Slowing Down

Twin Lakes, Colorado // lynnepetre.com

It’s kind of amazing how a little bit of normalcy can make a significant difference in one’s quality of life.

Looking back, I knew the past 3 years were chaotic and frenzied and challenging. I knew it in the moment but also knew the only choice I had was to buckle down and forge ahead. Through multiple moves, through countless cross-country flights, through working remotely, through political upheaval and uncertainty, through living apart from my husband, through anxiety attacks, through moving back in together, through a summer of travel and visitors, forging ahead. Head down, moving forward.

Last summer, amidst temporarily living in Denver for a few months while my husband was in LA for an internship, I went to the doctor for a regular check up. When I asked a question about an abnormality, she asked me, ‘Are you under any more stress than usual?’ I recall responding with, ‘No, not particularly,’ thinking, ‘yeah, life is a little crazy right now but, overall, not really.’ WHAT?!

Looking back at that time, HOLY SHIT was it stressful. It’s astounding to me that I couldn’t fully grasp that in the moment. Our friends and family cheered us on, told us they couldn’t imagine doing what we were doing. I knew what we were doing was unusual and definitely challenging but in that chapter, we did what we had to do and we didn’t think twice about it. But now? Today, I am not quite sure how I managed to do all of the things I did and not lose my marbles.

All of this to say, that now? Now, I really feel good again. I have stopped consuming news 24-7 and have set boundaries as to when and how I check the news. I share a typical weekday schedule with my husband – we work normal hours and come home to each other every night. I wake up next to my husband on the weekend which always feels like the most exciting treat. We make plans to see our friends – for dinners, for beers, for bike rides, for concerts. We also spend a lot of time together, just us. After sharing so much of our time with other people these past few years, it’s really important to us to prioritize time just for us, to reconnect and just do the things that make us happy.

Petrefam // lynnepetre.com

I’ve made it a point to SLOW DOWN after so much HURRY UP. I’m closing my computer in the evenings after work and instead, picking up a book to read or a pencil to doodle. I’m crawling into bed early to sleep 7-8 hours most nights. I’m drinking less beer and more water. I’m prioritizing exercise and have even found a running partner in my husband; running 25-30 minutes with him are treasured minutes of my day. It all seems obvious and easy to make better-suited-for-me choices but clearly, it’s taken me a long time to get here. Better late than never!

All this to say that heading into this Thanksgiving week, I feel grateful and thankful for so much. For all of the past chaos and for the present normal. For the future adventures and future calm. For friends and family who supported us through the hard times. For a husband who believes in me and my aspirations, for a job I love, for compromise and growth. For slowing down.

Weekend Drives in Colorado

The past few weeks have been pretty perfect, weather wise, in Colorado. Crisp mornings with warm afternoons; the quintessential fall, if you ask me.

A few weekends ago, Alex and I headed west to Golden Gate Canyon on a Sunday, the day before the first October snow, to catch our last glimpses of alpine leaves. Unfortunately, most had already fallen on the trail we hiked but the drive in/out was stunning.

Then, when Alex’s parents visited last weekend, we gave them the full Colorado tour, driving from Denver to Buena Vista to Leadville Copper and back home on I-70. I didn’t think to record snippets till after I had delicious BV diner food in my belly so this is a taste of the back half of our drive.

I recorded these on my phone so they’re nothing to write home about but in thinking about inspiration and finding beauty and light in the world, I’m posting here to preserve the memories.

Hope you’re enjoying a lovely fall wherever this post finds you, too!

Currently: Choosing Light and Love

Colorado Aspens // lynnepetre.com

My heart is heavy, as I’m sure yours is too, and has been much of the year. The hits just keep coming, don’t they? No matter political affiliation, this year has been extra high on the suck factor. Weather events devastating homes and countries, mass shootings devastating lives of so many, sickness ravaging coworkers and coworker’s families, friends and family dealing with personal trials and loss on a smaller but no less impactful scale. It’s far too easy to feel hopeless and really hard to stay hopeful.

I’ve been quiet on this space and social media because frankly, I don’t know the words to say. Nothing feels right. But I’m sad and frustrated and tired of feeling this way. Tired of feeling powerless to this chaos and hurt around me.

Last Monday, I came back to my One Little Word, Inspired. I chose this word because I knew going into 2017, I would feel challenged to remain positive and would need a mantra to remind me to see beauty in the world around me. Admittedly, it’s been super hard to find inspiration or even to keep the word top of mind.

