Tag Archives: What I’ve Learned

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.

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.

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.

The happiest (and busiest) time of the year.

Resting at Christmas at pamelapetrus.comI sat on my couch on Saturday afternoon, literally too exhausted to get up and do any of the things that I’d previously intended to do that day. I suppose it was a bit ambitious to consider that I’d do anything productive after the whirlwind of a week we’d experienced. Matthew and I both worked long, hard days each day last week and then had some sort of event to attend in the evening hours, each putting us getting home well after our usual bed time. Literally, we had an event every single night last week. Each day as we talked about being simply exhausted, we’d continue on to the next event with a smile. Each day, as we rushed off to the next engagement, we discussed how we wanted to attend each and every event, yet we were so tired from the hustle and bustle of the week. This week, I’m hoping for a bit more time to rest and be at home.

As I sat there almost motionless on Saturday, I thought about just how much I need down time…how much I’ve come to love my simple routine. Once upon a time I was superwoman…a mover and a shaker that did absolutely everything for everyone, taking very little time for myself. I’d go and go until I eventually crashed and burned. I’d recuperate and then do it all again until I came crashing back down again. I even used this approach with my real estate business. In the first year, I often worked from 7:00 am until 9:00 or 10:00 at night with very little help. Then I crashed. Actually, I crashed so hard that I almost locked up the doors and quit selling real estate altogether. True story.

Instead, I finally realized that I had to change my approach. I needed quite time. I needed days with no makeup. I needed time to sit and regroup quietly in the comfort of my own home. I needed days where I didn’t change from my pajamas until well past the normal hours. Actually, when I began drinking coffee, is when I first started giving myself little breaks and taking things more slowly. Now, after almost a year of carving out time to rest and relax, I feel like a new person. I also feel completely out of whack if I don’t get that time. I am emotional and short-fused. Sometimes I feel physically ill and my headaches come more often. I’m not a master of resting just yet, and my body is the first to show signs when I’ve skipped down time more than I should.

On Saturday, as I finally had a day to rest, I pulled up my blog reader to find 111 unread blog posts on Bloglovin’. I don’t follow tons of blogs, so 111 unread posts is nonsensical. My usual routine is to catch up on the week’s posts on Saturday or Sunday morning. Most of the time, I wake up before Matthew and sip my coffee while catching up on my favorite writers from the week before. Clearly, I haven’t been able to do that for quite some time. Actually, I as scrolled back, I realized that that last posts I’d seen were from Thanksgiving. This means, my usual routine has been upset for several weeks, which helps explain why I feel so off kilter.

In the past as I’ve struggled to carve out time for resting, I’ve posting things like this and this in the past. Both of these were written after somewhat of a “crash.” It’s been a daily struggle for some time to actually relax. When things get tough and I feel burdened with responsibility, my personal time is the first to go. I quickly forfeit my time to rejuvenate as soon as I feel obligated to complete some other task.

As the busyness of the holiday season comes in full force, I know that it’s even more important than usual to be sure I’m resting. I need to be sure I save some time for myself to do nothing. To sit. To read or relax. Why does it feel so hard to do?? How can I be sure that I don’t continually hit the burn out stage before resting? I don’t have that answer just yet. However, I know that I must continue to be diligent in saving some time for myself. I must fight for rest, even if the person I’m fighting is myself and my own insecurities. As we embark on another busy holiday season, I hope that you, too, make time to rest. I hope you sit quietly and sip slowly. We all deserve that right, after all.

My First Thanksgiving Dinner!

Thanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.com Thanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.comThis year I signed up for a rather large task. I agreed to prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal (sans desserts) and have my entire family over. Coming from someone who hardly cooks on the regular, this was a rather shocking (and a bit daunting) arrangement. In the sake of honesty, I partially agreed to do this because I wanted to prove to myself that I could…and because Matthew agreed to help. I’m not ashamed to admit that he’s a better cook than me.

Regardless of the reasoning, I set out to prepare a full Thanksgiving meal for my family. I planned, shopped, and cooked like it was my job. I organized serving dishes and did my best to think of every single thing. I baked cornbread for dressing completely from scratch. I attempted some new recipes and didn’t have any major breakdowns. I burned my elbow on the oven and only yelled at/threatened my husband once or twice. All in all, it was a successful event.

Thanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.comThanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.comThankfully, I had help from my mother (the usual host) and from Matthew’s grandmother (a fantastic and knowledgeable cook). With their help and Matthew’s, I somehow pulled off an edible meal that was mostly prepared on time and still somewhat warm. This might go down as one of my big accomplishments of the year!

So, what’d I learn from this event? (You know, I’m always looking to “learn” something.)

  1. I learned that sometimes I’m capable of much more than I give myself credit for.
  2.  I learned that I’m pretty darn good at breaking down and organizing a large project.
  3. I learned that cooking isn’t quite as difficult and stressful as I make it.
  4. I learned that someday, with a little bit of practice, I might be a pretty good host (of something other than spaghetti or a crockpot meal).
  5. I learned that I really enjoy sharing the fruits of my work with others.

If I can learn so many things from preparing just one meal, I’m sure you stand to learn a few things from trying something new too. I encourage you to take on a large task and go for it! Try something new. Embark on a great adventure. No matter the outcome, you’ll likely learn something about yourself and the world around you. That’s always worth it.

Thanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.comThanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.comThanksgiving 2015. Read more at pamelapetrus.com I hope you and yours have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, make the best of it!


Almost 30

Almost Thirty at pamelapetrus.comMy thirtieth birthday is right around the corner. In just over a month, I’ll say goodbye to an entire decade of my life, a formidable decade where so many life-changing things happened, and I learned more about myself than I could have imagined. Lately, I’ve found it difficult to put my thoughts into words, both here on the blog and in face to face conversation. For some reason, my mind feels a little muddy and my thoughts just aren’t clear. In addition to feeling a bit foggy, I’ve also struggled quite a bit with “what’s next.” I’ve actually written several posts about this topic alone, yet I haven’t shared any of them, because they hardly make sense to me and they’re the fruits of my own mind.

Today I woke up wondering if my confusion and lack of peace stems from my nearing birthday. Let me be clear, I’m not dreading my thirtieth birthday and I don’t think I’m saying goodbye to my youth. In fact, I’ve been excited about turning thirty for quite some time. There is something unmistakably thrilling about embarking on a new decade, and for some reason, I genuinely feel like my thirties will be my time. I’ve done so much already through my twenties. I simply can’t imagine how exciting the next ten years might be.

Excited or not, I’ve felt so confused and up in the air. I’ve had 1,000 ideas and sketched out 1,000 plans, yet nothing feels concrete. I feel like I’m on the verge of something fantastic, yet I can’t even tell you what that is. I have big dreams and the fact that I have so many big dreams, makes it difficult to know where to begin. Suddenly, it dawned on me that maybe all of this nervousness stems from my anticipation of this new chapter.

While I’m not nervous about growing older, I do have a bit of anxiety about not getting around to doing all of the many things I want to do in life. I sometimes fear that I’ll look up and life has buzzed by without me getting to try every new thing and see the world. I suppose the coming of my thirtieth birthday could be encouraging some of this fear…a fear of not getting to do it all. In an attempt to ease my mind, I started making a list of what all I accomplished in my twenties. Maybe seeing the magnitude of what I’ve already done would ease my mind by showing me that there’s room to do so much more.

Join me, if you will, as we take a little blast through my past.

  • I graduated college. Thinking back on that moment, I would have never guessed my twenties would play out like they have. It just goes to show that things can so easily (and sometimes effortlessly) head in a different direction.
  • I got my first full time job. With benefits. Big girl status. Looking back, I learned so much here without even realizing it.
  • I opened my first business at 23. Wow. Sometimes I even amaze myself. I had no fear about quitting my “real job” to run a boutique full time. I hope that I never lose this bravery and faith in myself.
  • I got married. Opening that business is what eventually led me to my husband. I’d have never imagined that and I’m glad that it did.
  • I sold that first business and got my real estate license. When first deciding to do this, I would have never imagined how life changing it would be. I can say with certainty that I’ll look back on this as one of the most formidable decisions of my life…yet I would have never known it at the time.
  • I met a huge financial goal. A goal that I’d hoped I might reach someday became a reality in my twenties and it made me immensely proud of my hard work.
  • I bought my first house. This has been such an adventure in itself and has taught me more about myself that I would have imagined…still learning so much.
  • I bought a Mercedes! The amount in which I love that car  (and am thankful that I allowed myself to get it) is tough to explain. I simply love it.

