Sunny Stars

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Hello friends! I love featuring different speakers and authors on my page when I’ve been inspired. I did a talk in Santa Ynez and I met the wonderful Shannon Horn. Immediately when you meet her she has a lightness about her that makes you smile. She was generous enough to write a post on my page and she is addressing it to all the Sunny Girls out there. I hope you enjoy her post.

Here is her blog to read more: http://shannonhorn.com/

How Does Your Garden Grow?

 I am happier now than I’ve ever been, but I can remember as a teenager crying in the shower because I was so sad.  And the saddest part?  I didn’t even know why the gut wrenching tears had me curled in on myself on the shower floor.

I now know ‘why’.  It was because I was missing me.  The me that was my potential, the joyous, loving, kind person I could be.  The smart me, the me that actually followed through, the me that didn’t hold back because I was so afraid.  Afraid, of what exactly, I didn’t know.

Have you ever felt that way?  Afraid and sad and angry, sometimes all at the same time, and not really knowing why?

Many of my girlfriends felt the same way I did, but back then, we didn’t know how to talk about it, let alone how to deal with such a quagmire of ick.  If I knew then, what I know now, maybe I wouldn’t have lived so long with despair and the idea that I wasn’t smart enough, or good enough.

In case no one has told you lately, my dear Sunny Girl, YOU are good enough just the way you are.  You are a miracle.  After all, you are the only YOU there is.  You are a precious being with untold gifts waiting to be unwrapped by you, for you.

But how do you move from feeling so sad and confused and angry to finding joy in the everyday?  You become a gardener, the kind that tends to your heart and mind and body and soul.

Try these 4 steps to become the cultivator of good enough-ness and joy in your life.

Step 1:  Make a Decision

Step 2:  Create Some Space to Grow

Step 3:  Plant the seeds of Gratitude and Joy

Step 4:  Tend with Great Care

Step 1:  Make a Decision:

Every day, people are telling you what to do.  Your parents, your teachers, even your friends have an opinion on who you should be, how you should act, feel, dress….  But what if YOU decided you want things to be different?  That YOU are tired of being sad, or angry, or quiet.  The first step is acknowledging you want things to be different and then making room in your mind and heart and body and soul for things to be different.

Step 2:  Create Some Space to Grow

To plant a garden, you need a sacred space.  That sacred space is YOU, my dear Sunny Girl.  But if you are full of anger, and sorrow, and shame, or blame, or the dis-ease of not good enough-ness, some serious weeding is in order.  It’s hard to bloom, when you’re suffocating from weeds of negativity.

The best way I know to weed out negativity is to write it out.  Grab some paper and a pen, and write for 3 whole pages without stopping.  This is not a grammar or spelling test.  There is no censor here.  Think of this as yanking free the weeds of ick and letting them land on the page.  Write whatever comes up and spills out.  By putting your feelings on the page, you’re preparing the soil for a new crop of seeds ~ of ideas and feelings ~ to prosper and grow.

Step 3:  Plant seeds of Gratitude and Joy

What are the seeds you want to plant in your newly tilled soil?  This is your garden.  Perhaps you want to nurture more forgiveness in your life, or the willingness to try new things.  Maybe laughter is what you want to see bloom, or the knowledge that you are good enough, smart enough, strong enough….  There is no limit to what you can grow in the garden of your mind and heart and body and soul.

Planting seeds of gratitude and joy are game changers.  Nothing has shifted my attitude from feeling not good enough to loving who I am faster or with more grace.  Start by keeping a Gratitude Journal.  A simple list at the end of the day about what you are thankful for shifts your focus from lack to abundance.  And suddenly your whole world is about what is working, instead of what isn’t.  Know that some days will be full of sunshine and your gratitude list will pour out of you.  Other days will be stormy and grey, and all you might be able to come up with is being grateful the day is finally over.

A Joy Journal is like a Gratitude Journal, only its focus is on what makes you feel good.  Before I go to bed, I write down a list of the things from the day that made me smile, made me laugh, made me feel better.  Anything that brings me joy, from a hummingbird whizzing by my ear, to the comfort of my own bed, gets written down.

