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7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

Europe Edition!

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Pre-Europe pic — I was just a little excited.ūüėČ


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The other teachers and I who took students on the Europe trip.


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Dorking it out on my first day in London.


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JET LAG IS VERY REAL. The students and I resting on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, or as I like to call it, Where Mary Poppins was Filmed.


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Beautiful view at night from the Millennium Bridge.

1. London Day 1. If you are just joining me, with two other teachers, I recently took a group of middle schoolers on a trip to London, Paris, Lucerne, and Munich. This was my first trip out of the country, with exception to staying on a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a wedding.ūüėČ So needless to say, I was looking forward to finally stepping outside my bubble. With a six-hour difference between London and Austin, TX and a long day of travel, I’m not sure I’ve ever been as tired as I was on that first day. However, the best way to beat jet lag is to pretend it isn’t even there — so we arrived in the morning (London time), even though it was nighttime in Texas, and we trudged through the day, sight-seeing. We went on a walking tour of London, saw the city center where there were street performers and St. George’s Cathedral, took a walking Harry Potter tour and a bus tour on a double-decker, floated off and on The Tube (London’s subway), and saw the financial district. Regardless of the jet-lag, the city was charming, fast-paced, and fun. Bonus — Umm, nobody told me that there were so many hot men in London, and the ratio of men to women is much friendlier than it is in Austin, TX. I’m thinking I might be making a move…ūüėČ

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Changing of the guards.


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This garden at Windsor Castle is swooney. Londoners turn all words into -y adjectives. #quickylearner


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St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

2. London Day 2. I slept HARD the previous night, so Day 2 was so much better. We watched the changing of the guards and then headed outside the city of London to tour Windsor Castle, which of course, was gorgeous. The weather was perfect, on a rare sunny day.

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Love at first sight.


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Viewing Notre-Dame was one of my favorite things we did; it’s just stunning.


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See what I mean?


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Le sigh.


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I mean…


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We also went to the Louvre. Opulent much?


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I surrender! I’m a Francophile.

 

3. Paris Day 1.  I absolutely fell in love with Paris — which I sort of predicted, being the hopeless (hopeful) romantic that I am. The city is full of romance, everywhere you look. We started the day at Notre-dame, and I cannot begin to tell you how stunning the architecture is on the outside and inside of the cathedral. It was a true highlight of the trip for me. Before entering the building, we strolled the streets a bit, and I picked up a delicious croque-monsieur from a street-vendor. Immediately, I enjoyed taking pictures and trying to capture everything I saw there. Normally, I am not much of a photographer, as I like to live in the moment and take in my surroundings, but I didn’t ever want to forget what I saw, and it became sort of a challenge for me to try to capture things in a way that honored the experience. It was a full day, as after we visited Notre-dame, we went to the Louvre and took in all its opulence. I don’t think I’ve ever taken so many photos of ceilings before — ha! I spared you all but one. I saw the Mona Lisa, which was surprisingly under-whelming. She’s tiny! To top off the day, I enjoyed an ice-cream in front of the Eiffel Tower, and went on a boat ride in the canal, and this was such a fun experience. The people on the boat would shout and scream each time we passed under the beautiful bridges, and tons of couples sat perched at the edges of the canal, picnicking and waving at us. We passed a group of Latin ballroom dancers at the end of the boat ride and took obligatory pictures of ourselves passing the Eiffel Tower. It was a perfect first day in Paris.

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Versailles!


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I wanted to stay in the Versailles Gardens all day.


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Hall of Mirrors in Ch√Ęteau de Versailles.


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I felt like such the Parisian…

4. Paris Day 2.  The second day, after a bus tour of Paris, we traveled outside of the city to see Versailles in all of its glory. Despite it being extremely crowded, it was another great experience. First, we toured the gardens, which I seriously could have done all day — I never realized how large it was. I walked around shoving a baguette in my face and snapping pictures of the perfect landscaping. We then went on a guided tour of the ch√Ęteau with the help of our hilarious guide, Jean Louis, where I got to be Queen and help demonstrate the story of Marie Antoinette. The gold, the chandeliers, the wallpaper — unbelievably detailed and opulent. We capped off the day with some free-time, and I felt like such a Parisian lounging at a patio caf√© on a beautiful day.

