A New Way with Words

6e9676f3f9dd138aeb61791cf36f7bf3My dear friend Hannah was visiting from out of town this week and I always love listening to her talk. She uses words that I haven’t heard since studying for the GRE, like “caustic” or “amalgamate.” I complimented Hannah on her verbose vocabulary, and then I remembered why she has such a great range with words.

Hannah is an avid reader. Even when we were friends in middle school, Hannah was always turning a page and even describes herself as a bookworm. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen what a gift it is—to have the passion to read. It has always been a little humdrum for me…something that I know I’m supposed to do, but hasn’t always been a genuine pleasure. If given the choice, I would pick a movie over a novel any day. And I think it’s a shame.

Movies are fleeting; they offer a few hours of surface level emotions. The hard-hitting movies that grab on to your soul for a few days are few and far between. But books…they build you up in more ways than one. Not only do you come away with a stronger vocabulary, you have a deeper perspective into the human mind. You can momentarily live a thousand different lives if you read a thousand different books.

So I’m setting a challenge for myself. I’m going to read every day…either a novel, a nonfiction, the newspaper…whatever it might be. Rather than just watching movies as my way to wind down, I’m going to attempt to reprogram myself to choose reading rather than watching. I am choosing to keep my mind sharp and active. Maybe I’ll even through in some Sudoku puzzles while I’m at it.

So here’s to more reading and taking the erudite approach…

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Like a Tightrope

I’ve been speaking a lot about the power of vulnerability lately. One thing I’ve noticed when I ask the audience a question, they freeze like they just took the polar bear plunge. I remember being that audience member myself, avoiding attention with all my power. Raising my hand would be like sticking my hand in a bucket of ice: unpleasantly shocking.

I think this is one of the weakest links of my generation. We fear attention. Is this because we worry that our peers will judge us? That we will look uneducated? Maybe it’s the sheer nervousness that comes with the first word you speak and suddenly one hundred heads spin toward you?

We have to be brave though. Brave with our words and our actions. We can’t let fear hold us back from speaking our truth. I love the Sara Bareillis song, “Brave” because she preaches just that, “Say what you want to say, and let the words fall out. I want to see you be brave.”

That’s my wish for our generation as well; that we will be brave. That we will ask questions because we are genuinely curious. That we will apply for things we don’t think we will get…we might. That we will try out for a team we don’t think we will make…we might.

If we never ask, the answer will always be no.

Be brave with your life. Believe in yourself and trust that you will be okay, no matter what the outcome.

TightropeMy dad has used an analogy about parenting that has always stayed in my mind. Parents encourage their children to walk on the tightrope. They encourage them to take those brave steps. But if they fall, and they will as each child practices, the parents are there to catch them as a safety net. They are not a hammock to fall asleep on, rather the safety net springs you back up. And then you walk on the tightrope again, until you come to the other side. Eventually you will make it.

We need to keep taking those bold, brave steps outward and trust that even if we do fall, we will spring back up. We’re all learning.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Sunny Star: Caitlin Gainey

I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful Ticktockers around the country with my National Charity League speaking events. One particular member that I met, Caitlin Gainey, is a seventh grader full of light and love for the world. She shared a new idea with me, called the Warm Fuzzy Jar, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself!

1. You are a Ticktocker with National Charity League. How has this experience brought happiness to your life?

KG: Being a Ticktocker with National Charity League puts a smile on my face everyday! It is a honor to be a part of this program, because it is putting yourself out there to help the community become a better place for the people around us.

2. Tell us about your Warm Fuzzy Jar and how you hope it will bring happiness to those around you.

KG: My idea for this new year was getting a big glass jar and filling it with colorful pieces of paper that have funny or nice things that happen to my group of friends and myself over this next year and open all of these little fuzzy things at the end of 2014 for a fun New Year’s Eve tradition.

