from our wedding shoot, first, second, and third anniversaries. If you’d like to see what we did on these anniversaries, click the corresponding numbers. Here are anniversaries 1 / 2 / 3!

When “busy” was cool

Flowers at the ParkI don’t remember exactly when it was, but somewhere in the early 2000’s stressing and being busy became cool. Basically, you were pretty much a nobody if you weren’t running around like crazy or worrying about something. After all, super important people had lots of super important things to handle and do, right?

I believe that everything in life revolves around stages. Basically, everything tends to sort of come and go. To illustrate what I’m saying, sit and think a little about your generation compared to your parents and your grandparents. If you pay close attention, you’ll see that one generation tends to be the complete opposite of the previous one, and the following one will mimic items from the first. For example, your grandparents may have put a lot of emphasis on being at home and spending time with family, while your parents focused primarily on work ethic and providing a stable income. You, in turn, probably focus on a lot of the same things your grandparents did. It’s such a fascinating topic to consider if you really think about it.

In thinking through some of these things, I realized that one mysterious day, life switched to busyness being the norm. You were basic if you didn’t have a calendar filled to the brim with things to do. With smart phones glued to our hips, we were constantly tuned in to social media, texts, and work email. This became the new normal and honestly, I think we didn’t even notice the switch.

For a while, my go-to answer when asked how things were was, “I’m just busy.” Especially as a business owner, I felt I had to be “busy” to communicate success. If I wasn’t busy, my business must be a total failure. Finally, I realized that I didn’t want to be busy or even seem busy. I wanted to be successful AND sane. I wanted to work hard and play hard. I wanted to do my job more efficiently, so that I had more free time. After all, “the purpose of business is to fund the perfect life.”

These days, I feel like we’re all finding a little more balance. If you read the internet, you see people “unplugging” by putting their phones away. You don’t see as many devices being used at the table in restaurants. You may not get an instant response to that email you sent a coworker. These slight changes are not only ok, they’re good. Personally, I’ve turned off all email and social media notifications on my phone and do not disturb has changed my life. I think the pendulum swung too far in the other direction and now we’re seeing it come back to a more balanced state.

I don’t have to link to articles about the negative effects of stress. If you haven’t read a million of them already, google it. They’re not in short supply. Our bodies are not designed to operate in constant chaos mode and that lifestyle doesn’t usually create happy endings. The rule of thumb is that you give time to the things that are important to you. Of course, we must work hard to reach our goals. However, I don’t think we should place the emphasis on being busy. Instead, let’s make a pact to work hard while also enjoying our lives. Let’s schedule our days so that we get our jobs done and still have time to spend with the people we love or explore new hobbies. Let’s focus on efficiency instead of being “busy.” We won’t get to the end of our lives and be thankful for how many extra hours we spent at the office. Instead, we’ll reminisce on the times we explored the world around us and laughed with friends and family. Make those dreams a reality. Let’s go back to a time when “busy” wasn’t cool. I’m already headed back there myself.  Yesterday was a great example. Want to join me?

The Fear of the Tunnel

Kiroli Park at pamelapetrus.comThe house (read: temporary duplex) is quiet around me. It’s somewhat of a somber day, cloudy with very little sunshine coming through the windows. I’m half way through my cup of coffee have a general plan mapped out for the day. I find myself lingering at the table, knowing that I should start getting ready for the day. Something holds me in my seat. Something other than laziness. I just don’t feel like the morning is finished. I decide to try writing, something that once felt like a regular part of my morning routine and now feels a bit foreign and unfamiliar.

Usually when I write, I have a particular goal in mind. I’m going to flush out a story or share some sort of self-discovery. I determined a bit ago that writing is what I do to clear my mind and process my thoughts. I usually do this writing via an app on my iPhone so that I can curl up somewhere comfortable. Today, I bring the laptop to the table. I suppose I feel the need to call more attention to this time. I need to do something to force the words out of me.