In making this list, several things jump out at me. First, the second half of the decade looked much differently than the first. I wouldn’t have been able to imagine the end from the beginning, yet everything played out perfectly. Plus, this is just the highlight reel. There were so many high and lows, so much that I learned about myself and the world around me. Just thinking back on the hundreds of experiences that I didn’t mention makes me realize just how much transpired in ten short years.

Secondly, I did so. much. My recent fears of running out of time really are ungrounded. It’s hard to convince myself of that, yet it’s true. In just the last ten years, my life has transformed multiple times. I’ve tried many new things, and seen and learned so much. Why do I think my thirties will be any different?? Even though I can’t see the end result just yet, I should have faith that everything will play out just as well as the last ten years. I’m working on that.

Let’s veer off topic for a bit. I’ve often talked about how much I love this space to write and how thankful I am for it. This post in itself is a wonderful example of that. I’ve felt so much anxiety over the last couple of months, and I haven’t really been able to identify the cause. I’ve felt unsettled and worried. However, writing this post has given me a new perspective. If I didn’t have this blog, I wouldn’t have even began writing these thoughts down, and I wouldn’t have been able to let writing help me flush out my thoughts. As I began writing this piece, I actually had a different goal in mind for it, as I often do. Shortly after making it through a few paragraphs, I realized that things were headed in a different direction. Just getting the first little bit out and into tangible words, evoked more clear feelings. Being able to write (albeit for an audience) put me in touch with what was actually going on in my mind and allowed me to think through and develop my thoughts. If I didn’t have this online portal, I would have likely kept feeling anxious and uncertain. This simple post may indeed be life-changing for me, as it is certainly providing a new perspective that will hopefully guide me through the next several months.

I think the moral of this story and the point of my ramblings are that time passes how it intends to pass, without any bearing on our feelings of it. I’ll simply turn thirty in a few weeks and then shortly after that I’ll turn forty. There is nothing any of us can do to stop or hinder the passing of time. There is something we can do about how that time is used, though.

I’ve spent the last several months worried about running out of time. I don’t know which big idea to start with so that all of the other big ideas fall in to place. However, I’ve been missing the point. Time is going to pass anyway, whether I have everything figured out or I don’t. I will turn thirty and then forty, whether I chase one dream or twenty…or none. I’ve been allowing my lack of a clearly defined “plan” to hinder me from doing anything. What a travesty. Looking back over my twenties, it’s completely evident that things work out even without a plan…even if things go differently than you anticipate. Therefore, why do I feel so uncertain? I’m wasting time trying to “plan” when I should just be doing something. Anything! Doing one tiny little thing and making one tiny little bit of progress is far greater than making no progress at all because you’re paralyzed with uncertainty.

So back to the moral. The moral here is to do something. Stop being afraid of the unknown and know that things will inevitably play out just how they should. We simply can’t know with certainty what tomorrow or 1,000 tomorrows will look like. However, we absolutely can choose what today looks like. Therefore, make today and tomorrow look as fabulously as you can. Do something exciting. Make some progress towards a goal…regardless of which one it is. And for heaven’s sake, stop worrying about tomorrow. I do that enough for the both of us.


3 Things to Consider Before Trying Something New

3 Things to Consider When Trying Something New. Read more at Pamelapetrus.comTrying something new or starting a new adventure can absolutely be one of the scariest tasks ever. Sometimes when we start out on a new path, everything feels so uncertain and frightening. However, if you push through that initial fear, wonderful things are usually right around the corner.

In the last several years of my professional career, I’ve launched multiple new projects and businesses. With each new endeavor, I always feel that tinge of fear. So far, I’ve been able to push myself through that and I’m always glad that I did. As I’m on the verge of doing a few new things, I’ve started thinking about how I handle this uncertainty and what I do to push through that part of the process. If you find yourself getting nervous as new opportunities arise, here are some things to consider:

1. Will you regret NOT doing it more than you’d regret any negative outcome? This is my number one motivator when it comes to new projects. Most of the time, we’re secretly afraid of failure. What if it flops? What if it ends badly? I always imagine myself 30 years down the road. If I don’t attempt this new project, will I regret it later? If I avoid something out of fear, will I look back later and wish I would have just sucked it up? If the answer to either of those is yes (and it usually is), then I know I have to push forward.

