Tag Archives: 2016

#mapfirsthouse – After

Shiplap Fireplace Living RoomShiplap Fireplace Living RoomNavy Kitchen CabinetsAntique Pie SafeLast Sunday we opened up our “new” home for those who’ve watched the flood recovery process to come and see the finished product. We worked insanely hard to tie up what felt like a thousand loose ends to be ready to have people over. For example, when I announced the get together, we didn’t even have a hall bathroom sink. Or master bathroom door. Among a handful of larger items, there were 1,000 small things that still needed to be done. Hence the reason we decided to have the party in two weeks…a hard deadline makes things happen magically fast. We pushed hard to get a lot done in a short amount of time and now we can rest for a bit. There’s still a few larger and smaller things that we want to complete, and those can wait for a bit.Navy Brick HouseNavy Kitchen CabinetsNavy Kitchen CabinetsMid Century Modern Dining RoomGold Fixtures & Barn DoorsI’ll go through all of the changes in each room with you eventually, and here’s a few snapshots of the finished product to hold you over for now. If you want to take your own before and after tour, you can look back on the before photos and a tour from one year after we moved in.Emerald Green Hall BathSinger Sewing Machine Table as a VanityWalk-In Closet RoomWalk-In Closet RoomI can’t wait to break down all the before and after details because this house has come SO. FAR. And as with most things, I feel like the beauty is in the details. We worked very, very hard to add as much of our personality to this home as possible and just thinking back on what it once was…at all of the different stages…is quite mind-blowing for me. Navy Master BedroomMarble Master BathroomThere are a ton of things that I LOVE about the new remodel. I’m thrilled to come home every day and I want to host all the parties. I made a few bold moves with remodel decisions and after seeing the finished product, I’m so glad that I did. What do you think so far??

Easy Goals for October

purple-mums-for-fallIt’s October! And thankfully it feels a little like October here in Louisiana. With each passing day, we settle back into routines and life feels a bit more settled and normal. For us, September was about trying to get to a stable place and now, I want October to be about getting comfortable, settling in, and resting a bit from the chaos of the last several months. If I had to set an intention for this month, I’d say – I intend for this month to be about fun, friends/family, and celebrating where we are today. I intend to take the month off from hard work on the house.

So far, I’m drinking all the pumpkin spice things, wearing socks with boots, and squeezing in a bit of flannel any time I can. Here’s a few other things I hope to do this month:

  • Make a business move for Firecracker – The Store. Get excited!!
  • Spend ample time with friends and family as opportunities arise.
  • Maybe host a Halloween party?
  • Make self-care a part of my routine….at least 4 focused, intentional efforts a week.
  • Make my homemade chili!

Clearly, I’m stacking the cards a little lightly for the month of October. And that’s fantastic. Remember, setting goals doesn’t always have to mean conquering new heights or accomplishing all the things. It’s perfectly acceptable to set goals that are simple, easy, and even fun! That’s what I’m doing this month, and you should never feel like all goals must be hard or monumental.

Since last month was my first time setting monthly goals in a bit, here’s a look back at how I did.

  • Blog 2x per week. – I met this goal except for the LAST POST OF THE MONTH. So frustrating, yet when you look at the big picture, I made 8 of the 9 intended posts after not blogging regularly for 6+ months. I’m giving myself some grace on this one.
  • Finish the hall bath. – DONE! (A quick tour is coming up on Thursday.)
  • Host a party! – DONE!
  • Launch the social media for Firecracker – The Store. – DONE! Now, to just get a schedule and process in place.
  • Paint one painting. – I did not get this done. I did prop a canvas up where I want it to go…that count??

There you have it. I got some things done and didn’t quite get to others. And that’s ok! Life feels good right now…slower and less stressful that where we’ve been. The weather is cooling off and I’m feeling more like myself again. Cheers to all of the above!

What are your plans for October??



When to Buy Expensive & When to Go Cheap

Updated Navy KitchenThis post is basically when to be fancy and when to be basic. Keep in mind, these are my thoughts and what I use for myself, so you definitely don’t have to agree or even care about my rules. That being said, this post is my tell-all handbook for how I remodeled our home on a budget.

First, a little backstory. Our home flooded and left us with about ¼ of the items we owned and a completely demoed house. We saved the top ½ of the sheetrock, the studs, and the roof – actually, we ended up replacing the roof too. That’s pretty much it. After the initial shock, we were forced to start making all the decisions about rebuilding – basically our lives where a whirlwind of who, what, where, when, and how. (You can read about how that was a nightmare for me here.) Now that construction is finished, I thought I’d share a bit about how I made what decisions and where I chose to splurge versus not.

For this project, we had a budget. We basically had XX number of dollars to rebuild the entire house, do any upgrades we’d been dreaming about, AND replaced all of the personal items we lost. There was simply that number of dollars. We weren’t taking out a second mortgage or selling a car to pay for things. We had to make tough decisions CONSTANTLY about where to splurge and where to save.

An old adage to note here is, “you get what you pay for.” Most of us have heard that since the beginning of time and unfortunately for our pocketbooks, it’s true. We simply don’t get high quality items for pennies. This, of course, doesn’t count the occasional sale or lucky find. And, that being said, you can usually easily tell the difference in how the quality version of something performs compared to the lower quality one. I noticed this immediately with my car. It simply drives and feels different than any other vehicle I’ve ever had. This was a fact that I didn’t understand until I drove one myself, which was the day I drove it off the lot. Have I mentioned that I love that car?? I digress.

Back to the house. One of the first examples of quality difference that I noticed in the “new” house was the faucets. We chose to put Delta faucets and Kohler sinks throughout the entire house. (Please make a note of this if you’re considering buying my house in the future and you’re doing your research on the property. Upgrades throughout! A lovely place to call home! *wink wink*) Back to the faucets. When I first used the new kitchen faucet, I nearly swung it off the countertop because it swiveled so easily! The last faucet we had was much harder to rotate, and to be honest, I often thought I was going to break it. I was also super impressed with the new pull down sprayer. When I released it from spraying out the sink, it just popped right back into place and looked as beautiful as ever! After the first use on the last faucet, I felt like it never fit back together properly and you always had to force it back into place. It was better that what we had previously, though this Delta faucet makes the old one feel like an ugly stepchild. (No offense, ugly step children.) Expensive definitely doesn’t always equal quality. However, in most cases, the “pay for what you get” rule does apply.

