Tag Archives: 2013

Handmade Holiday

Christmas TreeThis year Matthew and I decided to do something a little different for Christmas. Rather than buying the usual gifts, we decided to take a little post-Christmas getaway to reconnect and rest from the busy holiday season.

I still wanted to have gifts to open on Christmas, so I suggested we each buy a simple $20 gift…just to have a present under the tree. Then, Matthew suggested we make each other something. He loves to work with his hands, and I adore a good craft project, so this was a genius idea!

I’ll spare you all of the details, but eventually we had wonderful, handmade gifts to open. Matthew made me a coat rack from pallet wood and some of the vintage doorknobs he bought me for Christmas last year. We’ve desperately needed a place to hang our coats, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for a project to use some of my doorknobs. My favorite part is that the blank space can be used to switch out various artwork and seasonal decor. I think it’s adorable that he went to Hobby Lobby to shop around for the mirrors he hung there. I should also mention that he made the entire thing by hand…no power tools were used whatsoever!

pallet wood coat rackFor Matthew’s gift, I decided to try my hand at making some bow ties. First of all, I should admit that this was a much bigger undertaking that I thought, especially since it’s been 15+ years since I’ve really used a sewing machine…and that was with my Mom’s help! Nonetheless, several retakes, multiple machine adjustments, and lots of mumbled curse words later, Matthew got 5 new bow ties! (I used this tutorial and pattern if you’re interested in making your own.)

Overall, I loved the handmade Christmas project, and I think we might do it again sometime! I hope that you all received heartfelt gifts as well, but most of all, I hope you spent a lot of quality time with loved ones.

DIY bow tiesThis Christmas season came and went so quickly, and while I’m happy to get back to a somewhat normal routine, I’m sad for the holiday spirit to fade. In an effort to enjoy the season more, I’ve made a few goals for next year. I hope to:

  • decorate earlier. I love holiday decor so much, so I want to have more time to enjoy it.
  • create more DIY decor. There are so many wonderful ideas out there for holiday decor. I want to reserve more time to create.
  • use more thoughtful wrapping. I LOVE wrapping presents. This year I ran out of time and had to rush through the process. Next year, I want to really enjoy it. I usually feel obligated to use up all of the previous year’s paper before opening new rolls. Next year, I want my wrapping to match my tree, and I want to use more personal touches, like these photo name tags for example.
  • consider more handmade gifts. I love the thoughtfulness that went into mine and Matthew’s gifts this year. Maybe it would be nice to pass that on to other friends and family. The idea of an entire handmade holiday sounds lovely…daunting but lovely!

How about you? Are you excited to see the holiday season fade or sad to see it go? What would you like to do differently next year? Surely I’m not the only one to set goals for the next year…let’s talk!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas CardMerry Christmas from Matthew & I! We hope everyone has a splendid holiday season and thoroughly enjoys time with family. We love you all!

Follow along with some of our Christmas activities with #petruschristmas on Instagram!

This year’s card was designed by Christina over at Lacey Fields on Etsy. She did a fantastic and prompt job and was a pleasure to work with. You should look her up for next year’s cards, party invitations, etc!


Our Final Chemo/Radiation Treatment!

Mom's Last TreatmentYesterday marked Mom’s very last chemo and radiation treatment!! I’m going to let that sink in for a bit.. It’s a really big deal…

I haven’t been able to do a full update on Mom lately, but rest assured that we’ve been fighting hard over here in My Neck of the Woods.

Here’s the quick version:

  • We spent a week in the hospital – dehydration, low blood pressure, dropping potassium levels, mystery infection, and a host of other and much more harsh symptoms. She’s a trooper though. (She got out just in time for Matthew and I to leave for Thanksgiving in Nashville.)
  • She spent Thanksgiving week recovering from the long and tough hospital stay.
  • We had a really good week.
  • Insurance required her to try another version of her medicine, which made her treatment symptoms rush back in full force.
  • We had a really bad week.
  • We got the medicine switched back and are currently working on getting her leveled out again.