3. What brings you happiness in life?

KG: The things that make me happy are my friends and family, and I also LOVE my Santa Barbara Volleyball Club team, they are an amazing group of girls, and we probably have the best team name ever (the Wicked Wheatgrass!). One of the BIGGEST joys that I do is volunteering because every time you finish working you always have a realization that “Wow! I just helped somebody!”

4. What goal are you working toward and how has this increased your happiness?

KG: I am working toward making Varsity Volleyball at my school next year. This is increasing my happiness by like 10000% because when you have a goal and you work hard for it you will always have the biggest smile on your face every time you get one step closer to your goal.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Sacramento National Charity League Keynote

I’ve been traveling in a lot of airports lately and there’s a store I always hope to see. Whenever I see the Life is Good store between Delta Gate 26 and 28, it reminds me to smile. Even in crowded terminals with $5 dollar, 4 ounce water bottles (okay, I’m slightly exaggerating), seeing the motto “Life is Good” reminds me of this truth.

Life has been good and I want to take a moment to appreciate it. Perspective is everything and I think we need to be proud of the good in our lives, not diminish or ignore it. I’m so incredibly thankful for the speaking opportunities I’ve had lately and I’ve met some incredible women around the country. One quote that I particularly love from this gem of a store, Life is Good, is this:

“Do what you love. Love what you do.”

That is what I’ve been doing lately and I haven’t been happier than this. I talk about goal setting in my keynote and it’s incredibly true: striving for goals increases our happiness. I can resolutely attest to this.

I wanted to share some highlights of my Sacramento National Charity League keynote and stay tuned for more from my Phoenix speaking events. Enjoy!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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The Right Resolutions

8a33f836e090281667ffe5464e97473dIt’s January 8, 2014 and probably half of us have given up on our resolutions. The reason being? We knew they were unrealistic when we semi-committed to them on December 31. My resolutions of years past included things like, “no sugar” and “exercising daily.” Cue the chuckles.

I’ve changed my outlook on resolutions this year. We create them with the intention that they will likely make us happier or healthier, no? If I cut out carbs, I’ll lose 10 pounds and then I will be happy. If I run four miles a day I’ll be in shape and then I’ll feel better about myself. These expectations we put on ourselves are well meaning but they might make us more unhappy than when we started if these goals aren’t fulfilled. Setting yourself up to fail is a quick way to begin the year feeling defeated and worse yet, lead to giving up entirely.

They tell us, “Happy New Year.” Well how do we really make ourselves happy? Starving ourselves and slaving away at the gym? Not quite. A happy 2014 for me is quality time with family, less complaining and learning a new skill. These may not be as tangible as losing a few lbs. or burning x calories, but your spirit will feel it all the same. So today I’m thinking about some REAL resolutions that will actually make you happy:

1. Take a walk once a week and take a picture every time of something that makes you smile. You’ll be amazed at what you start noticing. If you see a rose, smell it. If you see a horse (like I did the other day), give it a pet—just make sure it’s friendly!

2. Catch your complaining: Nix the negative. This can be a challenge for me since sometimes I complain subconsciously without even noticing it. Be aware of what you say and truly think before you speak.

3. Designate your time: Using your phone and laptop to work is essential. However, using them at 11:00 pm when it’s time to rest or employing them as devices to avoid social conversation is not necessary. Work hard during the intentional time you set aside and then truly, set your devices aside.

4. Eat sugar: in moderation. For all the sugar addicts out there (ME), you don’t need to cut yourself off. That will make you unhappy in no time. Instead, I’ve decided I’ll have a sweet four days out of the week, once a day. Of course I cheat on this but it helps me become more conscious of what I’m choosing.

5. Watch less, read more: I’ve noticed in 2013 more than ever that many of us are reading less and less. It’s easier to be mindless watching a movie or a show and sure, there’s a time and a place for that. But focus your enjoy toward a story that you can delve in. It’s worth your time.