I haven’t written freely in months. Before the flood, I wrote something nearly every day and shared a post on the blog twice a week. Like clockwork. I hadn’t missed a Monday or a Thursday without a post. The rest of the writing just lived there on my phone, either to later be merged into something else or to just live there and maybe be reflected on later. Since the flood, I’ve posted here a couple of times and nothing other than a few mere paragraphs have been forcefully put into that iPhone app.  I’m nearing three months of not writing regularly. It’s no wonder that my mind feels a little clogged and confused.

So today, realizing that this therapeutic habit of mine has both unintentionally and intentionally been abandoned, I sit down to write. It feels a little foreign and yet like home at the same time. I’m able to string together sentences more easily today than I was a month ago. Still, the sentences seem to have no purpose. Nonetheless, I continue to write. Maybe a purpose will come. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I need to get reacquainted with the thoughts in my head. I need to be reintroduced to my true self. Myself before the chaos ensued.

I think back to a photo I took in Kiroli Park. I believe this area of the trail is called the Swamp Walk and a tunnel of sorts presents itself along the path. I’ve found great therapy on these trails lately…walking both casually and with fever for exercise. I listen to podcasts and unplug from the world around me for a bit. Being in nature has always centered me, and I’m thankful to have Kiroli Park to help diffuse the chaos right now.

Back to the tunnel. I snapped a photo of the tunnel, as I’ve done practically every other angle of the park. And today, as I think of that photo, I conjure up a bit of symbolism for where I am today. I think I even made reference to a tunnel in one of my last posts. I see myself standing on the outside of this tunnel, knowing that I want to go on through, but maybe being afraid to take those first steps. The tunnel at Kiroli Park obviously isn’t dark and scary, but for now it’s serving as an example. Right now, as we’re wrapping up the last few weeks of the rebuilding process (hopefully), it feels a little scary. I know that by simply taking the steps and pushing through the dark tunnel, we’ll come out on the other side. However, I’m afraid of what might be waiting just outside those tunnel walls.

Within the next few weeks, our vision for the rebuild will come to life. Good or bad, it will become a reality. Within the next few weeks, we’ll retrieve what we saved from storage to finally know what we were able to salvage and what we weren’t. Within the next few weeks, we’ll have to come face to face with the quantity of what was lost. Or what was damaged in the hurried move. And within the next few weeks, if our home doesn’t actually get “finished,” we’ll be homeless again.

As I sit here, writing about seemingly nothing, I realize that while I’m eager to be home again, I’m also afraid to step into that tunnel of the last stages. I’m afraid of everything listed above and in the back of my mind, I know that some of the hardest struggles of this process are still yet to come. So I resist the tunnel a bit. Even though I want to walk through, I find myself standing forcefully on the other side…just needing a little push to go forward. I need to shift my thoughts to the positive ones. I need to focus on the good. I need to be brave instead of fearful. I need to take one, tiny step at a time and just go. I can’t actually delay the passing of time or reframe reality, and I don’t even want to. I just need to move. I think that’s how you survive in life, after all. You bob and weave, dodging the punches and you move. You can’t stay still. It’s in the stillness that the negativity will consume you. You just push forward, no matter how badly you want to stop. And that’s why today, I’ll begin that journey through the tunnel in my mind. And within weeks, I’ll be on the other side, facing a new reality.

Breaks & Breakdowns

Breaks & Breakdowns. Read more at pamelapetrus.comLast week it happened. I broke down. Like ugly cried all day, waved my hands around in frustration, and complained to my husband about life (and people). Any sane person could see that it was bound to happen. We’re out of our home and routines. We’re rebuilding, which comes with its own headaches. I feel like every other day I’m afraid that I might be homeless again. I’m working like a mad woman, definitely not utilizing my team enough. I’m negotiating what I swear are some of THE hardest deals of my entire career. I put a booth in an antique store and bought an investment property that needs just as much work as our home. Just to name a few.

