Gini Dietrich

My Hot Mess: How Laura Petrolino Unicorns Through a Pandemic

By: Gini Dietrich | April 10, 2020 | 
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My Hot Mess: Laura PetrolinoIn a series called My Hot Mess, inspired by the Wall Street Journal, we’ll speak to communicators around the globe about the things they’re doing right now to get through this hot mess we call life.

Today we talk to Laura Petrolino about how she’s rainbowing and unicorning during a pandemic. Check back every Friday to learn about a new victim communicator and how they’re coping during this crazy time.

Husband Power

I want to start with the one thing I love about this entire thing: having my husband home.

Sure you might roll your eyes and my gushing newlywed status, but I love, love, love having my husband work from home.

It’s the best ever.

I love having someone as a work buddy.

And the fact I get to see him more.

I’m not as starved for human attention.

I love that he makes me laugh when I’m in a bad mood by working the entire day in long johns.

And that we have more time in the evening together so he can now join me for my evening hikes.

I lost my heart dog, Oliver, at the very beginning of this.

For those of you who haven’t experienced something like this, it’s sort of like grieving over someone closest to you, losing your right arm, having to change 12 years worth of habits, and moving to a country that speaks a language you don’t….all at once.

It’s crushing.

If Rob wasn’t home during this, I don’t think I’d be able to make it through the new silence and broken habits of the workday.

His presence has made it slightly less suffocating to try to relearn how to live.

For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

Overall, I’m just grateful I have my husband during this time and I’m not living alone.

The extrovert in me would be crushed and the human in me would be petrified.

It’s nice to not have to go this alone.

Extrovert Pros and Cons

Let’s talk about being an extrovert in the age of social distancing.

Yeah, it’s rough.

I miss humans and I miss actually being with people…you know, in person.

My best friends are spread across the country, so I’m used to virtual communication with the people I love.

I don’t like it.

I wish they were all right here, but I’m used to it.

The hardest part is I miss the daily random communication with people I don’t know.

If you don’t know me or haven’t spent time with me in person, spoiler alert: I talk to everyone.

And everyone talks to me.

I know the life stories of everyone who works at the grocery store.

I follow story lines of people at the gym.

And I know what my neighbors are up to on a day-to-day basis.

My life is talking to people.

And now, while I can still talk to them to a certain extent, it is cut way down.

Right now, I’m living for the evening walks when I can yell at neighbors across the street and catch-up on the goings on.

Bake It ‘Til You Make It

As luck would have it, at the beginning of the year I start the most fun little side-gig: an online bakery.

I got my home-food processor license and PetroPowered Pastries was born.

This is the PERFECT business for a pandemic.

Let me count the ways:

  1. Want stress relief? Bake! Bake! And bake some more.
  2. When all the other traditional bakeries closed and hustled to do something online….boom, here I was. Already ready to go.
  3. Pastries make people happy.

I’m not saving the world here.

But I am sprinkling sugar and magic into the lives of many quarantined people.

It’s amazing how receiving something fun in the mail can turn your day around.

And it makes me feel good, too.

Somehow much more connected.

(We ship nationawide, if you need a pastry fix.)

But What About the Gym?

As many of you know, I’m a competitive bodybuilder.

The gym is kind of a big deal.

We have bands, some plates, and a few dumbbells at home.

Oh! And a pull-up bar.

And honestly, I’ve been so freaking sore every day.

I miss the gym, don’t get me wrong.

And I love the social interaction there.

But my fitness goals are not suffering at all.

In fact, I think I’ll come out better.

I also set some fun goals for myself.

By the end of the quarantine, I want to be able to do perfect pistol squats on each leg and perfect one arm pull-ups and push-ups on each arm.

Outdoor Life for Me

The great thing for me is all my hobbies revolve around being outside.

Normally starting in April, our weekends and evenings are all about hiking or gardening or being on the water.

While sure, now we can’t do those with other people and that stinks big time, we can still do them.

,And for that, I feel grateful.

Cognitive Exhaustion

After I lost Oliver I was paralyzed.

I had to give myself permission the first little bit to not expect my same level of productivity.

I lowered the expectations I had for myself, which if you know me at all, does not come naturally.

But grieving took so much energy, I couldn’t execute at the same level.

If you think about it, we are all grieving now.

Grieving for the loss of our routine, of the short-term life we had planned, of the normal we knew and will never return to.

This has shown me that sometimes you just need to give yourself space to rest cognitively.

This doesn’t mean we don’t get stuff done and move forward.

Trust me, between all the stuff we have going on here at Spin Sucks and trying to supply the world with pastries, I’m running.

But I’m also learning that sometimes I just need to let my brain do nothing at all.

When I do, I end up better.

I’ll take this with me post-pandemic.

Things that Have Helped My Hot Mess

Here are the things that have helped me the most:

  • Evening hikes: I always do these (pre-pandemic), but during this time they’ve become like air.
  • A mediation around the Serenity Prayer: This doesn’t have to be religious. The Ten Percent Happier Mediation App has one that I’ve been doing and it resonates with me.
  • Madison Reed: I colored my own hair! Like for real. I really didn’t need to. My hair color is just an amplification of my natural color. But I figured, let’s live dangerously. And it was the best thing I’ve done. I feel so accomplished and proud of myself. It came out amazingly. So if you are in need of color, do it! Use this link to get $15 off.  Side note: I also cut my husband’s hair and we are still married, so that’s good.
  • Weekly walk calls: I have a friend here who I go on walks with almost every week, where we talk and therapize each other. We’ve started doing those on the phone. Not the same, but it helps.
  • I’ve been doing a lot more writing for fun. After we lost Oliver I kept a journal that I wrote to him every day. I’ll publish it on Medium or somewhere eventually. And since then, I’ve written more for fun. Just a bit of a break each day. Poems. thoughts, random rap songs. It gets things out of my head. Which is nice.
  • Focusing on what I want my NEW normal to look like. The great thing about change is it’s easier to make a lot of changes when you make one. That means that now is the great time to break habits we need to break and create new ones we want to create. I’ve been really putting a lot of thought into what I want to prioritize in my new normal.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She also has run, built, and grown an agency for the past 14 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.