Gold Delta FaucetSo, how does one know where to upgrade and where to not? I’m glad you asked. I feel like sort of an expert on this topic because I’ve always applied these principles in most areas of my life and used them daily lately. My wardrobe, for example, is a compilation of quality where necessary and inexpensive where people won’t notice. When it comes to the house, we splurged on some items like the faucets and I won’t splurge on other things like door mats or paper towel holders. I’ll wait until I find adorable options at a discount store like TJ Maxx or Ross. (So, stay out of those stores until I find all of the cute, cheap items that I need. Then you can return to your normal shopping pleasure.) Here are a few rules I applied to splurging on our house renovation that I’ve used over and over again in other areas too:

  1. Splurge on items that you use often. An example here would be the faucets. They’re touched and turned on and off every single day. Delta faucets even come with a lifetime warranty so if something goes wrong, you just call them. You don’t get that with cheaper brands. I also applied this principle to our bed which I’ll never, ever regret. We could have gotten a cheaper mattress. However, you spend almost half of your life in bed. That should definitely be an area to splurge. (If you need a suggestion for someone to talk to here locally, let me know!) A third example here is the washer and dryer. Even for just the two of us, I do a LOT of laundry. And I’m very, very particular about my clothes. (Ask my friends. “Yes, you may borrow this. Don’t mess it up and bring it back to me dirty so that I can wash it myself” is basically how those conversations always went.) By investing in a nice, larger washer/dryer, I have more options for caring for our clothes AND I’ve cut my laundry time in half by being able to do larger loads.
  2. Splurge on items that will otherwise deteriorate quickly. The first example that comes to mind here is towels. Sure, you can buy cheap towels at the dollar store. However, it’s important to think about how long they’ll last. Towels certainly fall into the first category too, because ideally (hopefully) you use them every day. While I’m not ordering imported, fancy towels from wherever you import fancy towels from, I certainly won’t buy the cheapest version. This way, the bath experience feels a tad more luxurious and the product will last longer. If you have to repeatedly replace the cheaper version of something, you’re likely spending more money and having more headaches than if you’d have just upgraded a bit in the first place.
  3. Splurge on items that you LOVE. Clearly, we can’t splurge on everything we love. If so, I’d basically own Anthropolgie. However, sometimes you come across something that speaks to you, even though it might cost a little more than a similar version. Most of the time when this happens, it’s probably something you’ll use repeatedly for years to come. For example, Matthew and I found a rug that we both liked and it was neutral enough and high enough quality that we knew we’d use it for years to come, even if it was in a different room later. We decided to spend a little extra there because based on the years we’d use it, the cost was completely justified. Get this though – when he got to the checkout counter, it was 50% off!! We didn’t even know it was on sale when we made the decision to purchase. *Insert 1,000 dancing emojis.*
  4. Splurge when the process of trying NOT to splurge is more trouble than it’s worth. This is a big one for me. If you’re not naturally anxious like me, you can probably skip this one. To be honest, this rule has only become part of my splurge versus not conversation since I married my super chill husband. One day when complaining about how I just couldn’t find an affordable version of *insert random object here,* he asked if I’d wasted enough time already looking for a deal that I could have just bought the original version. It was a light bulb moment for me. Time is definitely worth something and I might be sacrificing way too much of my time to save just $5, $10, or $20. Now, I try to ask myself – could the time I spend looking for a “deal” actually be costing me time. Could the time I’m using be used in a more productive or profitable way? If I realize that the answer is yes – it’d be better to spend $10 extra dollars here than driving across town, spending time and gas, then I “splurge.”

Gold Delta FaucetNow, where should you not splurge? These “rules” will vary greatly depending on what’s important to you. If you’re passionate about soap dishes or kitchen sponges, then so be it. I’m just not, so these tips are based on my personal preferences. In a nutshell, I feel like you should generally avoid splurging on the less noticeable things. However, here are some more specifics:

  1. Do not splurge on trendy items. We’ve all seen it. One day everyone is raving about mesh wreaths and the next it’s wall weavings. Trends ebb and flow constantly. My general rule of thumb is to never, ever splurge on something too trendy. If it happens to fall into #3 above, then maaaybe. However, if you go all out on something too trendy and the trends change, your home is going to look dated instantly. You need to be able to practice “out with the old and in with the new” in regards to trends and if you’ve mortgaged the house on that item, it’s going to be a lot harder to do. Actually, while we’re at it, I generally try to avoid anything that’s gone mass trendy anyway. If everyone you know is using it/wearing it/has it, it’s probably going to be lame in a matter of minutes. If you struggle with picking what’s classic and cool (and not overly trendy), watch your artsy friends. They’ll be doing trends before they’re cool and then likely abandon them once they’re widespread. The moral of this story is to not splurge on trends. And to avoid gangbuster trends altogether (if you wanna be supa fly, that is).
  2. Do not splurge on the small stuff. I’ll use the paper towel holder as an example again. There is most likely a marble or handmade stone paper towel holder out there that is breathtakingly beautiful. And most likely, I’d love to have it. However, I’ve never hosted a party and had guest ooh and ahh over my paper towel holder. Or the rags that I clean with. Or the front door mat. Or the light switch covers. There are definitely high quality, expensive versions of these things out there and again, if they fall into #3 above, go for it. Chances are though, most people don’t even notice the small stuff. AND most of the time you can find nice, less expensive version of these items either at a discount store or on sale somewhere. I have never paid more than $10 for a door mat and I’m quite proud of that fact. Usually by waiting, you can come across cute versions of these smaller items for less money. It’s how I create balance.
  3. Do not splurge simply for the sake of splurging. I know some people who simply spend money for what seems like no reason. They buy the expensive versions of everything because they equate dollar signs with value and worth. I do believe that quality comes with higher prices the majority of the time. However, the quality of my light switch covers is just not important to me. If you find yourself splurging on every single thing or spending money just to spend it, you should probably speak to your therapist. And cut up those credit cards.
  4. Do not splurge on a temporary solution. If you desperately need a dresser to hold your unmentionables and you really, really want that vintage chifferobe that will take you a bit to find, don’t splurge on the temporary solution. Buy something that works alright for now so that you can replace it without hurt feelings and a hurt pocketbook when you find the thing you really want. Similarly, I wouldn’t suggest spending a ton on something that will only work in this one spot in this one house. If you won’t be able to reuse that item, then it probably shouldn’t be a splurge item. My most recent example is our master bedding. I think that it’s important to get your bedroom set up and comfortable ASAP after a move, or remodel in our case. I haven’t chosen my permanent bedding yet, and rather than spending a lot on something temporary, we purchased an Ikea duvet to use in the interim. The room will be “fixed” and functional for now, and when I find my permanent bedding, I won’t have wasted a ton of money on the temporary.