Clearly after a day of riding that emotional rollercoaster hard and fast, I knew something had to give. I didn’t want to give up any of my projects, so I decided to make a few small changes instead. Here are a few, in case you need to practice better break-taking too:

  1. I’m not carrying my phone with me to the bathroom.  I have quite a habit of carrying my phone everywhere I go. Especially the bathroom. My reasoning is that I can use the time walking back from the bathroom to respond to texts and emails. That might seem like a productivity trait. However, here’s what happens. First, if I’m looking down at my phone as I pass by all of the offices and real people along the way, I miss them. I barely say hello. I don’t ask about their lives. I don’t pause for conversation about new listings or troubleshooting in negotiations. I surely don’t offer help. I’m a busy lady! Secondly, if the phone rings while I’m in the bathroom, I legit try to pee faster so I can answer it before it goes to voicemail. That’s nuts. State labor laws mandate that employees get a certain number of breaks per day as well as a true lunch break. (What?! Is that real?) I don’t even give myself 3 minutes to walk to the bathroom! For now, I’m giving myself that time. I understand that I’ll come back to 25 unanswered text messages. However, I’m gaining 3-5 minutes of peace. Sign me up for that.
  2.  I must find time to relax and hobbies that aren’t directly related to my work. Both fortunately and unfortunately, the things I enjoy doing are very closely related to my “work.” Therefore, during my down time, whatever I find myself doing can easily cross over from down time to work and next thing I know, I didn’t clear my mind or rest at all. I think I’m learning that I don’t actually know how to “rest” at all and that I don’t have any hobbies that allow me to truly relax. Not good. And I don’t even know where to start with figuring that one out. Any help?
  3. I will take days (or at least half days) off where I transfer my calls and delegate out my texts and emails. Since I use my personal cell for work, my work can easily follow me everywhere. Even to the bathroom (see above). The fact of the matter is, I have a well-trained team of professionals who can troubleshoot and handle business, just as well as I can. I pay two full-time salaried folks to help me. I simply MUST unplug and allow them to do their jobs (and mine) every now and then in order to actually get a break. Otherwise, I eventually become a hot, crazy mess. I finally took an actual day off and it was the most amazing thing ever. Better than my birthday. I feel like a brand new person. I’m inspired, rested, and eager to work. Doesn’t that sound awesome?! It feels awesome.
  4. I need to set clearer boundaries, both for myself and for others. For example, I’m not available to chat real estate at midnight. I’m not going to answer a contractor’s question at 5:50 am. For most people who only share their office phone number, they would only get these messages between their regular office hours and everything else would just have to wait. They’d be at home watching Game of Thrones, oblivious that their office phone was ringing off the hook. Since I give out all of my contact info, folks can track me down at all times. This means, I never get to turn my work brain off. I don’t get to unplug or rest. I need to practice setting more clear boundaries and holding myself accountable to those. I can be accessible without being a slave to my work and my phone.

As I write this I immediately see 1,000 ways that I’ll cheat. It’s so easy! And most of the time I even want to. I do not, however, want to lose and entire day of productivity recuperating from not taking a break. Seriously guys, I’m the worst boss of myself possible. I’ve written a few things on this topic that I haven’t shared and maybe I should get around to that. Also, something similar here and here.

Clearly, this is an ongoing struggle for me. I’ve read several articles about set break time and rejuvenation. I already understand the importance. I just don’t do it. Anyone else struggle with this? If you have some tips for doing better, I’m all ears. You can leave a comment, email me, or call me after midnight. Kidding. Don’t do that last one. I’m setting boundaries now.

Cabinets

Cabinets. Read more at pamelapetrus.com Cabinets. Read more at pamelapetrus.com Cabinets. Read more at pamelapetrus.comI alluded to the fact that I’d write more about the flood and I honestly assumed that would have already happened. I have several sentences marked down here and there documenting my feelings and experiences of the last two months. However, nothing feels complete and honestly, I feel as if I haven’t been able to fully draw out what I’ve experienced lately because of the roller coaster of emotions I’ve been on. There have been highs and very lows and stress, something I avoid like the plague, has set up shop in my life and it’s been a constant battle for me to live despite that fact.

