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Denise Samuels’ sunny disposition is the real deal

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You know those people who are always upbeat and nice? It’s as if nothing ever upsets them. It turns out they’re real. They really do choose to be happy. They really do choose to be nice to everybody. They really do choose to remain upbeat.

Denise Samuels is one of those people. She shares some of how she makes this radically healthy and beneficial lifestyle her own.

“I remember one night I was sitting alone on my bed,” Samuels said, “and I was crying. I was asking God why. I remember saying ‘It’s not fair.’ I cried myself out and decided to go to bed. A passage in a book I was reading caught my eye. It said ‘Forgiveness is not saying that what the person did was right. Forgiveness is saying that God is just and God will handle it.’ We’re called to forgive, not to make it right.

“I may be stuck in a rotten spot. I may be having a horrible day, and things may be scary and dark, but thank goodness I’m not in control. God’s going to work it out. When I get all up in my head worrying about stuff, God’s got this.”

Samuels grew up in a family of strong faith. She had the good sense to let her church family be there for her when times were tough.

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“I was a very naive 19-year-old when I got married the first time,” she said. “When we got divorced, I was alone in Topeka. I was scared. But God put people in my life that helped me. People from church were there for me.”

She also understood her responsibilities through those times.

“Now, my ex and I are good friends,” Samuels said. “He lives in Oklahoma. When we go through to Tennessee to see my family we stop and go to dinner with them. If I had been bitter and vindictive, what would that have done to my kid? Keith has a great relationship with his dad and he has a great relationship with Chris. It was never ‘you have to pick sides.’ It was always ‘We’re your parents and we love you.’”

Her son is in college and her daughter is in junior high. They have a good sibling bond, and even when they were very young, they had excellent social skills.

“From the time that my kids were born,” Samuels said, “I never talked to them like babies. I would try to gently correct people that would say ‘Do you want your ba-ba?’ ‘No, it’s bottle.’

“When Keith was a baby, and his older siblings wanted to play a game, I’d pull his high chair up to the table. If we were playing Go Fish, I would give him his own cards and he would ‘play’ with us and be part of the game.

“Whatever they want to do, they’ve got our complete support. I love that Keith will call me from college and tell me something that happened. Alice is in junior high. I’ve told her that I didn’t like junior high. It was an awkward time. I won’t downplay what she’s going through. This is her life and it’s important to her now, and how she responds to it is important to her future.

“Everybody makes mistakes. We don’t dwell on them. When the kids get in trouble we talk about it. We set a punishment. Then it’s behind us. We don’t bring it up later. I’ve owned when I messed up and apologized to them. I try not to hold them to a higher standard than I’d hold myself to. God is gracious and shows grace and mercy to me. I try to extend that to my kids, and to everybody.”

Samuels and her family have been active in Roswell’s theatrical community for years now. Performing has always brought her joy.

“One of my favorite memories is all of us around this old piano that was my great-great grandfather’s,” she said. “Whenever we’d go to Tennessee we’d all gather around this piano and sing. My mom would play. We had two singing alto, three of us singing soprano, and my grandmother would sing sometimes. My grandfather would never come to the piano but he’d sit in his chair and we’d hear him singing too.

“I remember in high school one of my friends was in a play at the little theater on Virginia. I thought it looked like so much fun. Years later, Michael Sweeney was directing “Leading Ladies”. I didn’t get cast but he made me promise that I’d audition again for other plays.

“Then Louise Montague was holding auditions for Small Talk. The first night of auditions, she had a song picked out. I didn’t know it very well. I was nervous. I wasn’t happy with how my audition went, so I went home and I practiced. The next night I asked her to let me try again. She gave me the part.”

Samuels brings her particular brand of sunshine wherever she goes. The memories she makes will stay with people for a lifetime.

“When Keith was in band I was a band-mom,” she said. “I adopted all of those kids. I love every one of them. They had gone to competition and Mr. Odom hadn’t told the kids how well they’d scored. He texted some of us band parents that they’d made a one in sight reading. He hadn’t said to keep it secret. I met the bus wearing my band mom hat, with my cow-bell. I was shouting ‘Way to go! One in sight-reading!’ and he was like ‘shut up!’ I said ‘I’m spreading the joy!’”

She’s now in her second year as a secretary at Valley View Elementary School. She and another secretary serve 590 students as well as faculty and staff.

“I love the job,” Samuels said. “I love the kids. The other secretary is amazing. Ultimately it’s all about the kids. As long as we keep the focus on the kids and help each other out we’ll be fine.”

Samuels has created a life that has impacted countless lives in Roswell. Her sunny disposition is the real deal. It’s based in her faith and in her experiences of that faith in her daily life.

“I have a sign that hangs up in my office,” she said. It says ‘Be Happy, Be Kind.’ There are times that I’m terrified, but I wouldn’t be here without God. One of my two favorite verses from the Bible is Romans 8:28. ‘We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.’ The other is Psalms 94:19. ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me, your comforts delight my soul.’”

After talking about what those verses mean to her, Samuels looked at the Bible in her hand and said: “To think back on all that he’s helped me through so far …”

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