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Can a hotel be any more charming than one that has bunnies? #TheAnswerIsNo


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Lucerne is something straight out of a fairy tale.


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Shopping in Lucerne.

 

5. Lucerne, Switzerland.  Lucerne gets a tie with Paris for my favorite city we visited and for very different reasons. It’s beautiful, crisp, clean, and so much more relaxed. Our hotel was charming, as it sat in the hills with views of the Alps, and housed baby goats, bunnies, and ducks. The kids enjoyed petting the animals and rolling down the hills, which was quite amusing to watch. On the first night, after the students went to sleep, the adult chaperones from our school and the other school, our tour director, and the few parents who came with us sat around the patio with that beautiful view as a backdrop, drank beer, and had some good, hearty laughs. The next day, we went on a short walking tour, had some free-time for shopping, sight-seeing, and then prepared ourselves for a highlight of the trip — Mt. Pilatus.

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My first gondola ride up Mt. Pilatus.


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I took an embarrassing amount of selfies when we reached the top — I felt like such a kid; it was so exciting!


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See what I mean?


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Spotting these cows descending the mountain was a bit of a highlight. They are so stink in’ cute.


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We took this boat on the beautiful Lake Lucerne on the way back from the Mt. Pilatus.

6. Mt. Pilatus.  If you asked any of the students on the trip what their favorite part was, most of them would agree that the day we went to Mt. Pilatus was simply the best. We took a gondola up to the top, and the view was breathtaking all the way up the mountain. Just when we thought we weren’t going any higher, it would start again, and then we took a larger gondola that fit many people up to the peak, and then we climbed steps to the very top… It seemed to never end, but we enjoyed every step of the way. We hung out at the top for a few hours, enjoying the views and the caf√© at the top. As we descended the mountain, we enjoyed a different perspective, including a herd of cute cows (I’m such a dork). To get back to where we started, we took the boat in the above picture. The weather was gorgeous, the breeze swept through our hair, and it was just what we needed to relax and unwind after the hot climb.

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Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pics of the inside — but Neuschwanstein Castle was vibrant, shiny, and spectacular.


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Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp was an experience I will not soon forget.


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Shopping in Marienplatz on our last day in Munich.


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The kids saying goodbye to our amazing tour director.

7. Munich, Germany.  Our final leg of the tour was in Munich, Germany. We shopped in Marienplatz, enjoyed one-too-many sausages, and viewed yet another beautiful castle, but it was stepping outside the city that left the biggest impression on us. We visited the Dachau Concentration Camp, and I feel like whatever I say will not match the impact it has when you visit it. It was one of the most devastating camps and just knowing that we were walking where people were tormented and killed sent chills down our spines and tears to the backs of our eyes. At a time when it seems hate-filled-terrorism is much too commonplace, being there made the desperation and hope for change that much more present. In fact, the day after we left Munich, yet another act of hate-filled-terrorism occurred in Munich, and it never fails to rock your core. But there is beauty out there, there is good in humanity, and it has become all the more important for me to connect to others, to understand them, to learn from them, and to see the beauty in the diversity of it all. Let us focus on this and melt away the hate. — This was an experience I will never forget. I didn’t want to come back, but I am excited about reconnecting with those I care about and gaining a greater depth of understanding of the people I know, hearing their stories, and finding ways to love even more.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


1 Comment

7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I¬†post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I¬†have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

1. Strangers.¬†Only this time, surprisingly, I’m not talking about the podcast¬†with the respective name like I normally, obsessively do¬†(see all other 7 for seven posts – ha!); I’m talking¬†about my very own stranger story. Last week, I received the nicest, most uplifting letter from a stranger¬†all the way in Delhi. After mentioning last week how important it is to reach out to others when the instinct is there, she wanted to let me know how she has connected to my posts and said some too kind things about my character. These words could not have come at a better time. When I received the letter, because of the time difference between countries, it was 2 AM, during a bout of insomnia, as I too had sent an e-mail I was nervous to send. Although, the sentiments of my¬†e-mail were about disconnecting rather than connecting. Just as I was doubting myself, and struggling to continue to write these posts after a challenging week, I received the validation I so needed to keep moving forward. I am so grateful for you, stranger no more. Thank you for your thoughtful words of encouragement and thank you for doing what we all want others to do – understand one another.