Then, cabinets were a game changer. We’ve had two major delays throughout this process and those were getting doors and cabinets. These two items alone blew a hole in my overly ambitious plan to be back in my home by May 30. Both were also completely out of my control which caused its own set of emotional struggles. Even though I knew the “hard times” were so, so temporary, I still found it difficult to stay positive (and not wildly frustrated) at times. It was often very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel without secretly fearing it was a train.

Then, on Tuesday, May 10th our doors arrived. Unloading them from the trailer offered a glimmer of hope that we might be making progress after all. Just three short days later, our cabinets were delivered and installed. Seeing those cabinets sitting in their well-designed spot in the kitchen, was a major game changer for me. I wrote on IG that I could have hugged the cabinet guy and laughed/cried/danced about. It felt like I’d been waiting a lifetime to see those cabinets and to behold them in all their freshly-crafted glory felt like my own silver lining. I suddenly felt like we would make it. We would someday finish rebuilding and get to live in our home again. The decisions I’ve been making on the fly without as much consideration as I’d like, were turning out ok. We would be done with this living nightmare soon.

I would have never guessed that cabinets could cause such a transformation in my mood, though I’m beyond thrilled to have switched to a more positive mindset. I don’t thrive well in negativity and worry had undoubtedly consumed me. I felt lost and like I’d never find my way again, even when my rational mind insisted that I would. Now, with cabinets and a few doors hanging on their hinges, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I know it’s not a train. Instead, it’s the sunshine that’ll be pouring through my windows as I settle back into my new, old home. It still feels like a distant dream, though suddenly I’m rejuvenated enough to finish the fight.

P.S. If anyone is looking for an amazing cabinet maker, Matthew and I highly recommend Bailey’s Custom Cabinets. Jimmy Bailey was very attentive and took notes (something most don’t even take the time to do). He asked lots of questions, making sure to understand our goals. Even more importantly, he delivered what he said he would deliver, every single time WHEN he said he’d do it. He has by far been one of the most pleasant and least frustrating people to work with during this progress. And our cabinets look and feel awesome.

Renovating a House From Top to Bottom – When You’re Not Expecting To

Rebuilding #mapfirsthouseI basically love everything house related – design, décor, renovating, color schemes, furniture – you name it. I’m even a realtor for heaven’s sake! Since I can remember, I’ve dreamed about redoing whatever space I was in and planned excessively for that. Since I’ve never had an endless budget to rehab each space to it’s maximum potential, I’ve always lived in a state of “make it work” vs stretch everything to its max potential.

This house was no exception. We did a ton of renovations before we moved in to make the house livable for us and work with our lifestyle. Then, I settled into months and months of deciding what were the best projects to spend our money on. Of course, I had a dream list of things I’d looooove to do to our home. And then there was the list of upcoming projects that were more reasonable that we’d tackle as funds and time became available. (I actually had that list ready to share with you guys in March.) Then the flood hit and it basically changed everything.Rebuilding #mapfirsthouseRebuilding #mapfirsthouseWe spent the last year working to get the inside to a good place. We’d just had several conversations about being settled enough with the interior to begin work outside. We had several projects lined out for the exterior, and actually planned to begin work on the landscaping (finally!) the weekend that the flood hit. Now, rather than following our original trajectory, we’re having to start over.

What does that mean exactly? It means a lot of things. First, we’re having to redo all of the work we’d already done. Our house was destroyed completely from 4 feet down, so everything we’d already lined out – flooring, paint, furniture, etc. – had to be demolished/discarded and redone. Secondly, the plans we’d made need to be reevaluated as things are all shaken up now. Even though our intention was to focus our energy on the exterior this year, we need to adjust and put out focus back on the interior for now. Obviously, we want to get to live there again ASAP. Also, with our house being basically demoed, it was a good time to reevaluate previous decisions and the overall layout and functionality of the home. If we were going to change anything, now was the time to do it.

Rebuilding #mapfirsthouseSince I had a few ideas already, some of the decision were easy to make on the fly. However, the way I handle practically any decision is to consider every single possibility and look at every option. Then, I take some time to process the options, considering all pros and cons, and finally make a decision after much deliberation and discussion among my closest confidants. The trouble with the strategy here is that I need to make the majority of the design decisions quickly…like yesterday…so that work can happen quickly and we’re out of our home for the shortest time possible. This is not conducive to my normal way of doing things.