2. What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? Go wild with this one. Most of the time, the absolute worst thing really isn’t that daunting. Take real estate for example. When I decided to get my license and change careers, it cost me around $2,500 to get stared. If I was terrible at it or hated it, I had only lost $2,500. In the big scheme of things, that’s not too risky, and I wouldn’t be financially crippled for the rest of my life. Realizing that a $2,500 investment (plus my time) was all that I was risking to go after something I’d always wanted, made the risk seem much less daunting.

3. What could the potential outcome be? Let’s switch gears to the opposite end of the spectrum. If everything goes ideally as planned, what will your life look like? What is the best possible outcome? Are you able to envision a better life? Obviously, there’s a chance that things won’t be as glorious as you’re able to imagine. However, there’s also a chance that they could be even better! Sometimes we’re only able to imagine a small portion of the potential that lies ahead. If you can dream of this new adventure creating a life that you love, it’s definitely worth exploring. On the other hand, if you’re not able to see the positive results very clearly, then maybe it’s not the right option for right now. Either way, dreaming about the potential can make you see things more clearly and guide your decisions.

No matter how scary, no matter how elusive, when we continually think and dream about a particular item, it likely means we need to explore it. When our thoughts tend to gravitate towards the same item, our subconscious is probably telling us to explore it. Sometimes these are large, daunting things. Sometimes they’re small and more manageable. Either way, we never know the outcome of something until we give it a shot.

During this stage of my life, I’m committing to chasing those dreams. I’m taking advantage of this life of mine. I’m learning tennis. I’m starting new businesses. I’m making bold decisions in my home. The way I see it, life is much to short to wonder “what if?”

If you’re toying with the idea of doing something new, I hope these few points provide some enlightenment. Think through them, consider the options, and then just go for it! Starting in the scariest point. After that, you’re just working towards your dreams. What do you really, really want to do? Go do that thing!

On Getting Back Up.

getting back up at pamelapetrus.comOver the course of the last couple of days, I’ve been told that my face was too long, my natural hair color looked better, and that my biological clock is ticking so I’ll probably miss my opportunity to have children. I was also told that one photo that I shared on social media was good while another was “not good of me at all.” Granted, people are often way too giving of information that we don’t necessarily want. However, it’s seems to have been running rampant lately in My Neck of the Woods. I could spend a bit addressing each one of these negative, hurtful comments (and giving you more examples) and discuss why they’re each terrible and add up to create a bit of an insecure monster inside of me. However, that’s not the purpose I have in mind here. Instead, I wanted to talk a bit about pushing through things like this.

If we had a few years and an unlimited supply of Kleenex, I could probably list out practically every mean thing that’s ever been said to me. High school would provide its own chapter in this story, and most of these mean-spirited things will be forever burned into my mind. It’s very likely that you could make a similar list too. For many years, I’ve wondered why people say hurtful things. I’ve wondered why I let them upset me. I’ve often dreamed of a world where everyone only has nice, uplifting things to say and where we all live by that golden rule that says, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” What a joy it would be to live in a world like that! Instead, I feel like I’m constantly seeing instances where people both unintentionally and intentionally say hurtful things. This plays out among peers, in families, and on social media daily. Sometimes, I get so frustrated that I want to yell and cry (and I sometimes do both) and I exclaim generalities like, “people are awful and terrible and I hate them.” I group all people into one nasty category because it seems like I’m often taken back by the nastiness that comes out of their mouths. The most unfortunate of these scenarios is the one in which people close to you repetitively say hurtful things.

That’s not fair of me though. I shouldn’t group everyone together. I shouldn’t generalize. If I were being honest, I also shouldn’t keep this mental list of people who’ve said hurtful things to me. Yet, I do. For example, someone close to me once said that I “needed to get a life” if I had time to blog. I’ll never forget it. I do my best to not dwell on it or harbor resentment, yet I think about that statement every time I hit publish here.