As I said above, these guidelines are just how I personally approach spending money on my home. These tips were fresh on my mind since I’ve been employing them every single day lately, so I thought I’d share with the class. There will sometimes be exceptions (but pay close attention to #3 on what NOT to do) and there will always be differences in budgets and opportunities. You might want to be jealous of my Delta faucets (cause they’re  awesome). However, I’ll kindly remind you that I had to go through one of the most traumatic experiences of my life thus far to get those faucets. If I had to spell out the biggest thing for you to take away from this post, it would be this – never spend more money than you have and never, ever compare yourself and your situation to someone else’s. Save where you can and treat yo self sometimes. If you’d like some inspiration on building a lovely home on a budget, this book and her blog is a great resource.

If you have any guidelines that you follow when deciding when to splurge and when not to, I’d love to hear them. Most of us don’t have the luxury (or are responsible enough to not to use it) to simply buy whatever we want, whenever we want it. I’d imagine that we all have strategies that we use, maybe without even noticing it, when making purchasing decision. I’d love to hear your tactics!

Fun & Simple Halloween Projects

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, so it’s no surprise that I’ve been pinning different fall and Halloween goodies for a while now. Since it’s officially fall (!!) and October is right around the corner, I thought I’d share a few of my latest favorites with you. It’s time to start making those fall and Halloween crafts, my friends!diy-crayon-pumpkin-tutorialdiy-crayon-pumpkin-tutorialI’ve never been too much of a fan of the crayon art projects. These pumpkins though… *heart eyes*. That black/purple/blue one is GORGEOUS!

Sources: Oh Gee Lindsey & Dream A Little Bigger

wood-porch-pumpkinsI also love a good, simple wood project. When we end up with scraps of wood from a project, I’m always wanting Matthew to save it. (I get it from my Mama..) And this is why! This project (and this wooden candy corn DIY without a source) would be so easy to make with scrap pieces from around the house. If you don’t have any scraps and aren’t super handy with the power tools, you can buy wood from Lowes and they’ll cut it to size for you there.

Sources: Hazel & Ruby & If that candy corn is your crafty work, please let me know!

diy-tin-can-halloween-artHere’s another project you can make out of scraps around the house. She turned them into a bowling game and I think they’d be cute as just decorations too! You could use them for candy, decorative twigs, flowers…you name it!

Source: Party Delights

diy-pumpkin-treat-bagsI’m always looking for creative ways to give little gifts, so it’s not surprising that this one caught my eye. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for your 1,000 trick or treaters, though it’d make a great little prize for folks around the office, teachers, etc. I will most likely be handing these out to someone this year…

Source: One Little Project

diy-halloween-yarn-garlandThis is possibly one of my favorite projects because I love yarn. I love garland. And I love tassels! The tutorial shows you how to make each item, so it seems pretty simple!

Source: Growing Up Gabel

burning-spellbook-sculptureAnd finally, for those more crafty in nature and serious about their Halloween décor… (I’m looking at you, Meghan.) This burning spell book is simply stunning! Apparently the original source hasn’t been traced. It’s thought to have been a part of a college sculpture class. If this beauty is yours, let me know because you deserve some credit!

These few items should get you started on your fall crafting adventures. If you want more inspiration, go ahead and follow my Fall & Halloween board, or follow me on Pinterest altogether! (Right now, you’ll see lots of pumpkins, Christmas décor, and flannel. If those are your things, hop on over!)

Also, check the Halloween tag for a few more ideas. Have you seen any other cool ways of decorating lately?? I can’t wait to get started!

Hitting Refresh on Your Marriage

Four Year AnniversaryThis year for our four year anniversary, we went to the ever-so popular Dubach, La. If you’re not from around here, you won’t understand that and if you are, you’ll say whyyyy just like everyone else. Dubach is a pretty small town just 50+ miles from Monroe and is unlikely be a place where someone would choose to celebrate their anniversary. However, there’s a good reason we did and we’re happy about it.

When planning for our anniversary, we considered going several fun places near and far. We talked about returning to some of our favorites like Nashville or Kansas City. If you remember, we were in the throes of trying to get back into our home in July, so an “adventure” was really the last thing we needed. The last several months had been some of the most stressful times we’d experienced together and we were both mentally and physically exhausted. As a matter of fact, we’d had zero quality time together in months because all of our spare time had been spent talking about insurance or paint colors. Remember, this wasn’t us building our dream home that we’d planned for years for. This was us trying to get our home back after unexpected tragedy. We’d experienced loss, anger, frustration, confusion, helplessness, and a host of other emotions that one doesn’t welcome into their life willingly. It goes without saying that our marriage and relationship had been pushed to new limits and tested in new ways.

As our anniversary approached, we discussed what we needed most. First, we needed to celebrate that we’d made it this far…mainly through the last four months. Secondly, and most importantly, we needed to take a time out, reconnect, spend some quality time together, and remember WHY we chose to take this journey together. Without a doubt, we needed a break from our current reality and to spend some time nurturing our marriage.Cabin in the WoodsHitting Refresh on Your MarriageLuckily, I remembered stumbling across this wonderful little cabin in the woods of Dubach and knew it was where we needed to go. We didn’t need to travel for miles and miles and add new experiences to our passport. We needed to go somewhere simple where we basically did nothing. And to make this cabin even more of a done-deal, it had NO cell service and NO internet service. Sign. me. up.

