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How to Actually Have a GREAT Summer

Graduation season has been upon us! I’ve seen a lot of high schoolers around my hometown carrying their shiny yearbooks diligently under the arms—inevitably holding phrases like, “Have a great summer!” or “Good luck in college!” Well wishes like these have been passed down through the years, as I’ve witnessed through my mom’s yearbook: “Have a bitchin’ summer!” The lingo changes but the message stays the same.

So, how does one ACTUALLY have a great summer?

I was thinking about this last week as I sat browsing over Facebook and Pinterest, wishing for graduate school to start. How ironic. When we’re in school, we wish for summer. When we’re bored at home, we wish for a change then, too. I knew that in September I’d be wishing for this sweet summertime once again so I decided to shake my life up a bit and figure out how I’d truly make this summer a great one. I wanted to share some of my favorites so that this can be a “bitchin’” summer for you as well.

10 Sunny Suggestions for Summer:

10372834_529365803835181_8673758965050495393_o1. Take a painting class with friends: This is THE thing to do this summer. These group painting classes are so fun—challenging enough that you focus on the task but easy enough that you can socialize with your group. I’ve done two of these this summer and I can’t wait to do it again. Here’s the Paint Nite website I recommend.

2. Do something creative: We often look at many forms of creativity in a given day—someone makes an inspirational YouTube video, another makes a parody of a Top 40 song. Why can’t you do that as well? This summer I’m collaborating to make a video about happiness. It’s a bit of a daunting challenge but we all need that.

3. Exercise daily: During summer we finally have some free time. Pick up a tennis racket, swim some laps—heck, start running! You’ll be amazed to see the progress you’ll make in a few months. I’m training for a Color Run with my friend, Alexis—you can find one in your local area, too.

4. READ: And by read I don’t mean textbooks. Read books that you’ve had on your shelf for months. Reading can be so relaxing but I believe peaceful reading is an art that takes practice. If reading feels like the last thing you want to do, try reading 20 minutes every day and see what happens. Lately I’m loving this Goodreads website to see what my friends are reading as well.

I can't wait to see the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit!

I can’t wait to see the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit!

5. Plan an adventure: I’m going to Seattle for the first time this summer to celebrate my four-year anniversary with my boyfriend. I’m loving learning about the restaurants, history and sights of the Emerald City. Your trip doesn’t have to be elaborate—just a weekend getaway is enough to pique your interest. TripAdvisor is my favorite way to plan.

6. Try new eateries: I love eating my way through LA. Last weekend I tried The Pie Hole (yes, that’s the name of the sweet shop) and Wurstkuche (a bratwurst joint)—both were amazing. Go outside of your comfort zone and try something new to spark your interest.

7. Take a new class: I love websites like CourseHorse that introduce you to so many possibilities. For me, I NEED to learn how to cook. I’ve burned one too many Betty Crocker recipes (and that’s the box cake mix we’re talking about). Grab a friend and stir away.

8. Dance: I’m all about zumba this summer. A lot of us think dancing is either for four year olds wearing tutus or going to “da club” in mini skirts. Not the case. It’s never too late to go to a lyrical class or play around with tap dancing. We all need to get over ourselves and just have fun.

9. Get some sun: I’m not one to endorse laying out to the point of looking like an over-baked potato chip but I do think a little Vitamin D does the body good.

10. Write: whether you’re journaling, blogging or working on a book, writing is so therapeutic for our souls. I’m trying to write more this summer…in fact, I’m starting my next book! A lot of us worry about judgment when it comes to writing. But a hard-learned lesson I’ve picked up along the way? Write for yourself.

Here’s to that great summer we’ve all been talking about!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Secret to Happier Travel

SeattleI’ve been happier the past few days and I know exactly why. I’m going to Seattle! It’s my first time visiting and this will be the perfect summer vacation to explore and go on my own. As much as I loved venturing to Europe last summer, I was so busy preparing for my Chi Omega National Consultant job that I didn’t have nearly enough time to research before I went. It made a difference in the experience and I felt like I was constantly playing catch-up next to my well-studied compadre, Sarah, who had spent months delving into all that Europe offered. Looking back, I think she was that much happier during our trip because she’d done her homework. The architecture, museums and history meant so much more to her because she understand the story behind the statue.

This time around, I’ll be more than ready for all that Seattle has to offer.

That’s the key to a happier travel: RESEARCH. When you take the time to look for the trendiest restaurants, the quaint hotels and obvious-but-altogether-necessary and notable landmarks, the trip becomes that much more meaningful. When we plan for something and invest our time in an adventure, it becomes valuable to us. We don’t take the experience for granted because we know we’ve put in the effort to make it as wonderful as possible. The trip isn’t happenstance, or haphazard for that matter. Not everything has to be planned to every finite detail, but taking the time to familiarize yourself with a destination before going there can make all the difference.

More than anything, I’m loving learning about Seattle. Many people have asked, “Why Seattle?” Well, why not Seattle? After traveling for Chi Omega this past year, I’ve fallen in love with America and I want to see every nook, climb every mountain (cue the nuns singing while Maria prances about) and taste every crawfish, coffee and croissant I can get my hands on. Life is too short to stay in one place forever…even if you do live in southern California!

If you have any recommendations for my adventure, please send them my way. I’m open to anything! Here’s to planes, trains and what lies between!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Raise Your Hand High

o-CLASS-HAND-RAISING-facebookI spoke at my high school today for their annual Career Fair. I gave my presentation on the process of becoming an author, working in the entertainment industry and general interviewing/networking suggestions. When it came time to answer questions, all hands but one stayed down.

I could see it in their faces. Sure, they had questions, but their hand stayed seal-shut glued to the table. I remember being one of those students until a motivational speaker shared how important it is to raise your hand. Staying silent is fear personified; we let the power of judgment, embarrassment, defeat or confusion consume us.

Afterward, we’re left with a dull ache, wishing we had just asked that question or shared our idea. For the times we HAVE overcome our fear and raised our hands, the feeling of bravery and courage is freeing.

I know it’s not easy to make ourselves vulnerable; to offer a potential perception of ignorance when we humble ourselves to ask a question or divulge an opinion. But it is with speaking that connections are formed, interest is expressed and knowledge is gained. There is no harm that can come from it. Often times, the best questions lead to further comments which lead to great discussions which lead to fundamental and perhaps pivotal shifts in thinking.

Raise your hand proudly. Whether you’re asking a question, praising or dancing, don’t let anyone hold you back. This is one of our essential freedoms. Life is too good to not gain as much knowledge and create as many connections as we possibly can.

Next time you’ve got that nagging feeling of a question or thought coming on (oh, no!), just go ahead, and speak. You won’t regret that you did—in fact you’ll be glad. People want to hear what you have to say and chances are, some of them are thinking the same thing but are too afraid to speak up.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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