The hardest part about events like these isn’t even the hurt feelings. Unfortunately, I never really forget what’s said or done, and it does add a bit of extra insecurity to my emotional wardrobe. However, I think the worst part is having to muster the courage to keep going. The hardest part is disregarding the negativity and continuing to write blog posts. It’s continuing to share that photo of myself, even though I can quickly identify the flaws that others have pointed out to me. It’s the struggle to be excited about my new car, when people close to me make comments about how I must want to “keep up with the Jones.”

You see, life is full to the brim of hurt and disappointment. It takes on a lot of different forms, and we all experience it. As I started reading a book given to me by my lovely assistant, I realized this very thing might be my struggle. The thing I need to work on right now might be perseverance. I may not be as afraid of falling, as I am of getting back up. You see, continuing to do something that someone has criticized, even subtly, is very hard for me. My first instinct when my feelings are hurt is to abandon the thing or person in question. Don’t like my Facebook photo? Ok, I’ll never post on Facebook again. Think blogging is lame? Ok, I’ll make it a private blog and only invite in those that won’t hurt me with their comments. It’s pushing through that fear of continuing that’s immensely frightening for me. It’s getting back up when I’ve been knocked down by those around me. It’s certainly easier to just stay down. It’s a lot less scary to just fly under the radar. Sometimes I think that I should just live small and not go after big dreams, so that I’m not a target of criticism. It’s sad that the thought crosses my mind more than it should.

Unfortunately, I won’t wrap up this post with a list of tips for avoiding this sort of thing. I won’t concede with a story of how I figured it out and how you can too. Instead, I know that I’ll continue to struggle in this area. I’ll continue to want to stay down when my feelings are hurt. I’ll continue to want to mark people off the list when they hurt me. I’ll probably always wear my feelings on my sleeve. However, the moral is that we must continue to get back up, even when we’re hurt and afraid. We have to continue to live our lives as boldly as we can dream of. For me, it usually won’t be evident to the average acquaintance. Most likely, the exterior will appear thick and impenetrable. I’ll appear strong and resilient. On the inside though, I’m probably making a mental list of the stones being thrown at me. It’s a list that I’ll keep forever and review over and over again in my head, all too often dwelling on the damage they’ve caused. Some leave lifelong scars. Others are more temporary bruises. Either way, I must get back up again and continue the fight.

“The truth is falling hurts. The dare is to keep bring brave and feel your way back up.” Brene Brown

(Similar thoughts here if you’re interested.)

Learning to Wait

Using my Get To Work BookThere have been a few situations in the past where I’ve waited what would seem like “too late” to start something. There have been deadlines approaching that I’ve been aware of and rather than marching full speed towards them, I’ve waited. On the outside, it looks somewhat like procrastination. However, I’ve recently decided that it’s more like patience.

With practically everything I do in life, I need for it to feel right. Over 90% of the time I operate on my gut feeling. It’s how I opened my first business at 23. In a depression. It didn’t make any sense on paper, yet it felt right. My gut feeling is the same thing I used when getting married in 12 days, selling that first business, and opening another. To the outside world, none of those made much sense. However, my gut said go for it, and I did. I’ve used the same approach for many big and small decisions over the years and it’s working for me. That’s not to say that I have always made the right decisions…that’s a different post entirely.

At first, I myself thought it was procrastination, followed by a bit of luck when things worked out. It seemed like I’d put things off until the last minute and then somehow it would magically come together. I’d feel lucky or that I squeezed right by the doors of doom. Recently though, I started seeing this tendency of mine in a new light. I realized that things did usually come together, even if it happened on a different timeline than I originally deemed appropriate. I learned that I shouldn’t force things to happen, just to make progress early on. Instead, if I’d practice a bit of patience, things would likely still come together in the end. Rather than force myself to do something, I should just have a little bit of faith and wait until it felt right.

I have two recent examples for you. First, I’ve been toying around with the idea of a new business. If I were going to run with this idea as originally planned, I would need to travel out of town during the month of August. I was forcing myself to make a decision and get things in order, so that I would meet this self-imposed deadline. It just didn’t feel quite right though, so I hadn’t bought that plane ticket. It seemed like I needed to, yet something was holding me back. As I waited just a bit longer, things started coming together, although they’re shaping up a bit differently than I originally thought. I didn’t need to “get it together and make a decision” as I had been telling myself. I just needed to wait.

