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Those Three Words

My favorite picture with my grandma.

I’ve always been an advocate of the American Cancer Society. Our family has been hit with cancer three times over the past two decades and I’ve made it one of my life missions to not only be preventative on a personal level but to be proactive on a national level. I’ve spoken with survivors, walked the tracks of Relay for Life events around California, and sadly, I’ve attended funerals that were brought on by cancer.

But yesterday, I had a new experience with cancer and it changed everything. For the first time in my life, I heard someone hear, “you have cancer.” I was only feet away in that white hospital room and the words almost sounded muted in a long tunnel. My grandma was hearing those words, and she took them surprisingly well. She simply accepted what she was hearing and said that it was in God’s plan.

I particularly remember my grandma asking if the cancer was curable. In the kindest way possible, the doctor conveyed that the answer was no. My grandma asked, “Will this lead to my demise?” In the gentlest way possible, the doctor told her that yes, it would. In 2 to 3 months in fact.

It could be less though. My grandma has said she is ready and at 91 years of age, I think she is more than satisfied with her life on earth. She was married for over 50 years, she had four wonderful children, she has four grandchildren, and five grandchildren. She’s proud of what she’s leaving behind.

It’s certainly a shock as my grandma was just eating breakfast on Saturday with us, with her hair all done and no symptoms of any sort. But within 24 hours, she’d be in the hospital hearing those three words that I never want to hear again in my life. It was a turning point, a moment when you realize that you’re getting older and that yes, death is and always will be a part of life.

I hope you all live happy lives like my grandma has and may we truly treasure each day because you never know how it will end. Gratitude is everything.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Gretchen Putnam

I met some incredible people during my time at E! News. One of my favorites being the producer, Gretchen Putnam. We had an instant connection when we learned about our mutual love for animals, particular owls and hummingbirds. Gretchen is one of the kindest people that I have worked with and it inspires me to see someone so genuine and compassionate interviewing some of the world’s most well known celebrities. Here is what she has to say about happiness and how she’s been able to find it working for the leading entertainment channel.

1. You are a Field Producer for E! News. What part of your job brings you the most happiness?

The part of my job that brings me the most happiness is making a connection with the people I interview. I think of the interview as a conversation, which makes it more interesting for me and the subject, I hope.  The conversational style of interviewing also elicits good soundbites which is important for my job. A lot of the interviews I do are very brief, so there may not be a real connection. On the rare occasions when I do feel a deep personal connection, I feel very happy!

2. What has been one of your happiest memories from your job?

One of my most recent happy memories was an interview I did with the rapper B.o.B. He came into the E! offices for a sit down interview to talk about his new album. I knew of him, but didn’t know much about him as a person and or his music. I have to admit I didn’t expect to have anything in common with a 23 year old hip hop artist. We sat down and started the interview. As I talked to him, I was impressed with how articulate and aware he was. We talked about his new album but also about a lot of other things. He opened up about his early years and his dreams and aspirations. At the end of the interview, I told B.o.B. he was very philosophical and that I felt like I could go on talking to him forever! He hugged me! Then gave me another hug before he left and said it was a great interview. I saw B.o.B.’s name on the list for an event I was covering a few days later. When I was researching him for the interview, I read that he got his start making mix tapes – I realize mix tapes in the music world are different than the mix tapes I make with itunes, but I was moved and inspired to make a mix tape CD for B.o.B. I put a mix of some of my favorite songs from the past as well as some contemporary – everything from Jimi Hendrix to B.B. King to Pitbull! I wrote on the CD “mix tape CD for B.o.B. from Gretchen” and gave it to him at the red carpet event. He was SO touched and gave me another hug and said no one’s ever done that for him before. Feeling that I had connected on a personal level and shared something of myself that he responded to was an amazing feeling.