I am a true believer in what you focus on blossoms in your life.  I don’t know about you, but I got tired of my angst growing stronger and stronger every day.  Of feeling like I did everything wrong.  Of not trusting myself and thus, not being able to say ‘no’ to what I no longer wanted in my life, or even ‘yes’ to those things I did.  Whether you decide to keep a Gratitude Journal or a Joy Journal each will help put in perspective that your garden needs both the rain and the sun to flourish.

Step 4:  Tend with Great Care

Remember, a gardener must not only prepare the soil, plant the seed, water it, but pull the weeds that persistently keep popping up for the days and weeks and months it takes while waiting for the crop to come to fruition.  This is a gardener’s tender loving care.

My Sunny Girl, remember YOU are the gardener AND the garden.  Tend to yourself with great care while you are growing.  Drink plenty of water, eat good food, sleep more, be creative, exercise, laugh often and laugh hard.  Surround yourself with people who tend to YOU with great care.  It’s hard to nurture the precious seedlings of I am good enough, I am thankful, I am full of joy, when those around you keep stomping all over your precious seedlings.

Gardening is not an easy undertaking.  Neither is shifting your head and heart and body and soul from the darkness into the light.  Be gentle.  Be kind.  Ask for help when you need it.  Wake up each morning ready to pull the weeds of negativity and dump them on the page so you don’t carry them around with you.  Read your Gratitude Journal or your Joy Journal as a reminder of why you are tending to YOU.  Listen to that still small voice within that whispers, “YES, you CAN.”

It is my greatest wish for you that your garden, your LIFE, be bursting forth with the flowers of good enough-ness, and joy and gratitude, and anything else YOU choose to plant in your body and mind and heart and soul.  And may the occasional weed help you pause and take the time to re-evaluate where you are, what you are doing, and why you are doing it.  After all, a weed is a kind of flower.  And YOU get to decide if it stays or if it goes.

Happy Cultivating!

Shannon

 

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

New Village Girls Academy

I wanted to share about a recent experience that I had. It was such a meaningful afternoon that I couldn’t keep it to myself.

As you might know, one of my favorite things to do is public speaking. Being surrounded by a room full of people is nerve-wracking, yes, but exciting more than anything. Whether it’s 100 people in the room, or 800, I love that energy that you only get from sharing that space together.

This talk that I did recently was different though. There were only 5 girls in the room, all 16 or 17 years old. I visited New Village Girls Academy and we spent the afternoon talking about goal setting, mentorships, and facing your fears.

Before I go on, I have to say, these girls BLEW ME AWAY.

Each of those girls had been through hardships. At their young age, many of them had already had experiences with family distress, abuse, and violence. You’d think they might feel defeated. In fact, perhaps annoyed that they had to meet with someone to talk about planning for the future.

And yet, it was exactly the opposite. I have never seen such motivation, such passion in such a group. When it came to writing our goals down, they each filled the page to the max. These girls shared goals like becoming an attorney, gynecologist, or firefighter. They dreamed of traveling the world, meeting influential individuals, and building stronger relationships with their loved ones. They needed more space to keep writing.

What really blew me away was their hunger to succeed. I have to be honest with you. There are many times when I’m in an audience, often with those who have great families, safe neighborhoods, and excellent schools. And yet when I ask them their goals, they often look back blankly and don’t bother writing a single goal down. While I don’t pretend to know why it is that they don’t want to write anything down, it reminded me of the stark contrast of the girls from New Village Girls Academy.

These girls believe that they can be different. They believe that they don’t have to fit a statistic—they can break the mold and they can beat the expectations. With all the hardships they have faced, it is beyond inspiring to see their energy for life and their will to overcome.

Here is the website of the Academy if you’d like to learn more: https://newvillagegirlsacademy.org/

Let’s remember to never stop setting our sights high, no matter what battles we are braving. We each have our own story but I believe that story can include success. Those girls reminded me of that.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Dana Gielselman

Hello friends! I hope this post finds you well. I’m sorry for the delay…just when I think life can’t get any busier, it does! I have been working hard on my doctorate at Pepperdine and finding time to write anything but assessment and intake reports are hard to come by these days.