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2. Reunion Part Deux.¬†Last week, I went to good ol’¬†Donn’s Depot again (see only two posts ago – bah!), to meet up with two of my favorite guy friends from high school. ¬†I can’t even begin to tell you how good it was to see them and catch up. We reminisced, laughed, and took cheap whiskey shots together. I am so proud of the men they have become and am hopeful they will continue to be a bigger part of my present.

3.¬†Marmie¬†Time. ¬†My sweet mother who was in town this past week, met up with me at a grocery store (an in-between spot for both of us), so she could give me an early birthday present for next month, and she surprised me by paying for my travel goods I picked up while there along with a cross-body bag for when¬†I’m roaming Europe this week. Aaaaaah!! Yes, this week –TODAY!! But, I’m not at all excited about it… Can you tell? She then took me to lunch at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. I love you, Marmie (my self-made name for my mother that’s stuck since I was in grade-school).¬†You are too good to me.

4. Insomnia, Meet my Friend Nostalgia. ¬†For the second time in a row this week, I could not sleep to save my life. Instead of fighting it, I decided the best thing for me to do was to switch things up and not fight it. I grabbed my phone and searched some random playlists on Spotify and accidentally came across this band that an ex-boyfriend introduced to me in college. For forever, I couldn’t remember the name of the band, and I lost my iPod with those songs, so it’s been bugging me for a long time. It’s not the type of music I would normally listen to, but for some reason when I was in college, I found it extremely sexy. I’m ridiculous. So I blasted it in my bedroom with a fit of nostalgia. I wiggled in bed with a huge smile on my face until I had to get up and move a little more (I’m admitting this, though it’s super embarrassing).¬†This led me to looking up more nostalgia and listening to my favorite grunge bands of the 90s. Then, I turned on¬†some¬†Pete Yorn, Music for the Morning After and was immediately taken back to an image of myself sitting on an airplane, ear-buds in my ears, and weeping to this album as I left my sister’s place in NYC. It’s crazy what music has the power to do. Although I thought I gave up on fighting sleep, this was exactly what I probably needed — it reduced my stress and anxiety and put me right to sleep as “I floated into the clouds outside the airplane window.”

5.¬†Shop Till/When You Drop. ¬†Today, I leave for Europe, and it will be warmer certain places than I once thought, so I had to run to a¬†store yesterday for some last-minute items. Sadly, the only shorts I own that fit me right now are booty shorts — nothing appropriate to roam cathedrals or wear around the students we are taking. Oops. I absolutely hate shopping – always have, especially as a short gal whose petite yet curvy proportions confuse standard sizing. However, instead of crying in the dressing room, per the norm, I felt “frustrated” (huge-sarcastic-air-quotes) for having to go back and keep dropping sizes. Never have I EVER been a size 0 – okay, maybe when I was twelve, but I can’t believe my running and clean eating this summer has done more for me than anything else I’ve ever done – not to mention the best part is not a number but rather that it has been the most therapeutic form of exercise I’ve ever done.

6.¬†Mon Amour.¬†Before leaving the states, I met up with the special man in my life, after a gap too long for my comfort. We spent the day¬†at¬†the pool, and then we went to one of our favorite spots for dinner to get some good Texas Southern comfort food in before I’m away¬†for a good while. Cheese alert: I’m feeling so grateful to have seen his handsome face before I leave today, to have shared some much-needed laughs, and to have¬†his warm hugs when I return.