But enough is enough. I’m choosing light and I’m choosing love. And I’m choosing to take care of myself.

I’m donating blood, calling my family to tell them I love them, sending snail mail to brighten a mailbox. I’m smiling and saying hello to colleagues who I don’t know or work closely with, I’m making sure those around me feel included and important. I’m trying to bring light and kindness to people around me because this world needs it and I am able.

I’m also limiting the duration and frequency with which I consume news. I allow myself 20-30 minutes of NPR and New York Times news podcasts in the morning on the bus and 15 minutes of my local NPR station on the way home. I’ve been tuning out of Facebook echo chambers and passionate rants and redirecting that time and energy elsewhere. Small changes to protect my emotional and mental well being; I’m working to stay informed while not letting it consume me, as I have so often in recent months.

I don’t know where we do from here or what happens next but I’m going to make damn sure that while I still can, I share the goodness I know to be true in the world with those around me. Whether I’m granted a few more weeks or (hopefully) few more decades on this Earth, I want to leave a legacy of love and know I did what I could to leave the community around me in a better way than I found it.

Currently (May/June 2017)

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And just like that, another several weeks have flown by. How is it July?!

Hands down, May was hectic chaos. Alex came back from Europe and spent a week with me in Denver. I spent a week house/dog sitting for a friend. I spent a week in Pittsburgh for MBA graduation festivities and the long awaited ceremony. Alex and I spent a day in Cincinnati before flying back to Denver and move into our apartment. Two days later, our friends from BSchool arrived for Memorial Day weekend.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences we had but it sure did wear me out.

Hilariously, in May, Alex and I outlined our summer weekends and planned to keep these free to spend time hanging out with each other. These past two years were high-stress and low-free-time so we both were really excited to just BE together again.

But, as it goes, the universe had other plans and we did a bad job protecting our free time. We traveled to Cincinnati for a long weekend to support a friend who’s mom passed away. I started (assistant) teaching a backpacking class with Colorado Mountain Club. We watched pups. Alex went to South Carolina for a bachelor party while I did an overnight backpacking trip with my class. And on the last day of June, part of my family arrived for a 4th of July family vacation.

I’m trying really hard to take better care of myself as these past two months have not felt emotionally or physically great. What was supposed to be a low key summer with few commitments quickly ballooned into the exact opposite and after so many years of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I can’t keep doing it. I need to protect my time, I need to protect my mental and physical health. I need to make time to exercise and pack my lunch and *eat breakfast*. I need to say no to commitments. If I want things to be different, if I want to feel different, I have to act different and make better choices for me.

The rest of July and August are just as packed as May and June but I’m working hard to take a step back, slow down and take care of myself.

Step one: keep hydrated during this hot, dry week!

Currently (April 2017)

For my 31st birthday in March, I embarked a new, digital mode of memory keeping to chronicle a year in this moment in my life with an app called 1Second Everyday (1SE) which is…exactly that.

Shoot a short video every day, save a 1 second snippet and that’s it! I’m able to save a compilation of days and I’ve decided to group mine by month until my next birthday. A few times in the recent past I’ve downloaded 1SE and tried to make it stick but usually lost steam after the first couple of weeks. But not this time! This time, I’m committed.

While seemingly easy enough to shoot a 1 second video, I find it very challenging to remember to shoot the damn video. Despite working for a mobile app company, I am so not into my phone – as anyone who has ever texted me can affirm. So for me, 1) having my phone in my hand and 2) thinking about capturing a short video during an interesting part of my day (and there are many!) is not my forte.

But 2 months in, I’m am doing a better job at remembering to capture moments. There are noticeably a LOT of Rover.com dogs in this April segment – partly because I watched several dogs but also because I was/am still trying to find my 1SE groove.

I’m excited to see how these videos change over the months; already, May’s seconds are more interesting and I’m refining my style and doing a better job keeping this little project top of mind and finding moments of inspiration throughout my days.

Happy Birthday, Alex

Sunrise at Grand Canyon NP // lynnepetre.com

Yesterday was Alex’s birthday and while he’s still traipsing around Europe, I’ve felt his absence more than usual. Mostly because it’s his birthday but partly because the end is SO. FREAKING. CLOSE. that time, in general, is moving as slow as molasses. So tonight, I celebrated by eating his favorite pizza and drinking a beer I know he loves, imagining he were here to enjoy it with me. I feel like this lends itself to a sad, spinster-esque joke but alas, this is my life these days.

