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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

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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