7.¬†Au Revoir!¬†I’m so excited!!! I’m off to Europe today for the first time in my life. I’ll land in London, travel to Paris, and then go through the Alps in Switzerland and Germany. I return the 21st, and I look forward to updating you with a big ‘ol Texas sized post with pictures and stories of my travels.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


3 Comments

7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I¬†post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I¬†have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

 

This is only a post to say that my real 7 for seven will post tomorrow, as I leave for ten days to travel Europe. Woot! See you again tomorrow (hopefully!).

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


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7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

1. BBQ W/ FriendsMonday night, a friend who touted that his BBQ would trump standing in the long (if you don’t live in Austin – wrap-around-the-building-long) lines for Franklin’s, decided to make good on his offer and have his friends over for dinner. To his credit, the BBQ was good, but the company — even better. And his wife’s chocolate ice-cream cake sent me over. Those people know how to host and their generosity and kindness toward their friends do not go unnoticed.

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2. H-Town Visit. My sweet cousin, who is close to my age, recently had a baby girl. My sis, mother, and I drove down to Houston to see her new house, new baby, and visit with her family. First of all, admittedly, it felt strange to see my baby cousin (who I remember seeing as a new-born), holding one of her own, but of course it looked natural. She is going to be an amazing mother — IS an amazing mother. Her home was absolutely stunning, and her and my aunt had set out a nice spread for lunch of croissants, chicken salad, fruits and vegetables. It was just so great to visit with them and hold her sweet newborn. We absolutely fell in love!

3. Pool-Time.  What would Fourth-of-July weekend be without a little pool or lake-time? In ‘Murica, it wouldn’t be. So I dipped my tuchas in the pool more than a few times this weekend, and it felt divine. Actually, it felt a bit like warm-bath water — the Texas sun is brutal, but it felt better than dry-land. Happy Fourth, readers!!

4. Invisibilia.  It’s clear I’ve done my fair share of fan-girling on Lea Thau and her podcast, Strangers, so I decided to branch out and try some other podcasts while on my runs (alright, I finally ran through all Strangers episodes). One of the new ones I discovered is called Invisibilia, which is Latin for all the invisible forces that help shape our lives. The particular podcast I listened to was about fear. They interviewed (though not directly, she is highly protected), a woman who has every emotion in the spectrum, with exception to only one – you got it, fear. That part of her brain had been completely calcified. It was interesting, because what was found was that we often think fear can be a survivalist emotion, as it triggers our brain into telling us to get out of dangerous situations, but what she uses is… dun, dun, dun LOGIC. We don’t need fear. Yes, she has probably gotten herself into more sticky situations than people with fear, but she doesn’t actually feel the trauma from those experiences because fear doesn’t even register in her brain. So it begs the question — is it better to feel fear and stay out of those sticky situations, risking feeling the trauma after them? Or is it better to not feel fear, get into more sticky situations, but not register the fear at all? Something to think about for sure. At the end of the podcast, they left the audience with a simple (perhaps oversimplified) formula to help us with fear. Thinking + Time = Fear. Thoughts?

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me

me

my running doppelgänger

my running doppelgänger

5. Mind Games.  Speaking of podcasts — I also started listening to This American Life and the episode I recently listened to was about mind-games. It was really scintillating (that word is truly awful, isn’t it?). Anyway, just a quick, funny story of coincidence (or not?) — The episode featured a guy who started a prank-troupe, only they didn’t so much like to say they pranked because that would imply setting people up to feel duped or foolish. Instead, they prided themselves on somehow making people’s lives more interesting or exciting by putting them in outrageous situations. To sum up the experiences – most of these situations just made people sit-back, laugh, and exclaim, “Ha! What the heck is going on!?”  What’s crazy, is that while I’m listening to this podcast, a woman steps out in the EXACT same outfit as me. I mean exact. Same pink Nike shorts. Same black Nike tennis shoes, same black tank-top with a black sports bra, and hair up in a pony-tail. Despite her having a blonde pony-tail as opposed to my brunette pony-tail, I had met my running doppelg√§nger. Only, she wasn’t running, just speed-walking, but I became so paranoid of her freaking out (I was listening to too much of that Mind-Game podcast), I slowed down to even our pace. Ha! I’m such a freak, but I couldn’t help but think… had I, too, been set up by this prankster?