We arrived at our little cabin on Thursday and took a look around. It was raining and the owner called to let us know that the creek running in front of the cabin sometimes rises into the yard. We’d also seen a “high water” sign on the drive in, less than a mile from cabin. I almost aborted the mission! High water was what we were trying to escape!! We stuck it out and I trusted that we would be just fine tucked away in our little cabin. Talk about irony though…Hitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageWhen we first walked in, I fell in love immediately. The living and kitchen areas were decorated with an eclectic charm that made my heart sing. You knew that every piece in this cabin had some message accompanying it or some story to tell. It was quaint and cozy and just the place you’d want to be curled up at on a rainy day. Did I mention that I found my favorite dishes ever there?? So beautiful.Hitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageRight off the kitchen was the owner’s art studio. It was basically the room of my dreams and solidified the fact that I wanted to create a creative space of my own at home. The host invites you to bring your own supplies and use the room, though I could have just sat in there for hours dreaming of the beautiful things that had come and left that room.Hitting Refresh on Your MarriageThe front portion of the cabin was definitely my favorite, though those flowing white curtains, overlooking the woods (rainy woods in our case) in the bedroom were incredibly relaxing. I’ll admit it, naps were taken. In addition to the design and collection of fascinating things, the cabin offered a serene environment that was both inspiring and relaxing, a feat that can sometimes be difficult to accomplish.Hitting Refresh on Your MarriageThe night of our anniversary, we drive into Ruston for dinner at Beau Vines, one of our favorite restaurants. The hostess so kindly took our picture because I have a photo from the night of every anniversary so far and I intend to keep that up. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend the steak medallions and the TKO if your a spirits drinkers. Although, everything there is delicious.

For the remainder of the trip, we stayed in our pajamas and I wore lots of flannel. We cozied up, read books, played board games, listened to CDs on the old CD player, ate junk food, and talked. We had conversation after conversation, like we hadn’t done in months or maybe even years. The day we left, I felt like this trip might have truly been a turning point in our marriage. We reconnected. We identified some bad habits we’d established (cell phones) and made some plans for doing better. We discussed what we wanted our lives and relationship to look like and made plans for realizing those goals. I personally felt so much more at peace and happy after unplugging and getting back to the basics for just a few days.

If you’re struggling with your marriage or relationship in some way, I highly recommend a trip of the sort. Unplug from technology altogether and actually talk for days on end. Talk about what you enjoy doing together and make plans to do more of it. Talk about your goals and dreams. And if need be, hash out some of those lingering struggles that seem to constantly resurface. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day and not nurture your relationships. People always say “marriage takes work” and a retreat of this sort can be part of that work. When you strip away the daily routines, and more importantly technology, you are forced to put some effort and energy into your relationship. You both probably need to rejuvenate and learning to do that together can be very powerful. If you’re not used to this sort of time together, it will undoubtedly feel odd at first. You might not know what to say or do. Just give it some time and let the awkwardness pass. That silent time
is usually when one or both of us would grab our phones and browse something meaningless. Without that crutch, we talked more and did more for our marriage than we had all year. Now, we’re considering doing something like this every year on our anniversary instead of adventure seeking. If you need the boost, I highly encourage a few days locked away somewhere quiet and most definitely without phones/technology.Hitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageHitting Refresh on Your MarriageWhile in Lincoln Parish, we also visited Mitcham’s Peach Orchard. We got soft-serve peach ice cream and stocked up on loads of peach this and that. It was a great little stop before settling in to the cabin.

I think back on these few days at the cabin with such fondness. It was incredibly relaxing and I was so grateful to get quality, uninterrupted time with my husband, especially after what we’d just been through. I think back on that little cabin often and would highly recommend a stay there to anyone. It’s a great place for a work retreat, to focus on creative work or reach some sort of deadline, or for just getting away for a bit. You can book a stay through AirBnb and if you do, be sure to tell her the Petruses sent you!

Anyone know where we should go next year??

Currently: Mid-September

Small Towns are Full of Assholes Trunk available at Firecracker - The StoreI did my first “currently” post here because I’d never done one and kind of liked them. Today I’m coming back at you with a second edition. Since we’re all friends here, (Right? We’re all friends??) I’ll be transparent and say that at 9pm last night I realized that I did not have Thursday’s blog post ready to go. *gasp!* And since I set a goal this month to get back to my Monday/Thursday schedule, I had to get something ready to go. Fast. Sooo….to distract from the embarrassment of my unpreparedness, let’s get on with it.

Currently I am:
reeling with excitement from the launch of Firecracker -The Store’s social media. (Instagram / Facebook) Seriously. So exciting!!

dying at how funny that sticker is on a trunk I have in the shop. Small towns can be full of a bunch of assholes…

feeling so incredibly loved from the amount of support and kind words that have been sent my way lately.

regretting committing myself to a party at my “new” house in less than two weeks.

working like a mad woman on said house.

making lots and lots of lists.

looking at what might be one of our best months in real estate thus far. Four closings just this week! *happy dance*

trying yoga. For real. Like in a class with an instructor. I’m as shocked as you are.

actually liking yoga.  

writing more and more each day, thankfully.

waiting on the weather to turn.  (Bye, Felicia! – that’s what I’m saying to summer.)

drinking all the pumpkin spice lattes.

about Christmas.

reminding myself that done is better than perfect.

focusing on making the right decisions, being the best version of myself possible, blocking out all negativity, and trusting my gut.

What are you up to so far in September? The month is half way through and it’s been a busy few weeks already! I’m looking forward to wrapping up the month strong. What are you most excited about this month? For me, it’s the *fingers crossed* possibility of FALL!