When you’re planning for a major renovation or building a new home, I feel like it’s a lot easier to be prepared for all of the decisions and information that’s coming your way. At a minimum, most people will have planned for a place to live in the meantime. When a renovation is basically thrown in your lap, however, things seem a bit more difficult. I don’t feel like I have the time to really consider my options like I would prefer to. Trying to find temporary housing, dealing with insurance, not having vehicles, still working full time, and processing 1,000 conflicting emotions AND planning and dreaming for this big remodel has proved to be very hard on me. I’m not one to crumble under pressure, though I’ll admit that my current lifestyle is not conducive to nurturing my creativity. Instead, I feel pressured to make the best possible choices in the least amount of time, and for now, I’m just hoping that they’re close to “right.” Or adequate. At this point, I think I’ll settle for adequate.

Rebuilding #mapfirsthouseLately, my free time is spent scouring Pinterest and channeling my inner Joanna Gaines like it’s my job. And in a way, I suppose it is. When life throws crazy, unexpected trials at you, you simply learn to deal. And in this situation, I feel like it’s my role or job to use this opportunity to make our home into the best place it can be for my family. We didn’t think we’d be doing a major renovation any time soon, though since we are, I feel like I need to do my best work. I need to think fast and creatively. I need to consider as many options as possible in a short amount of time and I need to employ my best ideas quickly. I need to think both inside and outside of the box and consider our big dreams and ideas while also being practical and focused on the schedule. I need to maximize our budget while not forgetting to splurge where most necessary. I need to think about how we’ve truly used this home over the last year and a half, and think about areas of improvement that we would have only dreamed about. I know, without a doubt, that I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to do this quickly and efficiently. And obviously, when you’re forced to remodel without first planning for it, that will come with its fair share of headaches and strains. (Though, I could live without having a migraine every single day.) Nonetheless, I’ll figure all of this out and I’ll make it through. Matthew and I will be back in our beloved home before I know it, and hopefully, it’ll be beautiful and relaxing, just as we’re dreaming about now.

I’ve obviously been a bit quiet lately, and this post sort of indirectly mentions the tragedy we’ve experienced. Naturally, things have been a bit chaotic and that chaos has left me with few words for now. At first, I had no desire to write and now the words are starting to come back slowly. My thoughts still aren’t entirely clear, though I know the words will come back eventually. I’m sure I’ll share more about the flood eventually. For now, I’ll keep searching for my words and I’ll pop in and out here as they arrive.

Also, I just decided to track our rebuilding process through the 100 Day Project. Last year, I focused on crafty projects and this year I thought I’d use this time to showcase the rebuilding process. Feel free to follow along with #100daysofrebuilding on Instagram, if you’d like.

Currently.

April CurentlyI’ve seen these “currently” posts all over the Internet and I’ve always loved them. It’s no secret that @elisejoy’s were always my favorite. Considering the awkward spot of life we’re in right now, I thought this might be a great time to try one of my own. So here goes.

Currently I am:
rebuilding my house.

taking pictures
of all the flowers.

thrilled
 that there’s Sheetrock back on my walls. (Seriously, so encouraging.)

choosing
paint colors like its my job.

learning to live comfortably in a camper.

trying to find my words again.

being thankful for a place to live, for the opportunity to rebuild, and for amazing friends/family and strangers.

working hard and fast.

stalking Emily Henderson’s blog for design ideas.

adjusting to 1,000 new things and emotions.

driving my car with the sunroof open and music up loud. (Not right this second, obviously.)

enjoying little tiny moments that might have otherwise slipped by.

growing a real estate business.

eating way too much ice cream.

loving the warm sunshine.

embarking upon a few new adventures, in spite of the madness.

sending so many thank you cards.

waiting excitedly on the new season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

These are just a few of the things I’m doing currently. It’s no secret that our lives were turned upside down after the flood and for a bit, I struggled to bounce back. Each day it gets easier, and though I’m not back in a routine and my writing has suffered tremendously, I’m back at work and back at life. Each day gets a little easier and each day I feel a little more like my real self. We’re slowly finding our new normal. We appreciate the well wishes through the flood and for understanding as things have been a bit harder lately. Currently, I’m thankful to be deep into the recovery stage where I finally feel my head’s above water…both literally and figuratively, I suppose.