6. Sick Saturday.  So yeah —  it was a sick Saturday in the not so stellar way. I went on a run, then for a swim, and then grew violently ill after sitting down on my couch. I didn’t feel any signs coming on, didn’t feel overheated, but suddenly I was praying to the porcelain gods, so much so that I became disoriented and weak, and all I could do was pray I’d make it to my bed. This was at about 4:30 in the afternoon. When I awoke, I expected it to be, at the most, a couple hours later. Nope. It was 11:30 at night. I felt so bad, and it scared me that it happened when I was all alone. I was so lucky that it wasn’t worse — but my positive take-way was more than that; I woke up to a billion texts (I’m a free hyperbolizer) from friends and family alike. Even though it was too late to text anyone back, it felt so good to know I had people out there that care.

7. Lessons in Reaching Out.  Sunday, I was really looking forward to meeting someone who reached out because I would finally get some resolution and peace after a stint in limbo-land in our friendship and because I honestly was just looking forward to the always good company no matter the result. I won’t dwell on why that meeting didn’t actually happen or how badly it made me feel because this isn’t the place I allow myself to not appreciate what I have and what’s been given to me as a result. What’s been given to me (among other things, I’ll mention soon enough) is the reminder that it’s so important to follow your instinct to reach out to others. On a day where I felt lonely and like no one cared, an old friend whom I hadn’t heard from in a really long time, reached out to tell me how much he liked and could relate to things in my blog. It meant so much to me and lifted me out of my stupor. If you are reading this, friend, thank you. Thank you for saving me from the hapless, unproductive depths of “no one cares about me.” You never know when a person might need it, so we should all do it more often. One person may not have the capacity to truly see me and care for me, but that doesn’t mean no one cares. It’s easy when heartbreak or disappointment happens to feel sorry for oneself and fall down the rabbit hole of feeling unlovable, but I won’t continue down that hole. Instead, I’m picking up my head, digging a ladder out, and rising above. I’ll only keep people in my life who value my time, honor my feelings, and act on their words.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


2 Comments

7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I¬†post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I¬†have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

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1. The Power in¬†Surrendering. Last¬†Tuesday, when I most needed the reminder, someone wise shared the above quote¬†with me. To be honest, I’ve never given the serenity prayer much mind, but suddenly it fits so perfectly in my life right now where uncertainty is the only thing of which I am certain. The biggest part of this for me was just trusting in what I can control and allowing myself to hold a rein.

2. Orange is the New Black.¬†Like most fans of this show, I was disappointed in the last season of Orange is the New Black. It just felt a little “jump-the-shark” and lost what I so liked about the first season. Well, this new season brings back all of those things I loved, and it was a true pleasure to watch. Be prepared for your mind to be opened (more), for some hearty laughs, and few good cries. Okay, maybe a big cry. The material is poignant and important.

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3.¬†Dancing at Donn’s¬†¬†A dear friend of mine was in town last Wednesday, so we met up for drinks at a hole-in-the-wall country bar downtown fashioned out of old train cars.¬†It was so great catching up and knocking back cold beers on a hot day in Texas. When the live band started playing, the dance floor quickly filled up with mostly men in their eighties — who knew at the age of thirty-four that I would finally meet my sweet spot!? Ha! My friend and I spotted the man in the photo above, and decided we couldn’t leave the place until I danced with him (Don’t you worry — I challenged my friend right¬†back and made him dance with the cougar who was flirting with him earlier that night — we’re even). And so I did… turns out this ladies’ man has no clue what to do with a lady, as he didn’t know how to lead and scolded me the whole time for taking it upon myself. After that, I barely sat down, as the rest of the bar full of elderly men wanted to show him up¬†and show him exactly how it’s done — and that, they did. It was a blast.