How to Help in a Flood (And Other Traumatic Life Events)

How to Help After a Flood, Death, or TragedyBelow is a post I’d started regarding how to handle death/tragedy as an outsider, as a friend or acquaintance of the effected, or as a mere stranger who wants to help. Since sharing my post after the Baton Rouge flooding, I’ve been asked to come up with a list of things others can do to help. I left the original message intact and added this first portion of items that YOU can do to help in a flood or similar tragedy. Browse the list. See what you’re capable of doing. And offer a helping hand. Believe me, there’s no task too small and your good deeds will mean the world to those hurting. After browsing this list, continue to read my original thoughts below. These were written a few months after navigating our own tragedy and offer some insight on what to do AND what not to do.

How to help:

  1. Gather tubs/boxes for them to pack in. If there’s items that can be saved, they’ll need something to pack them in. These aren’t usually items that come around on the donation trucks, so pulling together something to pack in could be very helpful.
  2. Help pack salvageable items. They need to save everything they can. Help them with this process, just be sure NOT to put anything wet into a box.
  3. Write down damaged items for them. As someone is cleaning out the damaged items, someone needs to make an inventory of what’s tossed for insurance purposes.
  4. Help with demo. The most obvious way to help is to help with the demolition. Wet furniture and belongings need to be removed. Carpets need to be pulled and sheetrock/baseboards need to be removed. Anything and everything that was touched by water needs to be removed for the house to dry properly. This job can be done by most, not just the strong ones. Carrying out pieces of sheetrock and baseboards isn’t as labor intensive as you might initially think.
  5. Wash clothing. Some of the wet clothing might be salvageable and even the dry items need to be laundered before packing away or wearing again. This job is great for someone who has to remain at home and isn’t able to do manual labor.
  6. Run errands. Most likely the effected need medications or toiletries picked up. They may need something taken to the post office, etc. Offer to run these errands for them because they likely need to be at the home or on the phone for now.
  7. Deliver food. During a major tragedy, there will probably be organizations delivering meals. If not, be sure they have something to eat, especially for lunch while they’re dealing with insurance, etc. After most of the volunteers start pulling out, this is a great way to continue to help.
  8. Give them somewhere to stay. If they don’t already have somewhere to stay for a few days, offer a room or extra property you have. They’ll need a few days or so to make permanent plans. Hotels are usually in short supply and they often don’t know where to go.
  9. Help with their business. Their work lives probably don’t stop because they’re facing this experience. If there’s a way you can help – taking care of clients, rescheduling appointments, etc. – do offer that. If they run their own business, they’re likely afraid of things falling apart during the toughest and possibly most financially unstable time of their lives. Do what you can to help them stay on top of work.
  10. Offer childcare. If they have children or pets, offer to take care of them while they sort through things.
  11. Give rides or offer up spare vehicles. If cars were flooded too, they’re very much so stranded. This adds to the helplessness and even if they’re allowed a rental via insurance, they’re very tough to come by in a major disaster when everyone else is procuring rentals too.
  12. Pick up supplies. A lot of cleaning items will be donated by organizations. However, there might be some specific items that are missing. Gloves for volunteers are a good example. Or raincoats if it’s still raining. Think of items that the Red Cross won’t be gathering and offer up those.
  13. Store items for them. Storage for what was saved is probably also in short supply. If you have extra space, offer that up as a way to help.
  14. Make suggestions for contractors, etc. They’ll need to make decisions quickly and if they don’t already have a network of home related individuals to pull from, they could use your recommendations.
  15. Offer opportunities from your network. If you know someone who provides a service or have connections at a place they need help from, pull those strings! We called in every favor we had in town during our time of need. If you have a connection to offer them, they’ll appreciate it.
  16. Go grocery/supply shopping. Once they’ve found temporary housing, they’ll need help getting it set up. They’ll be starting from scratch here so helping them stock the pantry and house will be helpful. Think salt & pepper, paper plates, bathroom and door rugs, towels, etc. Unless their temporary housing is fully furnished, they probably won’t have any of these items. You can even offer up items for them to borrow. Just be sure to write your name on it. They’re likely to forget what belonged to who amidst the chaos.
  17. Reach out. At a bare minimum, reach out to them. Tell them you’re thinking about them and that you hate they’re having to face this. Even if you don’t know exactly what to say, saying (and doing) something is better than nothing. If you don’t know where to start, share my previous post with them. Also, see below for things NOT to say.
  18. Show up. Once the shock wears off and support dies down, they’ll start to see things they need. They need both emotional and physical support. Seeing a friendly face who’s happy to pick up a snack on the way will mean the world to them.

How to Help After a Flood, Death, or TragedyAs Matthew and I experienced this flood together, we lost a lot. Lots of physical items, the safety and comfort of our home, sometimes our sanity and the overall quality of life and our marriage. Since the beginning of the process, I’ve compared this experience to that of losing a loved one. (Please note: if you just lost a loved one, I’m not at all saying that losing my favorite Antonio Melani pumps – along with thousands of other things – is the same as losing a person.) Instead, I’m saying is similar. If you don’t quite understand yet, let me explain further.

We went through the same stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There were some parts of the process in which we literally had to mourn. For months, we felt a sense of emptiness and incompleteness. Our worlds were shaken and turned upside down unexpectedly, and that simple fact left us in a state of chaos and grief for a long time.

How to Help After a Flood, Death, or TragedyOver a year ago I came across this post about how to write a sympathy card and parts of that article have stuck with me since. Just recently I came across it again and was reminded of its good tips and point of view. I could also relate all of those back to this flood experience and thought this would be a good opportunity to share that post about sympathy and offer some suggestions on how to help a friend in need when you really don’t know what to do (as well as, a few suggestions on things to steer away from).