RadiationBasically, this whole experience has been a series of ups and downs – a roller coaster of feelings, symptoms, and emotions. Every single day was/is different. Some days she felt great…others were bad. The worst part for me has been watching. I suppose it’s sort of like having a sick child…you see that they’re hurting and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This is particularly hard for me because I’m a “fix it” kind of gal.

As things got tougher and tougher on her, I’ve had to steadily remind myself that this is cancer. Cancer. It’s not a pretty thing. It’s not easy. As a matter of a fact, it’s hard. I can’t fix everything because this treatment plan is unavoidably hard.

RadiationNo matter how hard the last week has been, there is always a silver lining. Now, we can celebrate her being DONE with these treatments. This amazingly strong Mama of mine has knocked out 8 weeks of chemo and radiation! (It was six weeks of treatment, 1 week in the hospital, and 1 week of rest.) She’s still not feeling well, but they say she should start feeling more normal within the next 3 weeks or so. I’m optimistically hoping “normal” comes a lot more quickly than that. Honestly, I’m hoping that each passing day of not going to treatments brings with it a slight improvement for her.

What’s next? We will follow up with both her oncologist and radiation oncologist in 3 weeks. The current plan is to let her rest and recover for 6 weeks and then follow up with the surgery to remove the rest of the tumor after that. The surgery will take place in Shreveport and should have a week-long recovery in the hospital there. We will know more definite details once we follow up with the surgeon.

RadiationAll in all, we’re making good progress. In my opinion, the hardest part is over. We knocked those treatments out! She’s not completely out of the woods yet, and she’s certainly not feeling herself. However, progress is progress and we’ve made a huge leap towards the finish line. Please keep lifting her up and sending well wishes and happy thoughts our way. She appreciates every comment, prayer, and message that you send. Feel free to leave a comment here. She is my most loyal reader, after all!

The above pictures are from the radiation treatment room. You can keep up with the process with the #JoycesJourney on twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Also, read the most recent Mom updates here.

Thanksgiving in Nashville

Should I be making a Thanksgiving post just one week before Christmas? Probably not, but things have been busy over in my neck of the woods. It’s better late than never right??

Matthew and I were lucky enough to get to spend Thanksgiving with his Mom’s side of the family in Franklin, TN this year. (That’s just a bit outside of Nashville for those who aren’t sure.) His mom and step-dad just moved there this summer, so we were very happy for the chance to go visit them in their new home. My Mom spent the previous week in the hospital, so we weren’t 100% sure that we were going to be able to make the trip. (I haven’t had the chance to update you all on Mom lately, but she’s doing much better after her week-long adventure in the hospital. I’ll post a full update soon!) Thankfully (on many accounts), she was released the day before we were scheduled to leave, so we got to travel as planned.

The best part of this trip was the time we got to spend with family. We had almost everyone under one roof (We missed you, Jenna!), and that’s sometimes tough to do when we’re all scattered across the country right now.

Thanksgiving Food

The Thanksgiving dinner was superb (and beautiful), which means I will likely never cook for my mother-in-law. There’s just no way I can get close to her cooking skills…no way. It was DELICIOUS, and I’m not even just saying that to win points with the MIL! Unfortunately, I spent most of that morning in bed sick, but I was still able to get up in time to enjoy the dinner. What’s the positive side to being in bed sick while everyone else prepares for Thanksgiving? Online shopping.

Their home is in a new subdivision where you can see the mountains in the distance. Many of the homes there are still under construction, so we got to go take little peeks of some of the unfinished ones. Since I’m a realtor, this was right up my alley.

Aside from time with family, one of our favorite experiences from this trip was dinner at Puckett’s Grocery in Nashville. (More about that later.)  We also spent an afternoon at The Mill, which was such a darling place! If the name didn’t give it away, it’s an old mill that’s been converted into lots of cute, little shops. The Farmer’s Market is next to it, which I’m sure is lovely during the warmer months. I loved all of the old appliances and decor found throughout.

The Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in Nashville

The Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in Nashville

We left for the trip home on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure most people didn’t spend their holiday traveling, but Matthew and I enjoyed the chance to just chat and catch up. However, traveling on a major holiday presents one, tiny problem — most restaurants are closed. We don’t like to eat at places we can enjoy at home when we travel, but there certainly aren’t many (if any) local hot-spots open on Thanksgiving Day. We eventually agreed that we’d break the rules and eat Cracker Barrel, but every one that we passed was horrendously busy. Finally, we settled on IHOP, but we spotted a Steak ‘n Shake right next door that was open! We don’t have one here in Monroe, so it technically met the requirements. This doesn’t sound like a blog-worthy experience, except that this was our very first Thanksgiving meal to share, just the two of us. No, it wasn’t turkey and dressing, but it was still special to me. (You may remember that all of our “firsts” are immensely important to me.) We made most of our trip home via the Natchez Trace, which is always lovely. One day, we hope to travel the whole route.

Steak 'n Shake

Natchez Trace

Natchez Trace

The purpose of this quick trip was enjoying time with our family. We didn’t get to see many of the sites, but we are looking forward to our next trip there very soon. I am certain that Nashville will quickly become one of our favorite places! Since we’re hoping to go back soon, we’d appreciate any tips about what we should see and do. If you’ve been to Nashville or Franklin, leave us a comment with your favorite local places!

We went to Tennessee on a little mini-vacation last year. Read about it here!

6 Months in Real Estate!

Pamela Petrus, RealtorToday marks exactly 6 months since I got my real estate license! I must say that these last 6 months have FLOWN by, and I have learned and experienced so much in a short period of time.

I wanted to take a few moments to reflect upon what these last 6 months have been like.

1. Since I can remember, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be in real estate. I can remember watching episodes of House Hunters for hours and hours. Something about the industry has always called my name. Once I decided to get my license, I realized that I had been right all along…I feel like I was made for this industry!

2. I finally accepted that I’ll never know every single thing there is to know about real estate. Every single transaction is different, so there’s always something new to learn. At first, this was difficult for me because I’ve always been an overachiever and not knowing all of the ins and outs was tough! However, I’ve learned the processes backwards and forwards, and I’ve accepted that each new transaction will bring with it something new to learn. For example, I now know what to do in the case of a government shutdown. How can I ever get bored??!

3. Possibly my most favorite take-away so far is all of the new friends I’m making. From fellow agents to clients, I’m thrilled with the ever-expanding network that I’m now a part of. I’ve always said that I’m in the business of making friends (even in my last business), and that’s so very true here. My goal is to finish every transaction with a new set of lifelong friends, and I feel so lucky to have already made so many. When a client invites me to their Christmas party or texts me randomly to check on Mom….it seriously means the world to me. I absolutely love that this industry gives me hundreds of new ways to develop my love of people.

4. As of yesterday, I have closed my 7th house! That may not seem like much, but when I began, everyone told me to prepare for not selling anything for 3-6 months. I’m immensely proud of myself for having already closed 7 houses in this 6th month period. There are “seasoned” agents in our market that haven’t closed 7 houses this whole year! Long story short, I feel so very blessed to have been able to hit the ground running and have launched this career with such success so early on. I am incredibly proud (and relieved) because breaking out into a new industry on faith alone is very scary!

5. I’m planning to finish up 2013 strong and have even bigger plans for the next year. I sincerely appreciate everyone who has sent buyers and sellers my way, called me for real estate advice, and supported this dream of mine. I seriously could not do this business without you all sending business my way, so please keep it coming!

Pamela Petrus, RealtorHere’s to an even better 2014!

Be Thankful.

Thankful flowers

Thankful flowersToday I cried. With the way my emotions have been running wild this week, that’s not necessarily a surprising thing. (If you follow me on Twitter, you know a little about what I’m talking about.) However, this morning’s tears are different. I just received an email that touched me to my very core. There’s something about getting that shocking dose of perspective that’ll really send you heading in a new direction.