As I was flipping through photos saved on my computer, I found this one of him watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon in August, 2015. It feels fitting to linger on (and share with the internet) a photo that marked the beginning of the MBA school journey when the end is so very near. In 8 days, my husband will be back in America. In 11 days, he’ll be in Denver with me for a week. In 1 month, he walks at graduation and we’ll celebrate with our family and friends in Pittsburgh before making our way back to Denver for good.

It’s been a long, winding road, full of twists and turns we never expected. But nothing worth doing ever came easy, right? I’m just hoping we covered enough of the hard stuff to buy us some low key moments as we kick off this next, less winding chapter in a handful of weeks. But honestly, whatever moments are thrown our way, I’ll just be grateful and excited to have my person back to navigate through it together.

One Time, We Went On Vacation

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

To Europe! For two whole weeks! Together!

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

As Alex was considering which capstone track to pursue, we very quickly decided that he should absolutely do the study abroad track. (Well, in real life, he wasn’t 100% sold at the beginning but I aggressively talked him into it; 6+ WEEKS IN EUROPE! WHEN ELSE IN YOUR LIFE WILL YOU HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY! I HOPE NEVER UNLESS I’M WITH YOU! GO TO EUROPE!) So Europe it was!

Tepper encourages students to travel during their breaks and gives an extra ‘experience week’ during winter and spring breaks. There are typically ‘treks’ organized that students (and partners!) can participate in and experience Japan or Israel or Yacht Week or Silicon Valley and more. We did not participate in a planned trek either year but we certainly made the most of our experience week this year!

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

We planned to spend 2 weeks in Europe together, prior to Alex’s capstone starting in Germany in mid-March. Before the unexpected anxiety, we’d planned to bounce around, spending a few days in various places. After anxiety, we opted to chill out instead: 5 days in Paris, 2 days skiing in Chamonix and 1 day to explore Germany before I left and his program started. It was relaxing, recharging and perfect.

Rather than a play-by-play, I’m opting instead to share snippets of our week via photos.

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

Europe Vacation // lynnepetre.com

I can’t even overstate how much we needed a vacation – both as individuals and as a couple. Sitting on the plane to Frankfurt, we reminisced about the last time we took a vacation…4.5 years earlier for our honeymoon. Between vacations, we took many long weekend trips, road trips, ski trips with friends – but never a vacation for just the two of us with the sole intention of doing whatever the heck we felt like.

Now, I’m back into the swing of Denver life while he finishes his last few weeks in Europe before coming home for graduation. To say I’m anxious for him to be home (especially with current, unpredictable government) is an understatement. 3 weeks!

 

Winding Down Life in Pittsburgh

Schenley Park, Pittsburgh // lynnepetre.com

When we decided to move to Pittsburgh for Alex’s MBA program, the almost 2 years we would be here felt like an eternity. We were upending everything in our live and I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick – I would be trading co-workers and a well connected community in Denver for working at a kitchen table and no network in Pittsburgh. Time moved so slowly last year and I struggled to see the forest, I could only focus on the big, seemingly obstructive trees.

Working from Home // lynnepetre.com

But now, 1 school year in Pittsburgh, an insane summer in Denver/LA (and several places in between) and 6 months of long distance living, we are closing down our time in Pittsburgh. That move we made in 2015 feels like yesterday and eternity ago at the same time; so much change, growth, tears and cheers have been sandwiched into these past 18 months.

This week, I’m in Pittsburgh for my last week of working remotely with a Pittsburgh address — we are moving out of our apartment this coming weekend and a sublease tenant will move in and take over the remaining months of our lease.

And then, the next round of exciting chaos begins!

In March, we’ll travel to Europe together for two weeks of REAL VACATION – no school, no work, no obligations – and I couldn’t be more excited. After I head back to Denver, Alex stays for a few more weeks for his study abroad capstone in Germany. When he comes back, he’ll give a final presentation at school, we’ll spend a week in an Airbnb in Pittsburgh, celebrating and savoring our last moments on this journey and then, he’ll graduate with his MBA. Following graduation, he’s moving back to Denver (!!!) and we get to start ‘real life’ together. After living in limbo for the past 3 years, we both cannot wait for regular schedules, normalcy and dual incomes again.

Petre Road Trips // lynnepetre.com

This week, though, I plan to soak up as much as I can in the ‘burgh. Running my favorite routes, eating at my favorite restaurants, visiting my favorite local shops and spending time with my favorite people. It’s hard to believe this is it!

