The Start to Unwavering Optimism

It’s the perfect dreary day. The sky is light grey and the mountains are being dusted with snow as small rain drops dampen the pine needles here. I thought there is no better day to start writing again then today!

So here goes. I have been thinking a lot lately about writing a book about my life and lessons learned… kind of a memoir meets positive outcomes. While figuring out how to put it all together I am just going to write about life and my memories. Hopefully you will find some joy, laughter, and hope for yourself. 🙂

Sometime in 10th grade:
How do you pick up the phone or send an email after 3 years of not being able to have any contact with your mom? Nothing had happened, no crimes were committed that would have locked either party up. It simply came down to my dad blocking her from my life- the same way he has erased me from my little sisters life(another story for another time). This wasn’t the first time it happened. There was a span in elementary school that I was made to believe she had just abandoned my sister and I. Come to find out years later that she had tried to contact us and the messages just seemed to disappear in transit.
The last time I saw my mom, I was in 7th grade and was actually living with her again. It was short lived.. maybe half of the school year before I was back with my dad and in  that abusive house I knew so well. That is not this story though. I will save that for another time.
I am in 10th grade living with my aunt and uncle, who saved my life. Seriously though… I probably would have become a very different person had it not been for their normalcy.
We took a road trip that year and ended up in South Lake Tahoe, where my mom, stepdad, 2 sisters and brother lived. Kimmy(my aunt) was encouraging and said I should say hi…  but what do you say to your mom after not speaking for three years?  “Hey Mom!… Hi?… it’s your long lost eldest daughter..” How do you start that conversion?
You see my dilemma…
Funny story. So we were camping a few blocks from their house in Tahoe. I thought I would ride my bike over there and just knock on the door and say “Surprise!”  Great idea right?
Knock knock. No one answers. I peak my eyes through the window to see if anyone is home. I knocked again… no answer. So, I hopped the fence to see if the back door was open. It wasn’t. I again, tried peaking into all the windows. It didn’t seem like anyone was home, so I biked back to the campground.
My memory gets kind of fuzzy here. I think we called my sister Kali. (I like to say I have been blessed with a bad memory.. it’s what’s keeps me positive after so many negative years- which are hard to remember)
I know we ended up talking on that trip because I learned that she did not live in that house I trespassed in a few hours earlier. Good thing no one was home! Haha
We met up on that trip. It was the first time I had seen them in 3 years! We all took a trip out on their boat to a secluded beach where we ate, napped, and floated on big lemon and lime rafts! From what I remember I would say it went quite well!
(From what Kali remembers, she said I had called them the Christmas before and she remembers it being the best Christmas ever. From what Kimmy remembers, she said I called them randomly with my first phone that she gave me for Christmas. So I am thinking that that may be the truth, especially since I really don’t remember the first conversation I had with them after those 3 years. It’s funny the things you do and don’t remember 12 years later.)
We went back to Walnut Creek and I started texting with Kali and continued talking to my mom.
That was a pivotal event in my crazy life…. to be continued…
Lesson Learned:   
Take chances. Always take chances. You will never regret a chance you took. Maybe you’ll learn a lesson but you will never regret it. There is always something good to be found in every situation.
You never know what can come when you pick up the phone or send an email. I started a relationship with my mom again, refound my sister, and started watching my youngest brother and sister grow up! 🙂
Things always work out. It might not be when you want it to, but it always does!
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Live Simply… Be Happy

As a reformed hoarder, I know all too well how valuable stuff can be. Everything has sentimental value. Everything has a purpose and while you may not use it everyday, wear it everyday, or even look at it everyday… there will be a time when you will need that thing. 

Things pile up. Decor becomes cluttered. Life quickly becomes clostraphobic. 

I loved a freshly cleaned house.. a freshly cleaned made bed…an organized countertop… that short lived moment when everything was in order… then I was forced to go about my day. Messing it I all up. Because when you have too much stuff, it’s impossible to keep it all organized! Dishes, laundry, school work, paintings, knickknack, plants, books, stuff…

My college roommates would jokingly tell me I would be on buried alive someday. (I wasn’t that bad… luckily I caught myself early.) It was hard to get rid of things. All these were my things. Things I had acquired over the years. Things that held a deeper meaning. Things  might someday need.

It started with them helping me go through my piles of clothes. Clothes I was collecting and holding onto since grade school! Not to mention all the stuff I accumulated with my employee discount at Macy’s. It was a tough task for sure and I didn’t always feel better after. Sure, my room was cleaner and my stuff was organized. I could sit in my room, relax, and breath in the natural clean light… but maybe, just maybe, I needed that oversized black and white polka dot raincoat that fit two people in a climate that didn’t see much rain! 