3. You’ve met a lot of celebrities. Who strikes you as some of the happiest people in Hollywood?

It’s hard to tell who is truly happy – especially here in Hollywood, but there are a few that come to mind. Tony Bennett is in his 80’s and still going strong- doing what he loves which is singing. I remember interviewing him once and he said people ask him if he ever gets tired of singing “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” Tony said he’ll never get tired of it because it’s the song that he’s known for and people love it. He was so gracious and appreciative of everything in his life. He also has a generous spirit when talking about other artists- really an admirable person who seems to love life. I recently met an actress named Teal Shearer who was paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 14. She came into E! to talk about her new web series. I was struck by how incredibly positive she is about her situation. What is so amazing about her is that she is living life to the fullest and enjoying it. She has a beautiful warm spirit and it was a pleasure to meet and interview her.

4. What kinds of stories bring you the most happiness?

The stories that bring me the most happiness are the ones that don’t just entertain but also inspire, like Teal Shearer whom I mentioned above. I recently got to interview the two men who created the puppets for the stage version of War Horse. I also met the puppeteers who bring the horse to life and the lead actor.  I read the book a few years ago and was so moved by this story about a boy’s love for his horse set during World War I. The boy and the horse get separated but eventually find each other again. Getting to see a preview of the stage version was beyond moving- I got teary when I saw the horse puppet for the first time.

5. We have a mutual love for animals, especially owls! What has been one of your favorite animal stories that you’ve covered?

Almost all of my animal stories are favorites, but one very meaningful shoot for me was the Genesis Awards, which is the annual awards show from the Humane Society. They honor TV shows and movies which raise awareness and promote animal protection issues. I was on the red carpet with my camera crew and really enjoyed talking to actors about their animals and the issues they are most passionate about. I also got to interview the host of a program on Nat Geo Wild called “Deadly 60.” The host Steve Backshall had an Eagle owl with him for the interview. It was such a thrill to see this magnificent bird up close and also do a story on a show that promotes awareness about animals. I did another shoot earlier this year at an animal shelter. Pedigree donated something like 10,000 pounds of dog food to this shelter. I got to hold one of the puppies whom I wanted to take home, but didn’t! It’s great when we do stories about people and companies doing good things for animals.

There is one other thing I would like to add regarding happiness.  Every time I interview someone and hear about their successes, struggles and dreams, I am reminded that in the end we are all human beings trying to find happiness in the world.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Hopeful Promises of Autumn

Do you ever feel like the anticipation is more exciting than the actuality of an event? I love looking forward to things in life; it’s so important to stay hopeful. Of course, you don’t want to build something up so much that you have nowhere to go but down, but I think it’s important to never stop believing in the best to come.

It’s a hot summer day and I’m already feeling so anxious for the fall and holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the little nip in the air (I don’t care if it’s imaginary since I live in California—I still like it). I love all the smells of the foods, particularly pumpkin. I love fireplaces, decorating for the holidays, and feeling grateful for a good year gone by.

Aren’t you excited as well?

To get in the spirit, I wanted to share what I’m looking forward to in the coming season—please share as well!

1. Dogsledding in Colorado: I’m going to visit my cousin in Boulder and I can’t wait for this adventure. I’ve wanted to do this ever since I watched Balto. (Children’s movies can give you some pretty big dreams I guess…let alone the Prince Charming complex).

2. Seeing the leaves actually change: I’ll be going to the East Coast for the first time in the autumn season. I’ll be visiting my boyfriend at Columbia and I can’t wait to go back to the city that I’ve only seen once thus far in my life.

3. Senior year at UCLA: How did that happen? I’m definitely still in summer mode when it comes to school but I want to make sure I really treasure and take in this last year as an undergraduate. I want to make it count more than ever.

4. Feeling cozy: Baking pies, decorating for fall, and eating all things pumpkin—I can already tell it’s going to be magical.

5. Getting my book published: I am in the final stages before I send it off to the publisher. I’m so excited to see my project go to print.

What are you looking forward to this upcoming season?

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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