4. Listen to Other People’s Stories. ¬†Truly listen. There is something so cathartic and healing in listening to the lessons other people learn through their experiences. I’ve talked about Lea Thau’s podcast Strangers more than I am willing to admit recently — but I’ve decided I’m going to unabashedly continue fan-girling. Every episode I listen to on my runs teaches me something new, and I can almost immediately relate it to something I’m currently going through, whether directly or indirectly. The first story that knocked me over this week was a series — the story of Jeni, a young woman my age going through treatments for a rare form of cancer. I won’t give much away because I want you (yes, you, any of you!) to listen to it and hear it for yourself, but it just gave me so much perspective. While some of us are stressing about the small stuff, this woman is just trying to live. Of course, our pains are all relative, and none of it matters less, but it just puts so much in perspective — I have so much to be grateful for — so much. I am so happy and so ready to feel fulfilled even without all the things I think I need in my life. Truly. If you remember her story, you can never allow yourself to take anything for granted anymore. I think it’s very possible to make this an immediate change. Gradual change is not necessary. We can all make the decision to do this RIGHT NOW. The second story I listened to was about wealth, so obviously I couldn’t relate to this directly – ha! However, there was something that Moby (yep, the¬†Moby) said that really made me dig deep in regards to building relationships, “I’d rather be open and make mistakes than closed off and defensive and never make mistakes. The consequences of being too cautious are much worse than the consequences of mistakes.”

5. Freedom. ¬†A simple one — but sometimes these are the best — This was my first week¬†where I didn’t have anything previously planned after being off for the summer from work. Wahoo!! See what I mean? Don’t have¬†much I can complain about.

6. Saturday Drinks.  A few friends and I met spontaneously at a bar up in North Austin. Although a bit of a drive for me, it was so nice to get out, have some laughs, drinks, and good food and conversation.

7. Be Vulnerable for Me.¬†¬†I’ll be vague here, and I’m sorry, but I’d be lying if I didn’t mention this as one of my favorite things this week although it was private. When someone else is finally vulnerable for you, it is one of the best feelings – as this means someone cares enough to let down their guard, even if that means risking something big. But then again — “The consequences of being too cautious are much worse than the consequences of mistakes.” We could all stand to learn the same lesson. We could all learn to love one another with abandon. We need more of that in the world.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


1 Comment

7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I¬†post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I¬†have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

**NOTE: This week’s post was more challenging to write — not because last week¬†wasn’t great, because it was, but because something has changed since that week that feels like it could be a betrayal of my trust and how I felt about last week. At times like this, I¬†question¬†if my perception is reality and sometimes I feel when I write this post, I’m not always telling the full truths because my focus is to only talk about the positives. Well, life isn’t always the good and the bad — sometimes there’s a grey area. For the sole purpose of sticking to the reason for this post and finding happiness with what we have, I will save the other side¬†of life for another post — and for a time when things are a bit more clear because the truth is important to me, and it’s important for me to be authentic in all that I do, including my writing.

1. Gal Time. A gal-pal of mine asked me over for¬†a¬†much-needed pizza and summer cider night. That night, I was craving some vegging and banter time in the comfort of someone’s home, and it was as if she read my mind. A keeper, that one. She’s a friend I can always count on, and I’m so grateful for that.

2. Blood is Thicker Than Water.¬†I met my sister and mother for lunch last week, as the rents were in town for a quick vacay. We caught up over tex-mex and then spent some time shopping for my sis’s house that’s in the process of renovation. Not only was it nice to catch up, but nothing beats shopping vicariously for someone else without emptying the ol’ pockets.