Since I’ve strayed from my regular Monday/Thursday blog posting schedule, feel free to keep up via Instagram @pamelapetrus for now.

On Growing Up

Growing up

I wrote these words at some point last year. When I was thinking about what I wanted to share on the blog today, I stumbled upon this and decided I didn’t want to let time pass without sharing this thought. It explains SO MUCH of what I felt throughout my late twenties, and I really want that emotion documented here. I’d say that I’m still in this stage somewhat, though I definitely feel more comfortable in my skin and in my world today than what I did at 26, or when I wrote these words even. If you’re just embarking upon these years, be warned. This is pretty much what it feels like all the time and if I had any advice to give it would be to embrace it. You don’t have things figured out and you won’t just yet. Instead, just hang on. It might be a bumpy ride, but you’ll get where you’re going nonetheless. That’s when everything else will make sense. Here are my thoughts:

I’ve started 5,002 blog posts (exaggeration) about my personal growth and what I’ve learned lately, and honestly, I can never seem to flesh out the thoughts in my head. It’s sort of like standing in the middle of the world’s most exciting circus and not being able to decide which part to enjoy first. Do you run towards the elephant rides? Or the lion’s den? But there’s tightrope walkers and cotton candy! The music is loud and invigorating and people are laughing everywhere and it’s the most exciting day of your life! But you don’t know where to start.

That’s what it’s felt like inside my head lately. I literally feel like I’ve come so far in the last couple of years. I can’t put my finger on when this awakening began, but there was some point in the last two years where I woke up and became a new person. It’s felt amazing and scary and rewarding and inspiring. Really, I’ve felt all of the emotions. However, I still can’t put it into words.

I’ve read here and there that it’s in your thirties that you finally learn who you are. They say that you spend your teenage years just learning to survive and you’re twenties are filled with exploration. Then, it’s you’re thirties that you put all of this together and finally learn and understand what you’re really made of and who you want to be. I wouldn’t say this is scientific fact, but I think they might be on to something.

I turned 29 in January.  I’m not quite thirty, but I’m not surprised that I would have experienced this personal revelation a little early. I’ve always been a bit on the mature side, but that’s a conversation for another time. If I tried to put my finger on it, I’d say that I started really figuring myself out around 26 or 27.

I’ve wanted to talk about these various realizations many times. I’ve started post after post and conversation after conversation. I’ve talked with my husband about it thousands of times, and I even struggle to make sense in those conversations. It’s as if the words bubble up inside of me, begging to be released, but then they stay there stagnant. Maybe there are no words. Maybe the magnitude of what needs to be said is too large for me to process right now.

One day, I stumbled upon a post written by Karey Mackin on Clementine Daily. The tag line was, “Good grown-ups don’t care about being right; they prefer being informed,” and I knew right away that I must read this post. She talks about what it means to “grow up.” She talks about learning and growing and wearing what you want. She talks responsibility and finding balance between laundry and exciting adventures. The tag line itself spoke to me, because I noticed this shift in myself years ago. I want to know and understand. I don’t care so much about being right…I just want to be informed. Maybe there isn’t so much black and white. Actually, I think the world is probably comprised of mostly gray.

I read the entire post and it resonated with the feeling I’ve had lately. No, I’m not in my forties yet, but there’s so much to be learned and uncovered at any age. This time that I’m in right now is a big one. I’ve often wondered if it’s really possible to know that as you experience it, but apparently it is. Aside from those formable years where I learned to walk and talk and read, I think this is probably my biggest transitional stage yet. I’m growing and changing as a person almost daily. Sometimes it feels scary and difficult, but it’s mainly exciting. I’m thrilled to become someone better than who I was yesterday. I can’t wait to look back on these years and see what a difference they made. I still don’t yet have the words to describe what’s happened and is happening, but I know that it’s something big.