I hope you all have a very HAPPY New Year and that your resolution lasts all the way through the year, not just the first three days of January.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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A New Kind of Gift Giving

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Don’t you just love this time of year? The word that always comes to mind is nostalgia. I’m reminded of my youth and the magic I found not only in Christmas, but in my life when I was a little girl. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that while the magic may still be there, I’m not always present to experience it. We get so caught up in the receipts, the RSVPs, and the deadlines that we forget what it feels like to stand in the nippy air on a wintry night or the wonder of staring at a Christmas tree. I miss those little joys.

This Christmas I am trying to be more present for the moments that lately I’ve been missing. It’s been a challenge. For whatever reason, I find more than ever that I can’t seem to settle down. Perhaps the hustle and bustle of shoppers is taking a toll on my brain as I try to cram every last to-do before the New Year rings. But just as mom and pop settle down for a “long winter’s nap,” so should I. This is the time to relax and enjoy: to eat the cookie(s), to watch a movie(s), and to cozy up for an hour(s) without guilt or concern.

I hope you’ll do the same and remember that it’s about the people and not the presents you’re getting them. This year I am working on a new form of gift giving. Rather than a snow globe (which bombed) or a candle piece (the 23rd my mom owns), I’m trying to get experience gifts. I know I can say it here because my dad doesn’t always frequent my blog but I got him tickets to an Eagles concert with me. This will be a father-daughter night that we’ll always remember and will never get dusty on a shelf. I gave my boyfriend tickets to the Nutcracker and it was a great date night (which also instilled some cultural awareness on his part!).

I challenge you to get experience gifts this year. Create memories with someone; it’s a worthy investment. Buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room at a unique hotel, or make reservations at the restaurant you want to try. You can still wrap it up. The Christmas spirit can continue on because these experience gifts express a central idea: investment. When you give a gift such as this, you are showing how you see a future with this family member or friend. Their love cannot be bought; time together is all it takes to foster a bond.

So rather than hit the mall (where you may actually get hit by a bundle of bags), think outside of the present box and use your shopping time to buy more time with the ones you love.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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The Magic of Autumn

It’s so nice to be back in California before I head off to Ohio. Now that I’ve been on the road for a few months there are some things that I appreciate more than ever. This has been the busiest year of my life and so many blessings and challenges have come along with that. One thing I have missed more than anything is having time to not only settle my mind in a creative place, but to write without a sense of time. I love how writing keeps your senses sharp—you become that much more aware of your surroundings.

Today I’m remembering what exactly it is that makes me happy. Even though I haven’t had much time to type away, I actually have been very happy which I’m thankful for. I’ve caught myself saying out loud, “I feel so happy right now,” and that has to be a good sign. Fall is my favorite time of year and I have been savoring this season. You know I’m a list maker so needless to say I have to write a list about the happiest elements of autumn:

17c328b60529b894be97fc19d3c980f91. Strolling through Central Park: this was the first time in my life that I witnessed not only the changing, but the falling of the leaves in Central Park. It was sheer magic and I called it such when I saw it. Watching the yellow leaves fall like rain is such a beautiful sight to behold. You must witness it at least once in your life. Hopefully more though.

2. Apple cider: Preferably hot but iced works just as well. There’s nothing that tastes quite like fall than the smell of a spicy mug of apple cider. I would drink it every day of October and November if I were allowed.

3. Wearing fuzzy socks: They’re baa—aaack. Oh, how I missed them. The little warm booties from Bath and Body Works are my ultimate delight. A big sweatshirt, leggings, and warm socks with the above mentioned hot cider creates for the perfect afternoon.

4. Knit sweaters: This is new for me. I wasn’t much of a big sweater girl in years past but it’s official now. I love a cozy knit and having that crisp fall weather is the perfect occasion for it.

5. Pumpkin: Oh I know it’s cliché. Let me be a little cliché. I’m not going to say I like pumpkin spice lattes because that would be the ultimate cliché but I do love a good pumpkin macaroon. See I surprised you! Bet you didn’t think I was going to say macaroon. Well, I did, so try it sometime when you’re sick of the lattes or pies.