My room stressed me out. The house stressed me out. Sitting and relaxing was not relaxing at all. Except for those times it got so bad, that it had to be cleaned! There were a lot of those times and for those few hours afterwards, all was well. It wasn’t until I moved, that I was forced to look at all this stuff. I moved across the country and had nothing to do, didn’t know anyone, so it made sense to spend my time going through all the boxes full of things! Unpacking and putting things in their “place”. Or what I had started challenging myself to do- make its “place” good will. 

I would hold two articles of clothing up- which one did I like better? Toss the other! I had to categorize them. I couldn’t compare a pair of jeans with a t shirt. So I put them in like piles and sorted them that way. I think it’s easier to start with clothes. It’s like the gateway “thing” to minimalism. 

It was a slow process. One garbage back here and one box there. I developed (over the course of 3 years) a liking to simplifying my stuff. I didn’t need much stuff I realized. With less stuff, I found myself doing other things and became a much happier person. I gave myself some breathing room to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like, since I didn’t have all the stuff to keep me preoccupied.  I think its a habit more people should pick up!

It only got better when my then boyfriend, now husband and I decided to move into a fifth wheel. With less that 300 square feet, we couldn’t possibly bring all those things that piled up in our house! It was time to get rid of all of it! Ok, we couldn’t quite do that… at least not yet… we put a good chunk of it in a storage unit where it collected dust for 2 years. Once day we decided it was time to get rid of it! So we did! We kept a few paintings that are easy to travel with. Other than that, we had a mass cleaning and again it felt so freeing! Everything we owned could fit on the back of the truck. The possibilities opened up for us! 

It’s hard to put into words how great shedding all your things can be. It’s freeing. It’s lightens your burden. It’s less stressful. It’s happier. Without the things to fill our happiness, we turned to activities and memory making. It’s really crazy how much and how many things don’t matter at the end of the day. We kept the things that bring us together and keep us happy.. like our mountain bikes, french press, and the pups! And all their toys of course- we want them to be happy too!

I hope you can implement a little bit of this into your life. Get rid of some of those things that are just weighing you down. You might think you’ll miss them, but you probably wont. If you do, get another one. There are no rules to living simply. Just that you shed the things you don’t need. What ever that looks like for you, I promise, life is so much happier when you have less stuff. 

I will say- the key to living simpler is… just starting. Pick one area and start getting rid of things that are cluttering your life. It’s hard at first, but the feeling of simplicity will quickly become addicting! I promise! 

Please feel free to ask my any questions and let me know how your simple living project is going! 🙂 

Enjoy,

Sami 

Be Here Now

  Learn from yesterday, Live for today, Look to tomorrow, Rest this afternoon. ~ Charles M. Schulz
Why is that that people who are dying, live the most happy life? We have seen so many people tell us “live like you’re dying” and “don’t waste time”. People who are struggling want to bring awareness and help you change you’re life. Why is it that we all know this to be true, yet many of us don’t actually live. Why? Is it that we are comfortable in life? Is it that we know we have tomorrow? Or at least that we know we aren’t dying, so fun can wait until summer when the kids are out of school or when work slows down or when you have your ducks in a row? Well, as humans we never have our ducks in a row, nothing is ever quite up to par, we are never quite ready, the thought that we didn’t do it quite right stays with us always. I think it comes down to priority and passion. I think some people just aren’t passionate and don’t make life a priority. Maybe you want to make it a priority or you want to have fun and experience life, but you haven’t quite changed your mind set. I think some people want to live but don’t quite know where to start and others don’t have a strong enough will to change. When your fear of staying the same is greater than your fear of change, that’s when life gets more enjoyable. You need to have that aha moment, realizing you can enjoy life everyday. You can enjoy it at work, you can enjoy it after work, you can alter your days to experience more- go to the park, visit your local museum, play tourist for a day, enjoy a weekend in a nearby city, etc. I think we don’t know how to maximize our time to enjoy life. To do the things we enjoy. Good news- we can all work on this daily and be more happy! 

I want to tell you a story about how I was stuck in unhappiness for most of my life. I am human and fall into the trap of thinking things will be better tomorrow. But my life has really shown me what I don’t want to feel and taught me how to be happy. It all started when my parents got a divorce when I was in 2nd grade. Long story short, it was a very unglued divorce in which there was a good period of time that my sister and I weren’t allowed to see our mom who was replaced by an unwavering abusive stepmom. 