Let’s start with what TO do:

  1. Do something. This might seem obvious and yet it isn’t. Often times, we don’t know what to do to help in a time of loss or tragedy. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care – we just don’t know what the person needs. However, what will stand out to your friend is that you did something. We received many of the “if I can do anything, please let me know” messages, and we did appreciate the thoughts. The problem is, in a time of chaos and uncertainty, you really don’t know what you need. If you want to be there for your friend, just show up and do something. For us, we had people just show up to help us pack up what we could save and throw out the majority. They just showed up and it was the most comforting thing ever. We didn’t have to think, plan, or ask. They were just there. My suggestion to anyone wanting to comfort a loved one is to just so something. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Show up with an icee, give them a hug, or just show your face so they can identify you as someone who cares. Bring take out, offer a night away from the craziness a few weeks/months later, bake cookies, run an errand for them…even the smallest of deeds will speak volumes to your friends. I promise. One of the main things that I’ll take away from this gruesome experience is that though we mean well saying “let me know what I can do to help,” they don’t know what they need. Just do something.
  2. Do realize that the pain and chaos doesn’t end that day or that week. Whether it be death or tragedy, it will affect your friends for months or years. The pain and heartache doesn’t go away after everyone else has returned to their normal lives. From experience, I know that it will mean the world to your friend if you check on them weeks or months later. After the initial shock dies down, most people return to back normal life and the effected is left still trying to figure things out alone. I remember the day the madness died down here. We’d been surrounded by friends and family helping. One day we woke up and the city had gone back to work. Friends weren’t here, volunteer crews had pulled out, churches were no longer delivering food, and it was the loneliest feeling you can imagine. Of course, we never expected to have support forever. The point I’m making here is that if you don’t know how else to help someone in need, watch for the new to wear off for everyone else. Watch for family to return home and people to stop talking about what happened. There’s a good chance that your friend is just now facing the reality of what happened and they could probably use a loving face to remind them that they’re not alone. Again, no one expects you to be a knight in shining armor and make the pain go away. Most of the time, just showing up and listening if they want to talk or unload is usually enough.

How to Help After a Flood, Death, or TragedyNow let’s talk about a few things NOT to do that might seem harmless at first glance:

  1. Do NOT try to trump their story. So often during the process we got responses like “my aunt’s second cousin twice removed had 6 feet of water in her house.” Or even worse, “I know what you mean, my hydrangeas got so much water they’ll probably never bloom again.” Most of the time, people are just trying to make a connection and find common ground. However, telling someone that you know a story that’s worse than theirs can be a little insulting. And in the case of that second example, it might make them want to punch you in the face. In this situation, it’s definitely ok to share a similar story or show that you understand…just don’t belittle what’s happening to the person in front of you. The same thing often happens with death. Do your best to relate to the person without stealing the show. I often encounter this when a friend losses a loved one. I’ve had my fair share of experience with death so I definitely understand all of the emotions they’re feeling. However, this isn’t a time for me to tell my story of loss…it’s a time for them to tell theirs. My suggestion is to simply say, “I understand…I lost my dad to cancer too. It really sucks. Can I bring you a pizza tonight?” Leave it at that. Or, “Yes, I saw the crazy flooding and helped some friends move out. I have some extra towels you can borrow. Do you need those right now?” So many times during this flood, people would launch into stories they’d simply heard about people they hardly knew and while I always knew they were just trying to connect, it felt like they were competing with my story. And whether someone got two inches of water or twelve in their homes, I can promise it still rocked their world. It’s not a competition. We’re not trying to win. We all just want to survive.
  2. Do NOT say everything happens for a reason. Whether you believe this as truth or not, no one wants to hear that they just lost everything “for a reason.” When you’re in the throes of despair, the “reason” doesn’t matter. Whether you learn a lesson, become a better person, or end up better off in the end, the reason simply doesn’t matter when you’re hurting. Whether it’s a breakup, a death, or they’ve just fallen on hard times, don’t tell them it’s for a reason. Instead, tell them that they’ll make it through because they’re strong. Tell them that you hate they’re having to go through this. Tell them specifically how you can help (see #1). And then just listen.
  3. Do NOT ask “were they sick” or “did you have insurance.” It’s natural to sometimes let curiosity get the best of us. We want to know things and to understand. Even as outsider, we sometimes need to feel some closure and feel better because there was some preparation involved. However, regardless of whether their loved one was sick, or in our case if we had food insurance, the situation still sucks. Dismissing their struggle because they had insurance or knew it was coming, is very insensitive. In our case, most of the conversations happened like this: “aw, you flooded? That sucks. Did you have food insurance? Yes? Ok, bye.” I cannot even tell you how many times my feelings were hurt when people minimized what we were going through, simply because we had some insurance. Yes, that’s a relieving fact and something I’ll forever be grateful for. We still had to go through hell (and high water, ha) and I often felt disregarded simply because our story wasn’t as tragic as some others. Again, regardless of the topic, there’s someone’s story that’s always worse.

How to Help After a Flood, Death, or TragedyThese few dos and don’ts are just suggestions based on my own experience and feelings. The second half of this post was drafed shortly after making sense of my own reality. We identified who showed up and who didn’t. We were met with a lot of unintended insults and could clearly see situations in which we, too, had committed these unintentional faux pas or should have done more to help someone. Gathering this list of “tips” helped me to process my own feelings on the topic and realize how I’d like to approach these situations going forward. Going forward, I won’t ask someone hurting to think of what I can do to help. Instead, I’ll offer specific things that I can do. And I’ll just show up. If anything, this experience has taught me how to be a better friend or a better stranger to those in need.

If you have learned other things from similar experiences, please leave a comment! I think we’d all like to be better friends and to know what to do when tragedy strikes with or without warning. Please share your thoughts! And please reach out and encourage those who are still struggling!

Flights & Fights

Fights and Flights at pamelapetrus.comI remember our first flight together. We were barely married and I was tagging along for a work trip to Vegas. We knew so little about one another then and definitely didn’t know what to expect as we traveled across multiple states together for the first time. As soon as we sunk into our seats, Matthew pulled out a book and earbuds, and I was struck with disappointment. I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t bring anything to do on the flight. Somehow, I had concocted this romantic notion that we’d spend the entire flight talking about our new life together, or dreams, or what we’d do on our trip. This wouldn’t be the first time that I romanticized a scenario that didn’t play out quite as I envisioned. (By the way, this post has nothing to do with a fight really. I just liked the alliteration.)