One day I’ll get it. One day, I’ll be able to explain and understand. For now, I’ll continue to sit with that yearning feeling, hoping to someday find the words.

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Vacations are wonderful and lovely. Especially when it’s to somewhere that you’ve never been and you get to do something new and exciting. Until someone gets the flu. That’s definitely a game changer.

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com.Matthew and I headed out for Colorado with our favorite travel buddies, his grandparents. (They’re who we trekked around Alaska with this last summer.) Pagosa Springs is a 19 hour drive from our home in North Louisiana and we broke the drive up a bit by staying with Matthew’s mom and stepdad in Texas. It was a win-win for family time! Both Matthew and I were very excited about the trip because he hadn’t skied in many years and I’d never been. I’d also never seen “real”‘snow piled on the ground or fluttering through the air. We just don’t see that type of weather in Louisiana. That’s strange for me to realize since I’m quite the traveler. Nonetheless, we were pumped about the trip and couldn’t wait to enjoy three full days of skiing in Colorado. And then Matthew got the flu.

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com.We went up on the mountain on Monday and Matthew felt terrible after just a few passes down the mountain. We were certain that he had altitude sickness so he rested in the car while we skied a bit more. The next day, he stayed behind to rest in hopes that he would feel well enough to hit the slopes on our last day. As the day progressed, he felt worse and worse and spiked a fever, so I tracked down a local nurse practitioner for him to see. (A huge shout out to Susan Kuhns at Pagosa Health and Wellness for staying late and helping us out. She was awesome.) When we presented his list of symptoms to her, it was pretty clear that we were dealing with the flu. She gave us meds (including some preventative options for me) and we stocked up on all things flu related at the local Wal-Mart. In all honesty, I’ve never been more excited to see a Wal-Mart stocked with wellness items AND a friendly staff. If you saw the contents of my buggy, you would have known that we were fighting something nasty – Lysol, Lysol wipes, thermometer, vitamin C – the works. From what we can gather, Matthew must have been exposed to and fought off the flu virus and the altitude sickness weakened his immune system allowing the virus to take hold. To say that it wasn’t how we expected to spend our few days in Colorado, is definitely an understatement.

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com.Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. As I sat in our dark hotel room, preparing Easy Mac in the hotel’s microwave, I realized that I felt like we were Bonnie and Clyde. We were hidden away in this room, unable to go outside for fear of being found. The blinds were closed and we seemed to have no connection with the outside world. Matthew and I chuckled over this realization and as he apologized for “ruining our vacation,” I assured him that it wasn’t ruined…we would just leave with a different type of memory than what we originally planned.

Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com. Bonnie & Clyde in Colorado. Read more at Pamelapetrus.com.Despite the sudden illness, I did get to learn to ski and enjoy the snow a bit. On the first day, I went to ski school to learn the basics. Matthew’s grandparents are both great skiers, so I also had them to learn from. I was happy to report that I picked it up rather quickly and didn’t even fall the first day! The second day brought with it some challenges, as is was snowing rather heavily and the slopes were a bit crunchy/icy. I fell twice on Tuesday…nothing too dramatic though. I did end up in a bit of a tough spot once though. I came down the mountain a bit faster than I anticipated and missed the turn to go my usual route. Instead, I ended up at the top of a much steeper slope than I felt comfortable with. I stood there at the top, literally afraid to move. Luckily, Matthew’s grandfather was with me and showed me how to slide down gently. I’m usually pretty brave; however, I knew I wouldn’t successfully navigate that slope. Before Pappaw showed me a trick to get down, I was seriously considering calling a helicopter come pick me up! The moral of this story is to try not to get yourself onto a slope you’re not comfortable with!

Even though our trip didn’t turn out like we planned, I loved the beautiful scenery and the snow. After this trip, I feel like I could live somewhere where it snows and love it! The snow-covered trees and mountains were simply gorgeous and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to experience them for a bit.

Until we meet again Colorado! Next time we’ll come without the flu.

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