You see, this morning I was beginning that downward spiral where I was letting one relatively small thing really bring me down. It was only 9:00 am and I was already feeling like this day was a lost cause. I was trying hard to pull myself out of my second “funk” of this week but was being rather unsuccessful. I sat down to check my email and read something that nearly broke my heart.

I’m going to try to be as vague as possible here for the sake of discretion. I received an email from an industry partner thanking our company for donating a couple of heaters and an electric blanket to her and her husband. Apparently her husband is terminally ill, and they’ve been in the hospital for over a week. They were coming home yesterday but would be doing so to no heat. I’ll spare you the details of the story, but rest assured that it was heart wrenching.

Now, I could take this story in the direction of how blessed I am to work for such a giving company. This is only one story of them/us giving back, of course. However, that’s not what this was about for me. Instead, it was a very sudden and harsh realization that my bad moods over the last week were very selfish and indeed pointless. While every little thing hasn’t gone my way lately, I have heat. I have a home to come home to everyday that’s filled with plenty of nice things…food to eat…and people that love me. Who cares that I couldn’t find the perfect outfit to wear this morning?! Who cares that every little detail of life isn’t going my way right now?? Practically every small thing that I’ve been upset about and fretting over the last few days is SO incredibly trivial. The fact of the matter is, I have a MILLION big and small things to be thankful for. Heat, for example.

During this month of thanks, I find this scenario even more heart-breaking. Each and every one of us passes someone on a daily basis that has troubles ten times more difficult than our own. Each and every day, we meet someone who we could help in even the tiniest of ways. However, most of the time we don’t. We don’t even know what’s going on in these people’s lives, and we do very little to reach out and actually make this world a better place.

So here’s my challenge. First, I challenge you to look around you and see what you can do to help. Whether big or small, you CAN do something to improve the lives of others. You don’t have to have a ton of money or time. Sometimes it’s as simple as a smile. Sometimes it’s just a kind word. There are no excuses for why each and every one of us aren’t doing something to reach out and help.

Secondly, as practically everyone I know is posting what they’re thankful for daily this month (I’m working on a similar blog post that’ll post this Friday.), I encourage you to really be thankful. It’s not enough to post something random on facebook every day. I really want you all to sit and think about how different your life could be. Sure, it’s not perfect. And sure, there are a million ways that each of our lives could be better. However, if you really sit and think about it, and I mean really think, you’re probably pretty lucky. You can probably think of at least 10 people who aren’t as fortunate as you are. So this next challenge is to, while we complete these daily posts of thanksgiving, try to really notice what all you have to be thankful for. Try to consider how infinitely worse your life could be. Try to be unequivocally grateful for having so many things to be thankful for.

Whatever you do throughout this holiday season, just don’t forget how lucky you are. Pay attention to ways that you can help your fellow man, and let’s do what we can to make this world a better place…even if it’s one person at a time.

Mom on a Scooter

It’s been a little over one week since Mom began her chemo/radiation treatments. That means one whole week down and just five more to go!

The first few days were pretty uneventful, with Mom hardly feeling any different. As last week neared its end, we noticed she wasn’t feeling quite as good as before. We’re not sure whether it was just an average dip or if she was seeing some of the side effects of treatments. Both doctors said they didn’t expect her to realize many of the troublesome side effects like nausea and fatigue, especially so soon, so we’re really hoping those couple of days were just coincidental. Either way, Mom was very happy to have the weekend off from treatments.

Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute

As of right now, her main complaint is having to set an alarm to get up and dressed every morning! She certainly isn’t a morning person (neither am I), so she doesn’t particularly like having to be somewhere at a certain time. However, I must commend the Northeast Louisiana Cancer Institute for being the most punctual doctor’s office that I’ve ever been to! Our appointments are at 10:15 every morning. (Yes, Mom doesn’t like having to leave the house by 10:00…that’s too early!) We arrive a little after 10:00. They call her name promptly at 10:15, and we’re headed out the door by 10:30! That is simply amazing!