Now, four years later, we’ve traveled many places together. We’ve gone by plane, train, and automobile. We’ve taken long trips. Short trips. Exciting adventures and basic routes. Now, four years later, I know what to expect when we travel together. I turned the planning and route management reigns over to him. That’s marriage, you know. Giving and taking. Relinquishing control along the way. Sharing roles. Sometimes this happens naturally as you settle into new roles together. Sometimes it doesn’t happen without a fight or an immense amount of effort. Nonetheless, I know more of what to expect these days, both in travel and in life.

Today, as I sit next to my husband on a noisy flight, I go back and forth between reading, writing, and listening to music. I have several options for entertainment. I watch as his head bobs, up and down and side to side, as he doses with his headphones firmly intact. Even when he wakes, I know we won’t say more than 5 words until the plane lands. Watching his head bob is both the most adorable thing and also the most comforting. I know what to expect today. Much more so than I did on that first flight. I don’t take his earphones or reading as a sign of disregard of me. Instead, it’s just how he flies. And that’s that. I’ll delve into another chapter or another song and I’ll let my mind wander here and there.

So many of these little lessons and moments of enlightenment have come throughout the last four years, not just regarding flights and travels. I wonder, how many more shall present themselves over a lifetime. I can hardly imagine. I realize both what an accomplishment it is to be where we are today, and I simultaneously learn how more of those routines are developed. You learn so much. You learn the others person’s strengths and weaknesses. Their quirks. The things that make your mind wander with excitement, as well as the things that make you feel like you could snap their necks with your bare hands. What a concept! To share a life together and to survive doing so.

Right now, at four years, I feel like both newlyweds and veterans. We are much better at this than we were in the beginning, and that deserves some credit. Like physical awards and such. And yet, there’s still so much to learn. So many more years to learn and grow and experience things together. I’m reminded of times of seeing couples who had been married for years upon years, and to see the ease of their routines at play is amazing. It’s something to be honored and revered. And hopefully someday we’ll be a well-oiled machine like those couples. For now, we’ll truck along being our 2012 Honda selves – a few rattles and yet still miles and miles left on those tires.

September Goals & Being Back in the Swing of Things

September Goals at pamelapetrus.comIt feels like an eternity since I’ve written one of these post. It feels like an eternity since I’ve even thought about goals, much less worked towards something. (Work goals excluded. #girlboss) I decided on Sunday that I would attempt to get back to my blogging schedule. I would do this in secret, of course, so that if I failed or decided I wasn’t ready, I could abort the mission without anyone knowing. With my silent goal in mind, I began thinking about what I’d like to share here in September. I had several things in mind, some already written, so I began jotting down a plan for the month. If I were to stick with my previous Monday/Thursday schedule, then I’d have a post going up today, September 1.

When I realized it was the first, I decided that I needed to share something special. I needed to share something about new beginnings or seasons changing, even though our actual season won’t be changing for quite some time here in Louisiana. Not only was I awestruck that September was here (Are we sure it’s not still March??), I couldn’t wrap my head around what an appropriate post would be. While for many, this random Thursday is a day like every other, for me, it would be signifying the return of a routine.

As you all know, the last several months have been tough and with the uncertainty surrounding our circumstances, most, if not all of our routines fell to the wayside. Not only were routines and stability a thing of the past, my word bank was dry. I had nothing to say. I could barely form sentences that made sense on a page. Understandably, I let this blog take a back seat and I hoped that when things leveled out, I would find my words again.

So I sat there on Sunday, seeing things come together around me in the house, feelings much more “normal” and at peace than I had in months, and secretly planning to get back to who and what I was before the flood. When I thought of what I could possibly say on September 1 to signify what this new month actually feels like and means to me, I thought of my monthly goals. Once upon a time, I set a few personal goals for each month and shared them here to hold myself accountable and to ensure that I made progress towards the things I wanted to do. Now, as I’m searching anxiously for stability, I thought it would be a perfect time to revive those monthly goal posts and to set some intentions for myself for September. So here they are:

  1. Blog 2x per week. Again, I intended to keep this “goal” to myself in case I realized I couldn’t do it. As I throw caution to the wind, I hope that I’ll be able to return to my old schedule this month – posting every Monday and Thursday morning at 6:00 (central time). I’m out of practice, though I feel like I’m getting back in the swing of things, so hopefully you’ll find something new here every Monday and Thursday this month.
  2. Finish the hall bath. Right now we only have one working bathroom and several things need to happen in order to mark that hall bath off the list. My intention is to complete that entire project this month. No excuses!
  3. Host a party! This is a big one. Since shortly after the flood, I knew I’d want to invite everyone who’d followed our journey over to see the finished product. Saying that I’ll do this in September means that I have a lot of work to do! There’s still so many small items on the punch list, and we’ll have to be diligent in getting them done in order to host an event here. Nonetheless, it’s my goal to open my house up to friends/family/neighbors/strangers by the end of this month. Wanna come? You’re invited!
  4. Launch the social media for Firecracker – The Store. Several months ago, I put a booth into an antique store on Antique Alley as a launching pad for an upcoming project. I’d waited for years for a booth to open up in one of my favorite stores and you’d know that one would come available right after the flood. Like the over-achieving workaholic that I am, I took it on and made something happen. However, it’s felt “thrown together” and certainly not my best work, so for the most part, I’ve kept it a secret. Not anymore! I’m getting my shit together and telling the world this month!
  5. Paint one painting. I had no idea how much I’d missed painting. I knew I wanted to pull together a few pieces for the house when I could, yet I didn’t know I’d have such an emotional response to getting the opportunity again. I’ve dabbled a bit already and this month I hope to complete one more piece.

There you have it. I have some monthly goals out there in the world. They probably seem simple and my anxiousness over sharing them undoubtedly seems trivial. I supposed I feel uneasy about making plans at this point. I’ve lived in a state of uncertainty for months and the thought of getting back into a routine not only seems exciting, it also feels very foreign.