Real Talk: Moments (and Monsters) of Stress

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Last week, like much of the past few months, I was feeling overwhelmed. At work, I’ve had a couple open positions on my team since summer/early fall where I’ve picked up a bulk of the slack which has made for long days and nights, focused on work and leaving little room for anything else. Obviously, this is not sustainable and fortunately, I’ve filled 2 of my 3 open positions (yay!) so there’s a light in sight.

But last week in particular, I was feeling it. I’d spent the prior weekend house/dog sitting for a neighbor, had commitments every night after work and was planning to spend the weekend in the mountains with my girlfriends. ‘So busy!’  (I hate that phrase but it rang true last week.) Toward the end of the week, feeling frazzled and stressed and I knew I needed to pare back to keep my sanity. So I did just that and had started to write a blog post as a reminder for myself to say no sometimes, to prioritize my own mental/emotional/physical well being and that the friends in my life would understand if I needed to spend some down time with myself. (And, of course, when I talked to my friends about this, they were more than understanding and echoed the feeling.)

The universe works in funny (and not so funny) ways sometimes. Just as I had changed my weekend plans to allow time to recharge on Sunday, I started receiving text messages from Alex, mid-flight, that he was having what would turn out to be his second panic attack in less than a week. At the time, he/we didn’t know what it was – he’d never experienced this before and given family medical history, it was easy to jump to scary conclusions – so the paramedics took him from the airport to the emergency room in Pittsburgh. As soon as he called and told me they were planning to keep him overnight to run a few additional tests, I bought a (very expensive) red eye flight from DEN > PGH.

It turns out that everything, medically, checks out – thank goodness – and it was truly ‘just’ a panic attack both times. No blood clot, no heart damage, nothing medically to worry about. As we spent time over the past few days talking about it, he has many aspects of his life that have caused high stress for extended periods and he’s left very little time to take care of his own mental/emotional/physical well being. Sound familiar? Now, his challenge is to figure out how to recognize and manage that stress before it gets to the point of panic attacks in the future.

As scary as this weekend was, it brought everything in our lives to a screeching halt and immediately made us focus on what is truly important in our lives: being healthy and happy for ourselves and each other for so many years to come.

It really underscored the importance of making time for mental health on top of physical health – to decompress, to reflect, to meditate and to just chill. We can only shove out the stress and forge ahead for so long before the beast rears it’s head and forces us to pay attention and slow down.

Talk about being inspired to make a change, right? In looking at the silver lining, this experience opened up a conversation we’d had in snippets, during a particularly stressful week or day. We had an honest and thoughtful conversation with about our stressors (big and little) and created a plan of action for getting through the daily moments of stress while also working towards recognizing and categorizing stressors into ‘definitely worry about now’ and ‘out of your control’ buckets.

As I find things that work for me (meditation apps, yoga, reflection journals, etc), I’ll share here on this little corner of the internet for myself but also maybe for you, in case you need the gentle reminder to take care of you, too.

One Little Word 2017: Inspired

olw-2017-inspired

Rather than picking a single or handful of resolutions for the new year, I’ve taken to selecting a single word to act as my guide for the upcoming 12 months.

Last year, after a hard transition from Denver to Pittsburgh, I selected ‘resilience’ to reframe the negative attitude I had (especially around things I can’t/couldn’t control) to that of seeing silver linings. I needed more joy, more bounce back, more ‘can do’ attitude in my life if I was going to survive 2016. Through a year of transitions and unknowns – from Pittsburgh to a temporary summer in Denver to a full time relocation to Denver to post-MBA plans to open heart surgery – keeping ‘resilience’ on my mind and heart helped me keep perspective and a more positive attitude.

This year’s word found me on New Year’s Eve. After striving to exercise creativity the past few months through my sewing machine, I realized that in order to be creative, I need to feel inspired. And as I thought about it, I am craving inspiration in nearly every facet of my life. I want to focus on and notice the details around me for inspiration. I want to feel inspired to create art or projects or creativity. I want to read books that inspire me. I am inspired to find time to act and engage with my community, to give back – and I don’t want that inspiration or drive to push to the back burner. I want to find inspiration in those around me to do my job better, to be a more present wife, to be a more engaged sister and friend, to be a more active citizen.

‘Inspired’ is another mind shift – from going about life with my blinders on, focusing solely on what needs to be done next to stepping back and taking in the world and people around me. There’s so much ‘go go go’ in my days right now and I want – and need – to slow down, look around and find moments of inspiration in my everyday life.

I’m looking forward to approaching the next 355 days with a more thoughtful and inquisitive outlook and translating inspiration to action.