3. Paying it Forward. ¬†Ten years ago, before I was a teacher, I was an actress. I performed in college and in a company in Dallas, TX — which may shock some people, as I tend to be more of a reserved person, but it was once a huge love of mine. My theatre¬†professor in my first two years of college invited me to be a part of his theatre outreach class at the time, in which we discussed current events and the things that were most important to us. The purpose was to write, produce, and act in¬†a play that promoted awareness and/or advocacy about one of the issues discussed. One morning, on September 11, I went to class, just after the second plane hit the World Trade Center, and we ended up being the only class in session at our college¬†that day. What evolved from that experience were strong connections and a dialogue¬†about the importance of understanding our interconnectedness at times like these. Our¬†play became just that, and we performed it at various grade schools in our community. My professor pulled me aside one day and told me I should pursue writing, after that experience — which, now that I think of it, may have been his¬†gentle way of nudging¬†me away from an acting career – ha! He and my English professor wrote me a recommendation letter to SMU’s creative writing program, and from there, I fell in love with writing and the way my professors taught it. That’s one of the main¬†reasons I decided to become a teacher, and I wanted to pass on my love of writing with other students and show¬†them how it could promote social change. What I didn’t realize then was that my professor was exposing me to project-based learning, which is more than the new trend in teaching today — it is the best way to engage authentic learning experiences. Recently, ¬†I was invited to attend a three-day course on how to teach this way and given an opportunity to work with someone above me on creating this type of experience next year for my students. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as after the recent Orlando mass shooting, it became excruciatingly urgent to me that I use education more as a means to advocate for accepting differences, pulling my students out of the little bubble of their community, and showing them that literature and writing can serve both as a mirror and a window to each other’s lives. I’m so excited about this new opportunity and the beginnings of what I’ve created for next year and see this a way to finally pay it forward to what my professors showed me years ago.

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4. 10K and Story-Time. ¬†I’ve taken up a new love of running, and I’ve been slowly but surely graduating myself from walking to walking/running, and eventually I completed my first 10K while running the entire time. I was so proud of myself. Plus, I may be the only oddball¬†on the planet that “kills two birds with one stone” and listens to podcasts while running instead of music. I may or may not¬†have been that weird girl¬†weeping and running at the same time, but I listened to this story that made me both stronger physically that day and also stronger mentally. In that podcast, a¬†woman told a story of dating a man for a few¬†months and the lessons she learned while with him. She was confused by this relationship because he didn’t fit any of the items on her list of what she desired in a life partner– she didn’t know why she was attracted to him, but she kept finding herself drawn back again and¬†again. One morning, after apparently having the best orgasm of her life, she just wanted to get out of his bed. So they did, and on their hike that day, she climbed up a tree to avoid all the confusing thoughts in her head that were making her confused about whether or not she wanted to stay in the relationship. He was telling a joke, and while impatiently waiting for the punch-line, the tree-branch broke and she fell. In that moment, when she was given no choice, remarkably, she was finally able to surrender — something she had essentially tried to do all her life, but failed to do. This is something I could immediately relate to, so I was hooked. Long story short, it took a lot of work, but she finally let down her guard in the hospital room one day (her body had been paralyzed from that fall from the waist down), and allowed that man to visit her. Something hit her, and she didn’t want him to leave her side from that day forward. And he didn’t. Several years later, they are married and have children together. Although she could have grown bitter from the experience, she said she is just grateful she got to learn the¬†lesson at all, and even if it took that terrible thing that happened to make her realize how to let go and allow herself to be loved by this man, she would do it all over again. One of the things she said, stuck with me, and I never want to forget it, “Everything you need to know about your life is happening right now, so pay attention.” And that day, while running, and even throughout the rest of my day – I noticed things I had never taken the time to digest before – the colors of the leaves, the way people’s faces moved while laughing, what people do when they are nervous, and how good it feels to be desired.

5. Man-Date. ¬†See what I did there, eh? Such a word-play nerd.¬†The man in my life asked me to a dinner date Friday night, so I was excited to get some margs after a long run that day. Before dinner, he suggested going on a swim first, as his afternoon meeting was cancelled — even better after a long run in the heat, so I gratefully obliged. The sun was brutal, but the cold beers, soothing water, and good company eased my sore muscles and worked together to put my spirits in a really good place. We¬†shared several small plates at dinner that night and continued at a dive bar near by and laughed at the strange people around us (terrible – but let’s admit, behind closed doors, it’s a bit fun to do at times). It had been a while since we shared whiskey and danced cheek-to-cheek in his living room, and it just felt right later that night. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad time with that man.