In addition to being amazingly quick and on time, the staff is also the most outstanding group of healthcare professionals that I’ve ever come in contact with. Every single person that works in this office is genuinely sweet, caring, and uplifting. Each person you come in contact with offers a smile and friendly greeting. I’ve seriously never walked into an office that radiates so much positivity. There’s usually at least one bad egg in the bunch, but not here. We are so lucky to have such an awesome team taking care of Mom right now.

Mom in front of Bayou ChocolateWhile Mom had a few bad days last week, the past two have been pretty good. She’s felt much better and more energized, allowing her to be more active. On Tuesday, we ran a few errands that included a trip to Target. As many of you know, Mom is awaiting a knee replacement (which is actually how we found this tumor), so sometimes it’s a bit tough for her to get around. I finally convinced her to try one of the scooters to spare her some knee pain. If anything, the experience provided us both with enough laughs to cause pain in our sides, and everyone in Target knows to stand clear next time they see Joyce Bryant coming! On a semi-serious note, it’s a good thing that Targets clothing racks are on wheels…they scooted this way and that way as Mom tried to navigate those aisles! We may or may not have almost rolled one over a lady in the baby department. Needless to say, she wasn’t nearly as amused as we were.  I mean, a sense of humor must be hard to come by these days. In Mom’s defense, that scooter was rather bulky. However, I wish I had a video to share with you guys. After all, you deserve a good laugh too!

Mom on Scooter

All in all, we’re still trucking along quite nicely. I expect that we’ll have a mix of good days appreciate everyone continually checking in with us, and Mom enjoys the sweet comments. Please keep them coming!

Read the last two updates here and here.

Happy Halloween!

Audrey HepburnThis year’s Halloween plans were rather tame. However, I made sure to take full advantage of our Halloween event at Keller Williams. We had a potluck lunch and costume contest at the office, coupled with a baby shower for two of our agents.My first instinct was to go as a mermaid, but I decided on Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s…it would be much easier to work in after the party. Do you know anyone who has their hair professionally done for a Halloween costume? Yeah…probably not.

Halloween HairI should point out that it was literally FLOODING  on Halloween morning. Of course it would be, considering I had a legit hair appointment for this costume. I had my hair done first thing that morning which means I wore a shower cap and sweat pants to take my mom to treatments. It was a lovely sight! Then, I rushed home and changed. It was tough not to look like a drowned rat by the time I made it to the party, but somehow I pulled it off!

Audrey Hepburn and a BallerinaMy new assistant started her first real day on the job, so she joined us as a pretty ballerina. Doesn’t everyone wear a tutu to their first day at the office?? There were witches, a banana, a pirate, Captain America…you name it! Courtney made the most adorable homeless person…her sign really made the costume. It read, “Homeless. Need rich husband.” What a fantastic solution!
Audrey Hepburn helps the HomelessAudrey Hepburn and Brett MichaelsBrett Michaels even made a star-studded appearance! I should mention that his vest and leather pants were from my garage sale stuff. No joke. My Mom made that zebra vest for my senior prom date to match my dress. Again, not joking. This was before zebra print was everywhere…I was making a statement!I think my most significant accomplishment this Halloween was mastering cat eyes with liquid eyeliner! Makeup is not really my thing, and I was terrified of that liquid liner. Now I think I might rock it everyday! For inspiration on Audrey Hepburn make up, this 12 minute video was pretty detailed! You can also try the scotch tape trick, but I failed at this one…I taped my eye shut!

If you want to see what Audrey Hepburn looks like in the morning, click here!

Audrey HepburnSo, how do you think I did?? I simply love dressing up!

Ice Ice Baby

IceLast Thursday was the third Thursday of October. Why is that important, you might ask? It really isn’t. However, it does mark the day of a very special memory for Matthew and I.

On this third Thursday of October 2013, I happened to meet an old employee/friend/new assistant for lunch. When I arrived, she told me to close my eyes because she had a gift for me…a 16 lb gift. What was it? You guessed it…a giant bag of ice.