Similarly, I’ve known that I’d need to hire a new assistant since June. My current assistant would be moving in August, and I had a few months to find someone new. I had plans to attend a few trainings, etc. before I started the interviewing process and those didn’t work out like I had planned. I was also considering revamping the position a bit and morphing it into something that would enable my real estate business to grow. Weeks started passing. I went to Alaska. My trainings didn’t work out as planned, and I hadn’t made those decisions on what the position would look like in the future. More weeks passed. I’d sit down to write an email or Facebook post about the fact that I was hiring, and the words just wouldn’t come. No words?? I never have a problem with words! Somehow though, I couldn’t draft a “now hiring” post or a job description to save my life.

Now it’s August, just a few short weeks before I’d be left assistant-less. I felt like I had procrastinated again. I’d waited too long to start looking. Finally though, I started thinking of it differently. I realized that in the past I’ve thought I was procrastinating, and then things fall together at the right time. I realized that I had much more success with waiting until things felt “right” than I did with forcing things along. I even had that conversation with my husband. I said that I didn’t know what this position would look like and that I didn’t have any strong leads. Even though time was seemingly running out, I just needed to wait.

On August 6, just 14 days before my current assistant would be leaving, I received a call that there was a young lady interested in the job. I knew this girl from previous encounters and had always been very impressed with her. As soon as I learned that she was interested, I was immediately excited. We breezed through the interview/hiring process over the next couple of days and by August 10 I had hired a new almost-full-time assistant. I’m thrilled with my decision and I can’t wait to see how my business grows. I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to build and new relationship and I have a distinct feeling that I’m going to learn a lot from her loving, positive attitude.

I’ll spare you the rest of the details for now, as they’re not the true reason for this post. My ultimate point here is that sometimes you just have to wait. If something isn’t feeling right, it might not be the right timing. Rather that force a new idea or plan into action, sometimes you must practice a little patience. I certainly do not mean make a habit of procrastination. (If you find yourself procrastinating often, I talk about that here.) Instead, I’m talking about those times where things feel forced…those times when the right move or decision isn’t clearly obvious. If you’re a person who operates primarily on instinct as I do, you may need to just step back and wait for a bit. To the naked eye, it likely seemed that I was avoiding the search for a new assistant. On the contrary, I finally identified that I shouldn’t force it and the right person for the job was just around the corner. If anything, I’m learning to be patient and to follow my intuition.

I feel like I’ve learned another important detail about myself this month. Identifying these tendencies has taught me how to give myself a bit a grace. I’m learning more about how my own mind and body operates every single day. With this new quality identified, I feel even more in charge of my life. Learning this, coupled with the promise of a very large and very positive change in my business, has given me a new dose of inspiration. I’m feeling recharged and motivated, and I’m more than excited to see what the next several months hold. Here’s to big discoveries and bright futures!

Sometimes I read.

Let’s be honest. I should really change the title of this post to, “I’ve read a few things.” As a child, I was a big reader. I loved Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew mysteries, and even RL Stine books. (My fellow almost-thirty-somethings are probably nodding in nostalgia to these book titles.) My mom would take me to the library where I’d check out several books at once, often finishing at least one by the end of that day. Somewhere along the line though, I decided that I “didn’t like to read” and avoided it at all costs for several years.

I think what happened though, was that I had changed. Rather than not liking to read anymore, my tastes were just different. At some point during the last two years when I’ve learned so much, I also learned that it’s not that I don’t like to read. Instead, I just have different preferences now. For example, I’ve learned that at this particular time, I’m not really a fiction kind of gal. As fabulously written as the Hunger Games or Harry Potter stories might have been, I don’t really enjoy having to follow along with a story that I know in the back of my mind is fake. (I completely understand that most will disagree with me here. No problem. As my friend, Amy Poehler says, “Good for you. Not for me.” — See what I did there??)

I realized that I did actually like to read biographies and self-help type books. At first I couldn’t understand this. I “don’t like to read,” remember? Finally, I noticed the issue. I don’t mind reading someone’s story. I also don’t mind reading something that gives me strategies for living a better life or makes me more self-aware. Those things interest me, and I can get behind them. It’s not that I no longer like to read…I just had to focus on reading things that interested me instead of reading mainstream fiction.

