Friday, January 10, 2014

2013: A Year of Lessons Learned

Before we get too much further into the new year, it's important to reflect on the events of 2013.

Inspired by an early-morning conversation with a dear friend, I started to think about all that happened over the past 12 months. There were some amazing highs, as well some unexpected lows, but over all it was a year filled with much-needed life lessons.

Here are some highlights that I'd like to share with you, as well as some things that I've learned along the way.

Lesson 1: Don't start a new diet during the last week of a project.

Last March, I made the not-so-wise decision of going on the 'paleo' diet a week before finishing up a project. Now, granted, I don't eat meat, so choosing to also not eat any grains made life so much more challenging. Oh, and I happened to be doing P90X at the time, as well, so I found myself ravishingly hungry. Many people refer to this feeling as 'hangry', and I was not a pleasant person to be around. Because my body was constantly craving carbs, I made several mistakes at work. Upset with myself and the choices I had made, I decided that I better be prepared next time I make that much of a change in my diet.

Or maybe next time I should just not change my diet...

Lesson 2: Have an emergency fund. You never know when you'll have to use it.

As part of the Total Money Makeover, it's important to have a small emergency fund set aside while paying off debt, so if something unexpected happens in your life, you don't have to go back to using a credit card (which - you guessed it - gets you back into more debt). Instead, if an 'emergency' occurs (the definition of 'emergency' is different for everyone...) then you'll already have the money to use. It makes life's unexpected events less catastrophic, and keeps stress levels down. If you have the funds to simply take care of them then and there, then life can simply happen.

Long story short, last March, my mom fell and broke her arm while at work. She needed to get surgery to fix the break, and the only way she could heal would be if I flew home to help her. Because I had the emergency fund, I was able to purchase the flight and travel to see her without any added stress. I was there for her surgery and helped her through recovery without having to pay myself back later.

This solidified the need of an emergency fund. It also taught me not to fall. But if you do, do it at work.

Lesson 3: It's okay to make a fool of yourself around your coworkers. The more fun you have, the more they'll love you for it.

Just be sure you're in the appropriate setting to do so. In this case, we were celebrating the completion of a project, so everyone was ready to have a good time. So no one batted an eye when I made a complete fool of myself on the dance-floor. Letting loose allows others to, as well. It's a win-win.

Lesson 4: Invite your best friend to the biggest party of the year.

It's a sure guarantee they'll continue to be your best friend. And who better to help you celebrate the completion of a film, right?

Lesson 5: Be open to working with new people. You never know what you'll learn about them, or what you'll learn about yourself.

I had the opportunity to work on a project with someone that I had never met before. Not sure what to expect, I decided to take it one day at a time. It turned out that working with them was one of the best experiences I've had so far. Not only were they completely forgiving and trusting of my abilities, but they taught me so much. About leadership, friendship, production, and just being me. They helped me prove to myself that I'm capable of so much more, and to not lose sight of the creative fire that burns within.

In other words, start a new work (or life) relationship with no expectations, and let them surprise you. You'll be glad you did. Or just surprise them by breaking out into song and dance when they're least expecting it. They'll be glad you did.

Lesson 6: Don't overindulge while vacationing in Hawaii. You'll get sick.

And especially don't attempt to walk 3 miles around the resort to make yourself feel better. It will only exacerbate the problem...

Lesson 7: Trust in God. He has a plan.

This last fall, I was in search of a new roommate. Not sure who it was going to be, or where I would end up, there was a part of me that just knew the right solution would come along. While nothing seemed to be presenting itself, I had to come to terms with the fact that that I indeed needed a roommate, as opposed to living on my own. I began to look for rooms on Craigslist, now open to the fact that I had narrower options. Literally moments before I hit 'send' on a listing reply, a friend (whom I had met in the spring at Financial Peace University) texted me asking if I was still looking for a roommate. God had a plan, and was just waiting for me to accept the fact that I needed a roommate. If she had texted me the day before, I may not have agreed to it. All I had to do was trust.

Or just hit 'send' in an email before anyone else has the chance to text you. That way, you're in control. And that always feels good.