Why did she give me a bag of ice? Well, on the third Thursday of October 2011, we hosted an event at Salt & Pepper, and it was Taylor’s second or third day to work there. If you read the post about how Matthew and I met, you already know that he did a million and one nice things for me before we ever really knew each other or started dating. This was one of them.

On this third Thursday of October 2011, I was having a terrible afternoon. To make matters worse, I spilled an entire bag of ice for the party onto the floor of the store. (Imagine my frustrated face.) I went to TP Outdoors to grab some random hardware item and spilled all of my frustrations to Matthew, culminating with the spilled ice debacle.

To make a long story short, Matthew showed up at my store with a bag of ice in hand! He said, “I couldn’t let something as simple as a bag of ice ruin your evening.” Seriously, isn’t he the sweetest?? Surely you see now why I couldn’t stay away from this man!

Being new, Taylor asked a million questions and insisted that this nice guy must be more than a friend. I had to mask my excitement because this was the first major random act of kindness that Mathew had done, and I didn’t have answers for all of Taylor’s questions. Instead, I called my BFF over and we stood outside the store chatting about what I should do, because even then…6 months before we started dating…I knew this guy was different.

Of course, I had no idea that this little anniversary was here. However, Taylor doesn’t let anything slip through the cracks and surprised me with a bag of ice to commemorate. (A bag of ice that may have melted in my trunk before I remembered to take it out. Oops.)

Isn’t she the sweetest?! And so is my guy for giving us yet another day to remember. Sweet, random memories are my favorite!

Ready for Treatments

I posted an introduction to my Mom’s new journey on Wednesday. We nailed down a treatment plan this week, so I thought I’d give everyone an update.

Oncology AssociatesWe met with the oncologists who will be overseeing Mom’s chemo/radiation this week. We were very happy to find out that while she will have to do the chemo through the entire 6 weeks of radiation, she will get to take the pill form rather than IV. I can’t even explain how happy she was about this discovery. Life is all about the small victories, right? The oncologist (Dr. Weinberger) said that we may have to do some intravenous chemo after the surgery but that will depend entirely upon what the pathology report says after surgery. Fingers crossed that we won’t need any additional chemo!

In addition to our small win with the chemo pills, the radiation oncologist (Dr. Zollinger) said she shouldn’t have very many nasty side affects from the radiation. He thinks that a sore, blistered bottom will be the most difficult side effect she’ll face. This won’t be fun (imagine a bad sunburn on your bum), but it could certainly be worse. If anyone has any tips for managing this, we’re all ears. Both Dr. Weinberger and Dr. Zollinger say they don’t expect either forms of treatment to make her nauseous or fatigued, and she won’t lose her hair. Let’s count that as another win!

The appointment with Dr. Zollinger went relatively well. The doctor and nurses were amazing at explaining things, asking questions, and filling us in on all of the details. We weren’t expecting to, but we ended up doing the prep work for radiation while we were there, so we are ready to go as soon as our chemo pills are delivered. (Update: The chemo pills arrived today, so we will be ready to start treatments next week!)

Not Happy MommyThe prep process was a bit tough on mom. As you can see in that last picture, the patient was not very excited about having to have another physical. After determining that she was healthy enough for the treatments, they took her back to set up the radiation process. She had to lay on a weird table with her stomach in a hole (to shield her other organs), and they marked where the radiation will be done. She was rather drained after the process, but she’s happy to be one step closer.

All in all, the past few days have been productive, informative, and primarily positive. We are happy for our small “wins” and a plan. Right now the patient is traipsing around Monroe somewhere. I’ve instructed her to be home before midnight, but she doesn’t always follow the rules.

Happy MommyIf you’d like to keep up with the journey, you can follow along with the #JoycesJourney hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter…as well as checking back here regularly. She loved the comments on the last post, so keep them coming!

(This post was written on Thursday evening after the radiation oncologist appointment. See the first update here.)