 When I use to get thrown in that little half bathroom for hours and hours, I had a lot of time to think and imagine what life would be like if I lived in a normal family. How great would it be to sit at the dinner table and have a conversation about what I did in school instead of eating dinner crammed on top of that tiny toilet with only my reflection to look at. I could probably write a book, “1001 creative ways to sit and lay in a half bathroom”. Anyways, that wasn’t even half of what went on in that house. I actually grew to love that bathroom because I was alone and didn’t have to endure the emotional abuse. It was my sanctuary. I spent a lot of time wishing the years would speed by. I use to pray that God would let me wake up and be 18 so I can have my own life. (He did answer my prayer years later and in ways I didn’t know). I imagined how I would live my life. I wouldn’t be dysfunctional. I wouldn’t treat people the way I was treated. I wouldn’t let this experience ruin what I could become. I will have a great life- in spite of the constant abuse. In fact, I would live my life in a way that people would be shocked if they knew what happened, because I was a functioning but more importantly a happy human and not fucked up. (Not to say, I didn’t deal with my experience, because I most certainly did and still do). I just learned what not to do as an adult much earlier than most. 

Fast forward- I’m 18 and start college. I would tell myself I will work hard and enjoy life when I am done. I worked 3 jobs so I didn’t have to take out student loans. When my friends would invite me out, I usually turned them down because I needed to work or sleep for work and school the next day. I’d hang out next time- sometimes I did. I missed a lot of college life, but I didn’t have debt. I was living in a mind set that I would have fun later. It was always later, always next time. 

It wasn’t until the end of my undergrad(5 years later) that something changed and I fell in love with spontaneity. Well, planned spontaneity anyway. Evenmore so, when I became an archaeologist after graduation, I knew I wanted to change and live more but didn’t know how to do that. I was still stuck in the thought that I need to work and save up a lot of money then take vacations more often. Not that I was miserable everyday, because I wasn’t, but I didn’t enjoy my day to day life. It was a stepping stone to the next level, but there was always another level before I’d be truly happy. 

The true turning point(I say that now because I have had many growth spurts- life is about constant change, constant growth) was when I left what was familiar and moved across the country not knowing anyone. My life changed for the better! I wasn’t comfortable in my ways and needed to figure out what I really liked to do, create a new routine. My dog and I explored when I got off work, we went hiking on the weekends, we took long drives, got lost, and made many new discoveries. I met my wonderful fiancé. It was the best decision I ever made! 

I think everyone needs to have a life changing event. While we don’t deep down like change, we all need it. It could be anything from a small change like a new job, to a large change, like loss(as awful as it is, loss can change your life for the better). These changes, are more important to talk about to really understand change and happiness, instead of just saying “life is short- be happy”. Yes life is too short to be unhappy, but how do you know your unhappy unless you allow yourself to grow. Maybe you are so happy, but you don’t know what your missing unless you open yourself up to change. What’s the worst that could happen? You try a kiwi and find out your allergic to it? As long as it doesn’t kill you, you will learn something. Maybe you take an evening walk at your local greenway and find out you really enjoy the feeling you get as your shoes hit the pavement and the smell of blooming trees fills your nose. If you try something different and find you really don’t enjoy it, you don’t have to do it again, but maybe you’ll fall in love with something new. 

So I leave you all with a challenge. Leave your comfort box and try something new. Spark up a conversation with a stranger next to you or the person checking you out. Do something you are a little afraid of, it probably won’t kill you and you’ll have a little rush from it.  Leave me a comment and tell me how you stepped out of your box? 

Wake up, Smile and Live a little more today. 

 

Don’t Waste Precious Time

Moving on will show you a lot about who you are, what you truly want, & what you have no desire to waste your time on. ~ April Mae Monterrosa

It’s been over a month since I lost my Grandpa. He was my hero, my role model. He gave me nothing but love, laughs, and invaluable lessons. I think about him a lot when I drive and to my surprise when new music comes across the radio. It makes sense that Dolly and Cash would bring back memories, but even Adele and Charlie Puth draw my thoughts to him. The sadness still overcomes me. I have to let out a few tears thinking about how much life will be different and all the moments I won’t be able to share with him, but then I find myself smiling. Smiling at the memories I do have. Smiling because I don’t have many good memories from childhood but he has given me this gift that most people have- great fun memories to hold onto and happy stories to tell.

Looking towards the mountains and the rivers, I am reminded of whats important- like grandpa is talking to me through the simple beauty in life. It makes me stop and think- am I just floating by? I want to make an impact in someones life, like he has made in mine and so many others lives. I can’t fix peoples teeth or give them a new heart, but I can listen and I can give advice to people going through a hard time or stuck in a rut. I have a lifetime of experience in overcoming hard times and can share my story and what I’ve learned to help me, to help others.

I’ve never been afraid of death. I’m still not, however, it has become a real thing- one that has hit close to home. Death is part of being human, it’s the final step to getting where we belong. Everyone’s time will run out. It’s part of life and we all move on, the world continues to go on weather you like it or not. So we have a choice every morning. Will you be sad and depressed or wake up and force a smile until it becomes natural? Happiness is a choice and it may not be an easy choice, especially when being angry and sad can be so addicting. Our brain is a powerful tool and we can train it to help us choose happiness. There are so many things to be grateful for and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. Like I said in my previous post, all emotions are temporary, including happiness. So you need to give yourself permission to feel sad and to get mad, but then have a system set in place to help you snap out of it so it doesn’t consume your life.