Since I’m back on the reading bandwagon, I’ve read a few books. Go ahead…you can clap for me if you’d like. A few of these books have been great ones, so I thought I’d share. I posted about finishing The Nesting Place, my first book to actually finish since I could remember. Here’s a quick look at the other books I’ve read lately. (That even feels weird typing it out.)

Yes Please by Amy PoehlerYes Please by Amy Poehler

If it’s not obvious by the joke above, I’m a pretty big fan of Amy Poehler. When I heard that my dear friend, Amy, was coming out with a book, I knew that I’d have to get back on the reading bandwagon. This is actually what clued me in to the fact that I like biographies. To say that I loved this book, would be an understatement. Maybe it’s because I secretly think Amy and I are friends. Maybe it’s because I laughed out loud while reading on my couch. Maybe it’s because funny is my love language. Whatever the reason, I’ll likely read this one again at some point. If you even remotely like Amy, comedy, or laughing, you should read it.

I highlighted several parts of the book and came away with several “life lessons.” As mentioned above, I’ve taken on “Good for you. Not for me.” as a bit of a personal mantra. When feeling like I “should” do something or be better at something, I think about this line. It’s what prompted some of my thoughts in this post. We don’t have to do everything. Instead, let’s just do what we want to and what we’re good at.

I was also thoroughly impressed with the amount of grace and professionalism with which Amy spoke of her divorce. It wasn’t sugarcoated or romanticized. It was straightforward and honest, yet respectful. Two thumbs up from me for handling an undoubtedly sensitive topic with such poise.

Seriously, go read this book. You’ll thank me later. And if you don’t like it, then you and I probably can’t be friends.

Bossypants by Tina FeyBossypants by Tina Fey

Even though Tina’s book came out before Amy’s, I hadn’t read it. Amy referred to Bossypants throughout her book, so after successfully finishing it, I moved on to this one. It was actually a gift from my sweet cousin. I wouldn’t say that I was quite as engaged as I was through Yes Please, yet it was still an enjoyable read.

My friend Amanda and I have decided that we’re a Tina/Amy duo. She’s Tina and I’m Amy. I’m more likely to burst into a crowd and do something outrageous to get a laugh. I’m going to air on the obnoxious side and demand a bit more attention, much like Amy. Amanda on the other hand, will subtly make a hilarious joke that you didn’t see coming. She’s going to be a bit more reserved and quiet, yet will surprise you with her wit and confidence, much like Tina. I believe this is the reason that she preferred Bossypants and I preferred Yes Please. I also think that this is the reason that the four of us should hang out soon. Call me, Amy!

Regardless of which comedic heroin you prefer, I’d recommend both books. I learned a lot about the comedy industry and the behind-the-scenes of both Tina and Amy’s lives, and I loved that.

#GirlBoss by Sophia AmorusoGirl Boss by Sophia Amoruso

This book wins all of the awards in my book. (“In my book”….in a blog post about books…) It’s possible that I loved this book so much because of my own experience in the retail world. I loved Sophia’s no-nonsense writing style and her make-it-happen approach to business. I also felt a connection to her desire to be different and defy the odds. Probably because I love a good from-the-ground-up story, I really enjoyed reading about how she built her business from a small, garage operation to the huge success that it is today. I started this one on the flight to Alaska and finished it before heading back. The timing for this one was perfect, and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s business minded or relates to powerful, determined women.

“Being mean won’t make you cool, being rich won’t make you cool, and having the right clothes, while it may help, won’t make you cool. It’s cool to be kind. It’s cool to be weird. It’s cool to be honest and to be secure with yourself. Cool is the girl at the party who strikes up a conversation with you when she notices you don’t seem to know many people there.” -Sophia Amoruso

There have been a few more books that I’ve started and not finished. I think it’s safe to say that you have to get me invested early on, or I’ll likely not pick it back up once I’ve put it down. I also have to relate somewhat. If I don’t feel somewhat of a connection to the writer, it’s hard for me to keep going. Nonetheless, I’m happy to be back on the book-reading circuit, and I’m thrilled to have learned something else about myself.

What sort of books do you like to read? If you have any biography/documentary types or personal growth options to recommend, I’m all ears! Right now I’m working on Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Wish me luck!