Lesson 8: Go out of your way for your friends. Even if that means flying 2 hours, driving another 3, and enduring 105 degree heat to be at their wedding.

Even if your makeup is running from all the sweat, you'll be glad you made the effort. It means a lot to them, and it would mean a lot to you, too. Plus, despite the hassle, you'll most likely have an amazing time. Just don't take any pictures neck up, because chances are you look like a complete mess.

Lesson 9: Don't drive in fog. Unless you have no choice, in which case, pray. A lot. Or just book a hotel room.

I don't think I've ever felt closer to death than trying to drive in the fog along 1-5 between San Diego and Orange County. My mom and I were coming back from another wedding, and weren't expecting the worst road conditions. It was dark, and you could barely see 30 feet in front of us. But we were in the middle of no where at night, so pulling over offered even more of a risk. I could only drive in the middle lanes, so I could see the stripes on both sides of my car. Unable to see tail lights in front of me, it was a white knuckle experience that no one should have to endure. By the grace of God, we made it safely back to Orange County. Getting out of the car unharmed was incredibly humbling, and I just about knelt down to kiss the ground.

But I didn't because that would have been gross.

Lesson 10: Hug your pets. Their lives are short, but the immense love and joy they give will stay with you forever.

Last spring we had to say goodbye to our beloved friend, Mickey. Our first horse ever, we bought him when I was only 11 (I'm 29 now). He was 23 years old, and still going strong, so hearing that he had somehow broken his leg was a complete shock. Luckily, my brave father was able to be there with him when they put him down. Mickey had been my dad's loyal companion and weekly escape to act as horseman and cowboy. We still can't believe that he isn't around, but he served his time here on earth well, and he will be greatly missed. I'm glad I had been able to see him recently, and knowing he was happy with his herd-mates during his last days gave us peace. Just be sure to hug your four-legged friends whenever possible. They're here to give us unconditional love and to bring the best out in us. All that they ask is that we love them in return. 

Unless they hate you, then it's a little harder to love them. But do it anyway, because they're animals, and they'll forget very quickly that they hate you.

Lesson 11: Give yourself a chance.

This was a big one for me this last year. I had been slowly working through getting out of debt, but I was a little more apprehensive about getting out of my shell. Going to a class with complete strangers to talk about money was never something I would have considered before, but I knew I had to do it in order to grow as a person. This last spring, I finally gave in and enrolled in Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class. Not knowing what to expect, I had a gut feeling that I would get something unexpected out of it. In addition to inspiration, I met a new friend (who I now get to call my room-mate as well). Both of us had decided to take this class on a whim, knowing it was going to lead to something great, and it did. Doing something for yourself, even if it means going out of your comfort zone will always lead to something better that you never anticipated. I've since made a goal of doing more things that make me feel a little bit 'uncomfortable'.

Since then I have attended a weekly sketch drawing class. It's helped me to break up my normal routine at work, as well as forcing me to get back into drawing, which I've been far removed from ever since I went back to school. Surrounded by really talented artists, it's easy to feel completely intimidated and incompetent, but after getting encouragement from them, I've kept going. I'm not doing it for them, I'm doing it for myself. I'm giving myself the chance to branch out and/or honor my other, more neglected, skills and passions.

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I hope you found some of these lessons inspiring. It's been quite the year for me. I got to spend a lot of time with friends, family, pets, dance-floors, spreadsheets, and sketchbooks, which I'm very very grateful for.

I look forward to a wonderful new year, and sharing little pieces of it with you along the way.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Alternate 'January Detox' Options

It's January, which means it's time to start cleansing our bodies of all the 'bad stuff' that we consumed over the past couple months.

While I would love nothing more than to throw my body into a green-juice fast, as juicing can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience, I prefer to avoid liquid diets during the cold winter months. Plus, because it's post-holiday season, I don't typically have the budget for juicing. I do like to include fresh-pressed juice in my diet whenever possible, but I'd like to share with you some other more cost-effective and cold-weather-friendly methods I've discovered:

1. Warm water with freshly-squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning: This does wonders for jump starting the detoxification process. For just the cost of a quarter of a lemon a day, (say 10 cents?) you can feel amazing in just a matter of minutes, so plan accordingly.
*One more thing: make sure your water isn't too hot, as heat can, and does, destroy Vitamin C, and if I were you, I'd want to get the most out of every drop of that lemon...

2. Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with water and honey: I prefer to use room-temperature water whenever possible. It's easier for your body to absorb, and keeps you from getting too chilled during the winter months. I add about 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar to 8 ounces of water. Grab a spoonful of your favorite raw honey and either mix with the liquid or take a bit of honey on your tongue before drinking the concoction. It can get bitter, and depending on your taste buds, you may opt for more or less honey. I prefer to take this with Bragg Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar at night right before I go to bed, because it always makes me want to sleep. Not sure why, but I wake up feeling amazing!

3. Dandelion and Nettle Leaf tea. Dandelion Root tea apparently does wonders at cleansing the liver, and I absolutely love its nutty taste and aromas. I prefer the Traditional Medicinals brand, and I drink it so fast that I usually run out before I can say 'dandelion'! In addition to this detoxification tea, I like to include Nettle Leaf tea, also by Traditional Medicinals. One thing to be aware with Nettle, is that some people suffer from allergic reactions to it, so please take caution, but if you can consume it, it's a definite must-have. You'll be surprised at how well it does at cleaning you out. (Man, this is quite the blog topic, eh?). I prefer to take Nettle in the morning, and Dandelion in the evening. If neither of those are appealing to you, their other Detox teas are also excellent!

4. Water: We've all heard time and time again that we need at least 8 glasses of water a day, right? Well, I don't know if you've actually tried it, but I challenge myself from time to time, and it's not as easy as it sounds. But let me tell you, you'll end the day feeling amazing. Yes, you'll probably go to the bathroom a million times that day, but if you're like me, you'll feel way more hydrated (obvious, I know...), cleansed, rejuvenated, recharged, and more focused than if you had opted out of the challenge. But again, make sure the water is at least room temperature, so it's more easily absorbed by the body. Plus, it will keep you from getting too cold!
I also sometimes like to add a spoonful of crystalized Vitamin C (I get mine from Trader Joe's) to my water for an energy or immunity boost.

5. Sleep: There's nothing quite like a good night's sleep to help your body detox, recharge, regenerate cells, etc. So be sure to get plenty. It's my first and foremost goal when it comes to maintaining my health. My body can't do much of anything if it's sleep deprived, regardless of how much healthy food I eat or how hard I exercise. And what's better than staying in bed in winter? Really?

So these are some of my favorite (and more cost effective) ways of detoxing. What are some of your favorites?

Happy cleansing!


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Thursday, January 2, 2014



2013 is long gone, and it's time to start thinking of ways to make this year better than the last. I don't know about you, but I started working on my new years resolutions about a month ago. Inspired by the book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I think I've fine tuned what goals I want to accomplish this year, and what better way to hold myself accountable than to post about them.

But before I do, here are some photos from a walk my mom and I went on yesterday with her dog, George. I've been in Las Vegas for the holidays, and the weather couldn't be more beautiful! A great way to start 2014!

Overall, my goals for 2014 range greatly. I have some specifically related to work, and others geared toward my health and happiness:


My largest goal that I've been working on the most over the past year and a half is getting out of debt. I've paid off over $6800 in consumer debt since October '12, and will be paying off my last outstanding credit card balance this month. Thanks to Dave Ramsey, his Total Money Makeover book, and his Financial Peace University classes, I have a plan, a budget, and a mission to live debt-free, build wealth and give. I would never have been on this track otherwise.

I still have roughly $7600 left in student loan debt (lesson learned is don't go back to school without a financial plan), but I hope to be done with it by the end of the year. It's going to take a lot of hard work and sacrifice, but it'll be worth it!


My second goal is to get my etsy shop off the ground. I recently attended a holiday craft fair, where I sold my hand-made earrings. I had attended this fair for two years prior, and had gained a lot of momentum through my coworkers and friends. With each passing year, I gained more confidence, experience, and exposure, and this last holiday season, I had quadrupled my sales from 2011, when I first exhibited.