With that being said, I am SO excited to share this interview with a fellow NCL Sustainer, Dana Gielselman. I met Dana this past summer when I came into the NCL Headquarters to film a video. Dana is a fellow UCLA Bruin, Disney intern mastermind, and a total rockstar. I’m so excited for you to learn from this stellar lady. I especially love that she is pursuing a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). She is a reminder that girls can do ANYTHING and I hope that you’ll be that much more motivated after reading her story.

 

1. You had the incredible opportunity of taking not one, but two Disney Imagineering classes at UCLA. On top of that, your team won the competition! Can you tell us more about this experience?

The Disney Imagineering courses at UCLA are by far the most incredible classes I’ve ever taken. For two quarters, weekly speakers from Walt Disney Imagineering would come tell our class about their roles, the process behind creating immersive, themed entertainment, and fun stories about the parks. I was amazed to learn about the collaborative dynamic between creativity and technology at Disney, and I was so excited to be selected to join the second quarter. I then worked in a creative design team with five amazingly talented fellow students. We spent the quarter redesigning a department store model and ultimately presented our project to executives at the Imagineering headquarters. I can’t believe how much I learned; it was one of the most magical experiences of my life!

  1. What was your favorite memory during the Imagineering classes?

Having the chance to work together with an incredible team was definitely my favorite part of the experience. It’s pretty rare to work in a group for a whole quarter and become so close, let alone a group of such motivated, creative individuals. We all had very diverse backgrounds, and it was so neat to see all of our different ideas come together to result in a new, creative solution to the challenge. Getting a behind-the-scenes tour of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with Tony Baxter—the Disney Legend behind projects such as Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, The Indiana Jones Adventure, and Disneyland Paris—was pretty unbelievable, too.

  1. Winning the competition required your expertise in math. So many young women are afraid to pursue a major or career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). What has your experience been like as a math major and are you glad that you are pursuing math?

Before college, I loved math because it came naturally to me, and I’ve always found it fun to work with numbers. However, I now love math because it is the greatest academic challenge I have ever faced. I actually didn’t learn what math is truly all about until my second year of college in my first upper division course, Linear Algebra. Math is about taking a statement and explaining why that statement is true or false through logical reasoning. It’s not really about plugging numbers into equations; it’s a way of thinking. Choosing to major in math has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made because it will really help me in any field I choose to pursue.

  1. What encouragement would you have for young women who are considering, or perhaps doubtful, about pursuing STEM?

I would say to not let anyone or anything hold you back from pursuing STEM! The difficulty of science concepts and classes can sometimes be pretty intimidating, but there is so much to learn whether you ace these classes or barely pass. I’ve been in both situations, and it has honestly been so rewarding to see myself grow because of these opposite experiences. So don’t let the challenge hold you back! It’s also important to remember that grades are ultimately just a letter; it’s the understanding of the material that will truly stick with you in the long run if you put in the work. That’s the best part about STEM fields/majors; they’re all about explaining the world we live in, which really applies to anything you decide to do in life.

  1. You have been a National Charity League volunteer and intern. What has this experience been like for you and why are you a part of this organization?

Being a part of National Charity League throughout school and throughout this last summer as an intern has been life-changing. Through the organization, I’ve learned the value of service as I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer with my mom and work with incredible philanthropies such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, Military Support, Family Assistance Ministries, etc. NCL has provided me with so many opportunities to grow and learn leadership, professionalism, etiquette, and communication skills that will continue to help me for the rest of my life. I will also be forever grateful to the wonderfully kind, supportive team at the NCL, Inc. Headquarters for the unforgettable internship experience this summer. As I collaborated with the team on a number of projects, including the launch of NCL, Inc. on multiple social media platforms, I learned more and more about the organization’s impact and incredible work from the inspiring leaders behind it. I can’t wait to stay involved in the organization for years to come and to see how NCL continues to grow!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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