For me, September will serve as a time to pick up the pieces, put things back together, and find a new rhythm. And because of that, I’ll look forward to this month with grand excitement. It’s funny to see how much is different and how much has changed since last September. And 2014

A Short Life & The Choices We Make

Marina Keegan The Opposite of LonlinessSometimes you’re unexpectedly forced to think about the brevity of life. A young acquaintance dies much too soon, you’re faced with the fear of disease, or you read some heart-wrenching story. Most people continue on pondering the fleetingness of life only for a moment. I, however, end up thinking about this stark realization for much, much longer. Sometimes I’d say it even consumes me.

Of course, we all know that “life is short” and we should “enjoy the moment” or “treat every day like it’s your last.” And yet, days come and go with us focused on the monotony of daily life. We get stuck in our routines and forget to look up from our well-traveled paths. We sleep and wake without doing even one thing that’s special during the day. Without telling even one person how wonderful they are. Weeks pass and then months, and next thing you know, years have seemingly flown by and you’re still in the same spot you were the last time you looked up. You’re still taking the same vacations, driving the same routes to work, and talking to the same people. While I understand that not everyone shares my grand sense of adventure, I can’t help but wonder – is this monotony what people want? Is a string of years unchanged or absent of variety what people truly desire?

Whether this be the case of not, when I’m caught in that moment of realizing how truly short life can be, I quickly evaluate my own life. Would I worry about what I’m worried about today if this were the end? What would I do today? Would I spend my day cleaning baseboards or would I paint or read? Would I go to the park for one last walk on my favorite trails? Unfortunately, we don’t usually get to plan this sort of thing. Most of the time we aren’t presented with a syllabus for life that shows us exactly what date on which the final exam will take place. We’re not given a course outline showing the progression of life. Instead, we can only hope that the culmination of our daily activities equal something we’ll be proud of in those last moments. And this is precisely why we’re often told to live in the moment and make the most of it.

Furthermore, I ponder – who would I want around me? Who is most important to me? So often – too often – I let the opinions of mere strangers cause me to worry. So often – too often – I let would I should do interfere with what I want to do. I worry and I make up stories when things happen around me that I don’t understand. If these were my last days, I’d find these things so trivial and unworthy of my attention.

Today, as I finish The Opposite of Loneliness I am forced to think hard about this fleeting life. Marina Keegan’s time here on Earth was so limited. She wrote such impactful things in her short life, not knowing in the slightest that her life would indeed be short. It forces me to think about what I’d do differently if I saw the end was near. And because of those thoughts, I’m forcing myself to do some things differently now. I am choosing to dig deeper when I feel worry. I’m choosing to let only those that really, really matter affect my mood. And I’m choosing to go after the things that I might be “waiting for.” All of these things are easier said than done and without a continual conscious effort, I too, will get caught up in that next email or the next “problem.” Without focus, I’ll get swept away in today’s struggles and today’s issues, forgetting the big picture at hand. Unless I do something extraordinary (which hopefully I will), today won’t even be remembered a year from now.

We all talk about time moving too quickly. One day we’re 15, dreaming about what we’re going to do in life. The next, we’re plucking gray hairs (or in my case letting them grow out) and watching grandchildren play in the yard. However, what if time doesn’t actually move that fast? I also just finished Essentialism and here’s an excerpt that really stood out to me regarding time.

“Recently Anna and I met for lunch in the middle of a busy workday. Usually when we meet for lunch we’re so busy catching each other up on the events of our mornings or planning the activities for the evening that we forget to enjoy the act of having lunch together in the here and now. So this time, as the food arrived, Anna suggested an experiment: we should focus only on the moment. No rehashing our morning meetings, no talking about who would pick up the children from karate or what we’d cook for dinner that night. We should eat slowly and deliberately, fully focused on the present. I was totally game for it.

As I slowly took my first bite something happened. I noticed my breathing. Then without conscious intent I found it slowing. Suddenly, time itself felt as if it was moving slower. Instead of feeling as if my body was in one place and my mind was in five other places, I felt as though both my mind and my body were fully there.

The sensation stayed with me into the afternoon, where I noticed another change. Instead of being interrupted by distracting thoughts, I was able to give my full concentration to my work. Because I was calm and present on the tasks at hand, each one flowed naturally. Instead of my usual state of having my mental energies split and scattered across many competing subjects, my state was one of being focused on the subject that was most important in the present. Getting my work done not only became more effortless but actually gave me joy. In this case, what was good for the mind was also good for the soul.”

These few paragraphs made me ponder whether or not life actually moves as quickly as we feel that it does. Maybe the increasing speed in which time seems to fly as we grow older is simply because of the manner in which we spend our time. When we divide our concentration and energy, time seems to fly by without allowing enough hours in the day. When we’re focused, however, time seems to pass more slowly. When we dedicate our time to what’s most important to us in that moment, we make the most of the time we have – whether it be mere months or an expanse of years.

I have to wonder – what would it look like if we lived each day only focusing on the important stuff and the important people? What if we remained focused and allocated our time only to our highest callings, rather than dividing our days such that we never feel content and time flies right past us without our consent? What would life look like then? Would more people reach the end with satisfaction? Could we live in a way that we’d be content if life was taken from us tomorrow?

I don’t quite know the answers to all of these questions, though I do know that as I ponder the brevity of life over the next several days, I’ll make better decisions. I’ll call attention to how precious my time is and I’ll allocate it as I see fit. Hopefully, I’ll let the trivial circumstances roll right by just as the hours seem to. I’ll be the first to admit that living with this mindset isn’t easy. And it’s far from simple. However, if we want this life that we’re given to really matter, I feel like we simply must treat it’s passing minutes with more care. No more worry over the trivial. No more fretting over what’s next. No more obsessing over how to do it all. My goal is to stop. All of it. I want to CHOOSE how I spend each minute, giving focus only to what truly matters to me. I intend to start small. I hope to be intentional today, and then tomorrow too. I’ll focus on this minute and this hour, until hopefully, I’ve developed a habit of culling and focusing on the big things, the important things. It’s so easy to get distracted, and yet life is SHORT. It’s fleeting and you never, ever know when it’ll be over. You won’t be able to negotiate for more time and you won’t be given a second chance. If we approached every to-do list item, every opportunity, and every relationship with this mindset, how grand could our lives be? I hope to find out, and I hope you will too.