The magic of writing is closing just like the falling leaves that have almost all fallen at this point. I promise to return soon with perhaps some more clichés or comments on life. In the meantime, make the most of this truly magical season.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Days at UC Davis

I’m writing surrounded by the swaying trees at UC Davis that I can see from my bedroom window.  The sun is peeking through their branches, giving my bed that dusty glow. It’s peaceful, quiet. Perfect. What a beautiful little secret haven of California. I’ve been here for over a week now and I’ve fallen in love with this little town. The modern yet personal eateries, the children watching outdoor movies at the park—and yes, the desserts. How can you not be happy here?

IMG_1892I’ve been visiting the women of the Omicron Kappa Chapter of Chi Omega for Recruitment. The girls are very sweet and it’s nice how we share a mutual love for California and the UC system. I’ll be here for a few more days and then I’m off to Connecticut—which I am equally excited about. I’ll finally get to see what fall looks like since changing leaves aren’t really a thing in California.

I always like learning from the women I meet. These girls have taught me the value of self-worth. They trust in who they are and they shine because of it. Being different and unique is not something to shy away from, it is something to embrace! I love that.

IMG_1915We toured the Make-A-Wish office earlier this week, which is Chi Omega’s national philanthropy partner. It was incredibly touching and I’m thankful that such an incredible organization exists to bring happiness to children and parents who are experiencing an extremely difficult situation. We learned that not only do these wishes improve a child’s state of mind, it actually helps with the physical treatment as well.

As much as it saddens me that I haven’t found as much time to write recently, I feel incredibly thankful to have this opportunity to travel the country as a National Consultant for Chi Omega. I am meeting collegiate women who inspire me every day and it is my hope that I can bring a positive change to their lives as well. So as the sun is setting now and the twinkle lights about town are starting to turn on, I’ll bid adieu. Think happy thoughts, friends.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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Making Memories in Macomb

With the ladies of the Gamma Kappa Chi Omega Chapter

With the ladies of the Gamma Kappa Chi Omega Chapter

Greetings from Macomb, Illinois! I’ve been here amongst the corn for over a week now and I head home tomorrow. It was my first official National Consultant visit for Chi Omega and I had an incredible time. I feel so happy to have that feeling—the feeling of knowing that you are right where you are meant to be at the right time. I had the opportunity to work with over 50 collegiate women as they prepare for Fall Formal Recruitment.

The reason I love my job is because I want to give people the confidence they deserve. I always write, “Keep Shining” and it’s because I want to help everyone find their inner sparkle and truly shine. I know I’m getting a little Tyra Banks-y here so I’ll aver soon; but ultimately, I want to be apart of the kindness movement going around our country. It’s about inspiring others to give more, act more thoughtfully, and open yourself to new friendships and love.

At the Town Square

At the Town Square

This job puts me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. Visiting cities and towns I’ve never ventured to, meeting people that are different than me while still sharing common values, and of course, trying new food. This trip included Scotcharoos and chicken lips (more like chicken strips before you start envisioning actual chicken lips). I love seeing the spirit of America wherever I go and finding the little beauties of each town and the people within it.

Macomb is a simple but sweet place. With only 2,000 people living here, there’s only a handful of restaurants but with that comes familiar faces and mom-and-pop places. The women of Chi Omega here have more spirit and love for sisterhood than anywhere I have encountered thus far and they adorned me with sentimental gifts that represented my time with them. I am touched.

I don’t know if I will ever be back in Macomb but I do know that I won’t forget the memories I made here and the people who were in them. I won’t forget the sunsets, the savory restaurants, but most importantly, the sisterhood.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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The Five Daily Gratitudes

This is my first ever video blog! I hope you enjoy! Today’s topic is about The Five Daily Gratitudes: what are they and when you need them most. Find out why you need to write your five down today!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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