The most inspiring part of selling my earrings is seeing the joy they bring to friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers! I much prefer the face-to-face interaction of craft shows. Not sure if it's because I have a background in customer service, but I love getting the instant feedback of my work, and seeing how happy people are when they are wearing them days or even years later.

I want to continue this growth, so I've decided to take my shop to a whole other level. This year, my goal is to get to a point where all of my materials are either hand-made from other artisans, or recycled materials. I love finding 'previously-loved' jewelry from second-hand stores. There's always a story behind each piece, and I really enjoy reviving them!

I'm hoping that by the end of the year, my earrings will have been featured on at least one blog. I've got a lot of work to do, but I couldn't be more excited to get going!


My third goal is to get my blog off the ground. I really enjoy the process of blogging, and there are so many amazing and inspiring blogs and bloggers out there that have set the stage for newbies like myself.

In order to promote creativity and increase traffic, I'll be striving to add a new post at least once a week, which is significantly more than I had been doing before.


I love reading, but I don't always make the time for it. With work, social outings with my friends, exercising, making jewelry, etc, it's hard to feel motivated to sit down and be 'unproductive' with a book. But it's time to start making time for it. So I've given myself the task of reading one book each month this year. My reading list is still in the works, but I'll publish a follow-up post with the names and authors, once I make my final decisions.


There's nothing like the holidays to make you feel like you're a complete failure at taking care of yourself. Parties and dinners and drinks and desserts sure make picking out clothes to wear a real chore, especially when nothing you own fits anymore. A new year means a new opportunity for self-reflection and personal care. There's a reason why the gym gets more crowded in January, right?

But instead of laboriously forcing myself to the gym each morning, I've decided to start with a goal that's a little easier to achieve, especially in the frigid month of January. I will be eating more greens. Whether in the forms of salad, grilled veggies, stir fries, or fresh-pressed juices, by incorporating greens into my diet, I'll be allowing my body to heal from the inside out.


Looking back on 2013, I realized that I hadn't taken very many photos. Every now and then I'd get in a mood and go crazy and blast my Instagram feed with an onslaught of images, but I'd like to be more consistent and selective with what I share. In order to enforce this new goal, I'll be uploading one (or more) image to Instagram every day. There's always something interesting to photograph, right? ;)


I have a bad habit of forgetting to wear lipstick. I'm more of a chapstick kind of girl, but lipstick does do wonders, and it's time to incorporate the simple, yet effective, beauty product into my everyday life. My current favorite color is Flower Fusion™Hyacinth from Origins, but I'd love to hear what some of your favorites are!


I've been yearning to take a Photoshop or Illustrator class. Definitely a business class. Maybe attend a workshop or brush up on my drawing skills. Learn calligraphy or something that I never thought possible. The blogosphere has provided me with overwhelming amounts of inspiration, and I'm more ready than ever to channel that energy into something productive. I just wanna learn! If you have any tips or tricks or sites you'd recommend, please let me know!


I'm a pleaser, so it's hard for me to say no to things that I don't necessarily feel right about. But saying no is a freeing action. By allowing ourselves to say the word 'no', it provides us the space to ask what we really want. What is our gut saying? What is our heart saying? 'No' can many times lead to a later 'yes'.


This goal may sound a bit hokey, but it's something that I've been neglecting for a while. When I say "Spend time with God", I simply mean to slow down and experience the present moment. Be still, and let the waters calm. Designate time to pray, to meditate, to ask Him for help. I notice that I'm calmer, more stable, more balanced, more at peace, when I incorporate 'spending time with God' into my every-day life. Everything else seems to fall into place. 

I feel that this goal is a good one to end on. A constant reminder that we have a larger purpose, and that God always has a plan. Trusting that everything happens for a reason. It is still our right as humans to make our own choices, but God will always be there to lead the way. 

That concludes my Resolutions post. Thanks so much for reading!

May your 2014 be filled with happiness and joy!

Best wishes,

Photos Copyright ® 2014 - Samantha Samuels