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6.¬†Father’s Day.¬†¬†Saturday morning, I met my fam for a quick Father’s Day greeting, as my parents were headed back to Dallas Sunday morning and my sis could only spare a couple of hours that day due to her hectic¬†schedule. Granted, my funny dad was working on the exterior of the house the entire visit (go figure — always the busy one, that man), it was still, as always, nice to visit with them. My dad is such a great example of love in my life, and I’m so grateful to him for having set the bar so high that I will never allow myself to settle for the man in my life.

7.¬†B-day Shin-Dig.¬†¬†Later that same day/evening, a friend of mine’s husband had his big 3-0 birthday celebration at their house complete with beer, pizza, corn-hole, a dirty board game (ha!), and really great company.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren


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7 for seven

7forseven_key-and-arrowLet’s face it // Mondays stink. Or at least we typically expect them to stink. That is why, every Monday, I post seven positives from the previous seven days of the week as a reminder of what I have so that the week starts out on an upswing. There is much truth in the belief that happy people attract good things, so it is important to start the week out right. Sometimes it’s the more grand, but other times, it’s the simple things.

1. Love for Orlando. I’m sitting here reflecting on my week, and I have many things of which to be grateful, but my mind keeps drifting back to the horrific images I’ve seen on the news the past couple of days. They are more than images; it’s all painfully real. I’m fighting being selfish and thinking about the positives in my week, when it seems the world should stop and grieve for its losses. However, more than ever, in times like these, we need reminders of the good in the world. This week, I want to focus on those reminders.

2. I return to this quote (too many times) when I need it. “When you recognize that pain — and response to pain — is a universal thing, it helps explain so many things about others, just as it explains so much about yourself. It teaches you forbearance. It teaches you a moderation in your responses to other people’s behavior. It teaches you a sort of understanding. It essentially tells you what everybody needs. You know what everybody needs? You want to put it in a single word? Everybody needs to be understood. And out of that comes every form of love. If someone truly feels that you understand them, an awful lot of neurotic behavior just disappears — disappears on your part, disappears on their part. So, if you’re talking about what motivates this world to continue existing as a community, you’ve got to talk about love… And my argument is it comes out of your biology because on some level we understand all of this. We put it into religious forms. It’s almost like an excuse to deny our biology. We put it into pith, sententious aphorisms, but it’s really coming out of our deepest physiological nature.” -Sherwin B. Nuland

3. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Acceptance Sonnet.  I love this. Watch it here.

4. OneBlood.org.  If you are in Orlando, please consider donating blood this week. Yesterday, they were at capacity (the good in people DOES come out in times of tragedy, and it helps to focus on the light). The blood banks will need more donations throughout the week. Visit the link for more details.

5. Places to Cultivate Community and Identity.  “The place where they were attacked was more than a nightclub — it was a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.” – President Obama   Feeling a sense of community is one of the pillars to happiness, and I am so grateful to live in a country that recognizes that fundamental need and progressively works to cultivate it for all.

6. A Story About Love.  I listened to this podcast on one of my 10Ks this week (yeah, I slipped that in there – hoorah!), and I fell in love with this man’s bizarre story. His story is almost unbelievable, but it wasn’t just the strangeness that drew me in, but also the love and compassion in this man’s heart after all the trials he has faced. His story is an incredible reminder that good can triumph in the face of adversity.

7. Dialogue + Action.  One of the positives I’ve seen come out of terrible events (we have to find them for ourselves) in the past couple of weeks is that it has got people talking more about important issues. We need to keep talking, but it is also not enough if we don’t also take action. Last week, in social media, I saw a lot of talk about the current rape culture in response to the light sentence the judge gave in the Stanford rape case. In case you missed it, I wrote this post on an irregular posting day, in response. If you have a moment, please also consider signing the petition to impeach Judge Persky for his bias shown in this case. The country also continues to talk about issues of gun control and gun safety in response to mass shootings. Executive actions are outlined here. Visit everytown.org to do more.

I hope to inspire you to reflect on all you have to be grateful & that your week brings you even more positivity + balance + bliss!  Feel free to share your seven with me as well / or even just a couple!

Have a wonderful week!

xo,

Lauren

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