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!

 

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.

Life In Denver, Again

Cross Country Drive // lynnepetre.com

More than a week ago, I packed most of my things into the back of OsCar the Outback and drove myself back to Denver. I drove 5 hours to Cincinnati on Thursday night, 5 hours to St. Louis Friday night and 12 hours to Denver on Saturday.

I moved into a duplex house with a roommate – my first roommate in 7+ years – and, surprisingly, the arrangement is going very well. We get along fabulously and spent the weekend doing very roommate-y things: making homemade pizzas on Friday night, watched a movie and YouTube videos Saturday night and Sunday, ran our own errands but caught up later in the evening.

My roommate has a little dachshund, Schnapps, who is a gentle and goofy old man of a dog. His signature move is to run up to anyone who has food and sit up on his hind legs, like a kangaroo.

I send so many snaps of this strange pose because it makes me so happy. I miss Philly a lot and it’s nice to have a little pup running around so I can get a few furry snuggles at the end of a work day.

Living just 3 miles from work, I’m biking to/from again like I did this summer. In fact, I’ve only driven my car a handful of times the past week (mostly to get furniture/items from Target for my new room) and I’m excited to continue biking or riding transportation regularly. Of course, the whole reason I drove the car back out is to maximize mountain time and now that I’ve situated myself in my new room, I’m looking forward to fall and winter mountain adventures!

Like this!
Like this!

When we left Denver last year, Alex and I talked about how whenever we did/do find our way back, it would never be the same as when we left. I agreed at the time and never really expected that I’d be back in Denver, without him, so soon after we left. It’s certainly not the life we left behind but I’m excited about it all the same. Work, travel, building new friendships, making time for hobbies, sleeping on both sides of the bed. 😉

I find myself missing Alex and Philly the most in the quiet moments in the evening, when I’m hunkered down in my basement room for the night. And in every moment of my weekend which has been such treasured time over the past year when I’d get more than a few minutes of time with my husband. Now, I’m figuring out new routines to keep myself happy and occupied during those times, as is he.

It’s emotionally hard to be separated and not feel left out when he’s hanging out with our friends or I’m at our favorite football hangout without him. But we both remind ourselves and each other that this long distance is a fleeting moment in the story of our lives. And the benefits outweigh the sacrifice. I know this to be true and I’m not wishing away the time, but I am looking forward to when Denver is OUR city again.

How Is It Already August?!

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For the first weekend since my first weekend in Denver, I am IN Denver with NO plans. For the past 8 weekends, I have either traveled, backpacked or had friends in town and, while I’ve loved every single minute of it, it feels really decadent to have a down weekend…before the next round of madness.

This weekend, I am packing up the room of my ‘summer home’ in preparation for the next, full-time tenant who moves in next weekend. On Tuesday, I leave Denver to meet up with Heidi for a wild west road trip through Idaho and Oregon in the #YourLead van. When I return, I move in (very temporarily) to a friend’s basement until I shift to another friend’s house where I’ll be house/dog sitting while they’re out of town. From THERE, I’ll fly to *back* to Portland, OR, to run with Paula, Katie, Heidi and others in Hood To Coast. From THERE, I’ll red-eye myself to Pittsburgh to spend a (probably exhausted) day with my husband before he starts his second and final year of grad school the next day. Aug Updates // lynnepetre.com

The past few weeks have brought roller-coaster emotions, from the very high (Alex surprising me with a ticket to spend a weekend in Vegas with him) to pretty low (finding out important but scary family health news). I backpacked in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness for my final backpacking school overnight. I spent a final weekend in Los Angeles with Alex before he ends his internship this coming Friday. My brother and his girlfriend visited this past week and we went to Red Rocks Amphitheater for LCD Soundsystem (which was AMAZING!). And as work goes, I feel as passionate as ever and am very excited about what the next months hold.

I’m honestly flabbergasted that the summer is already coming to a close. And while it feels like I just arrived, I also packed so many great experiences into these past 11 weeks.

It’s hard sometimes for me and Alex to see the forest for the trees of this season of life. We can get so laser focused on how much we miss each other, how much we miss ‘real life’ together in the same city (with two incomes!) and forgetting this chapter is a finite moment.

The past year has brought so many interesting and important adventures into our life that we otherwise would never have experienced. Never in my life was Los Angeles on my radar or in my consideration set for a place to visit or consider living. We’ve road tripped across the country multiple times (and will do so a few more times before this season ends). And this summer, I’ve rediscovered my self-reliance in so many facets of life and have been humbled by the outreach and willingness of friends to loan a car or ride or, most importantly, an ear.

Alex and I have grown so much as a married couple, as individuals and as professionals this summer and past year that, without taking a step back to reflect, it’s easy to forge ahead and not appreciate what we’ve learned and who we’ve become, together and separately. And I’m pretty damn proud of who we are and where we’re headed.

With a few more weeks of summer chaos, I’m excited for the last adventures each of us has on our schedules but more excited to reunite in Pittsburgh at the end of the month. Less than 3 weeks till our little family is reunited!