I could go on about what I do to get myself out of a deep rut(in future posts), but in regards to feelings around death of a loved one, this is what I do. Let myself be sad. Let myself be mad. I don’t, however, take it out on anyone else. I find myself thinking instead about all the great memories I shared with him and how he truly is in a better place. I find comfort knowing he didn’t suffer long, because that would be the worst thing for him. He has given me something to strive for in life and taught me characteristics that I want to mirror. I’ll take a minute and Google quotes- that usually makes me feel better. After I have cried or been angry long enough, I will tell myself “OK, Time to Change! Do I really want to waste my time being..”. The answer is always no and I’ll pick myself up and usually do some kind of exercise and do one thing productive, whether that’s clean the closet, do the dishes, write a blog. I put on some happy music, stand outside, and think about what I am grateful for.

One thing I am grateful for is that I still have my grandmothers. I was never raised with a “close” family. My parents were divorced when I was young and fought for a good 15 years after that. It is easy for family to drift apart and I didn’t want that. So, I have always tried to make a point to talk to my family and call them often. My family is all over the place and it’s hard to see them all, but thanks to phones and the internet, it’s much easier to communicate and stay close. When I moved to Chattanooga the phone calls kind of slowed down a bit- mostly because of the time change(my family lives in the West) and my work hours. With the passing of my grandpa, I made a commitment to get back to how it use to be and make sure I call everyone at least every other week. I talked to my grandma today. She said she feels she is just wasting time now, trying to fill the minutes with anything. There isn’t much purpose just actions to pass time. This is how a lot of people feel after losing a loved one. It makes perfect sense that this would happen and this is when it’s so important to be able to find purpose again and choose to live happy. I told her grandpa would hate that! He wasn’t a time waster. He filled every hour with things he loved and we need to do the same!

It’s never too late to start doing the things you love and make you happy. People say life is too short to be unhappy. I know its true, and have tried to live my life to this since being on my own, but I was hit hard with this truth again. It was a reminder that life is truly precious. I don’t believe anyone can truly understand the fragility of life until they are personally effected by a life changing event. On the flip side, these life changing events also show you just how strong you can be. I have been through quite a bit of shit growing up, but it made me realize I didn’t want to waste time on anger and hatred. I was blessed with a bad memory that has helped a lot, but I didn’t really understand how precious time is until my grandpa. Living in the Now is so important, because you never know when your time is up. Don’t waste precious time. It’s not worth being angry, worried, upset, sad- the sun will rise tomorrow and what happened today will then become history. What kind of history do you want to pass on?

Wake up, Smile, and Live.

What’s Important

When it comes down to it, being real, being honest, establishing trust- that is what’s important. That is what this blog is all about. We all want to be happy. We all would rather smile than frown. We all want to live life and not settle. We all have a different idea of a “Great Life” looks like. We all have a different idea of what “Happiness” is.  At the end of the day, we all want the same thing- happiness- and happiness starts with a smile.

Let’s be real- life throws curve balls! Sometimes life just sucks. It’s a roller coaster. I am not here to say everything is fine and just smile it off. Life has a funny way of working itself out. Eventually, things will be OK and there are steps we can take to help us find happiness everyday. I want to share my story and my thoughts on getting through difficult times. Hopefully I can help someone else choose a smile.

My whole life people have asked me: how I am I always so happy? Do I ever get mad? Have I ever had a bad day? I hear how I am one of the happiest people they know and people love being around me because I am always happy. Let me tell you, I definitely have bad days! I get angry (especially when it comes to driving) and I haven’t always been happy. I decided a very long time ago that my life is better if I don’t dwell on my negative feelings. Life is a better place if I don’t let the negative win. I’m not saying ignore your feeling. You should most certainly let yourself feel sadness and anger- just don’t let it consume your life.

Happiness is a choice. It is a mindset. One of the best things I learned is that nothing stays the same- everything is temporary. Everything passes. Emotions are temporary. There is peace in knowing that the bad times will pass. On the flip side, that also means good times will pass. However, if you are able to grab onto a small peace of happiness, look towards the positive, you are one step closer to a happier life. This idea that everything changes really helps put life and what is important into perspective. It helps you not take life to seriously and laugh a little more.

From here on out, I will be posting about how to choose happiness, steps you can take, topics and daily actions to help you get out of that rut and enjoy life. I will teach you how to wake up, smile and live your life the best way you can.  Please reach out to me with any questions or topics you would like answered. Hope you enjoy.