Mrs. Claus Shopping for a Cause

True Story

Last Christmas, my friends and I were planning to do the normal gift exchange, but one girl went out of her way to give gifts that gave back. Knowing that I am someone who dreams big, she gave me a bracelet from the California startup, The Giving Keys, with a “key to my dreams”.The Giving Keys employs people transitioning out of homelessness and what once was a startup is now a jeweler with products sold in 1200+ stores nationwide.giving-key-boring

This key inspired me to make a purchase from a different company that had a story I wanted to be a part of. The Shine Project is a jewelry company that employs inner city kids, mentors them, and helps send them to college. I bought a bracelet from The Shine Project for my on-campus boss who is also passionate about helping students get through college. It was a perfect alignment in gifts and goals.shine-project

This isn’t the only way my friends are involved in social entrepreneurship. Another friend started a campus club with Love Your Melon, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of children battling cancer one beanie at time. We held fundraisers and giveaways to raise awareness about this one for one company and its “perfect for college” products.img_20150124_214939

 Entrepreneurs for good

10 years ago none of these companies even existed. What changed? The social entrepreneurship movement is credited to have started in 2006 and three events stand out as catalysts:

  1. Bill Gates announced his shift from solutions to society by moving full-time to his foundation.
  2. Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace prize for lending money to the poorest of the poor.
  3. Toms shoes set the gold standard for corporate social responsibility with their one for one policy and using environmentally responsible materials.

With these as shining examples, people began investing more in this economic transformation. Huffington post writer, Ben Thomley, estimates that the social enterprise sector of the American economy makes up about 3.5 percent of total U.S. GDP. And 35 percent of these social enterprises are not for profits and 31 percent are regular C corporations or LLC’s. Moreover, B corporations, or Benefit corporations, are seeing a rise as well, but they are not all startups. Brand names like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Etsy are all B corporations with a mission to make the world a better place, one jacket, scoop of ice cream, or handmade bracelet at a time.

“Generation Me” gives back

With millennials being the largest living generation right now, all of this giving might come as a surprise to the people who believe the stereotypes of “Generation Me”. But in truth, perhaps all the helicopter parents telling us we’re special and can do anything is paying off because millennials are driven to pay it forward. We are entrepreneurial, have access to the internet which allows us to research products before purchasing, and want to work for companies that are dedicated to social responsibility.

Many millennials my age don’t remember what broke consumers’ trust in corporate America, we were too young when the WorldCom, Enron, and Tyco scandals took place, but we have seen the ripple effect of corporations working to earn consumers’ trust back. As a result, it makes perfect sense that we want to know what large corporations are doing to be socially responsible.

We also want to support the smaller one for one companies like Toms and we enjoy seeking out and finding fair trade treasures like Joyn handbags and  Theo chocolate. If we can find a company that offers the product that meets our need and gives back to someone who in need, then we are all the more inclined to pay more and go out of our way to make that purchase.

Why Not?

With all of the wonderful resources available to us today, we are running out of reasons not to participate in social responsibilities. As a consumer you can use thegoodtrade.com to help you find a fair trade product specific to your need. As an entrepreneur you can utilize the resources on bcorporation.net to help you start your own benefit corporation. And as a student you can expand your knowledge through the growing availability of social entrepreneurship programs at universities like Stanford and Duke. There is boundless opportunity to make a difference and give back in a way you personally are passionate about, so why not?

This Christmas (Advent!) shopping season, shop local, shop fair trade, and shop for a cause!

As always,

Dream Big! Live Courageously! And Thrive!

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From College to Corporate: The Wardrobe Fairy Godmother

From college to corporate there can be a bit of a fashion gap. During my 3 going on 4 years of pursuing a degree at Colorado Mesa University I have heard two extremes when it comes to fashion rationale:

  1. Better to start dressing well in college to learn and get in the habit of dressing to impress and be professional now
  2. These are the last 4 years in which I can wear yoga pants and gym clothes all day long

Both are fairly valid arguments; but #1 resonates more with me. I want to walk into my business class dressed in a way that respects those around me, especially my professor who has taken a step back from the corporate world to prepare me for it.

Dressing for corporate life here at Epsilon was no struggle for me, I was ready to dress up all day, every day…I just needed to buy some shoes.  But before I tell you about my fashion Bibidi-Bobidi-Boo, I should tell you what my internship actually is all about.

This summer I have the privilege of working for Epsilon, a global leader in marketing data solutions. I work specifically for the marketing team here in the Colorado office (1 of 70 offices worldwide) So essentially, I market a marketing firm. #Yes.

My team is wonderful, they include me in interesting projects and help me learn more about this crazy corporate life. I feel a little mind blown from all of the things I am learning about Epsilon, its clients and how the world of marketing works right now.

Okay back to the reason we’re all here: the clothes. If you know me at all, you know I love being creative and putting together unique outfits, trying not to repeat, putting different pieces together, all while being comfortable and modest and now professional. I was mentally preparing for what I thought would be corporate business wear only to find that Colorado business casual is the standard here. That super cute business suit? Not necessary. Jeans and a modern blouse with statement necklace? Yes, just yes.

Dressing well in any job as a sign of respect to those around you. It’s not just about first impressions it’s about lasting impressions. Do you want to be the employee who stands out and is remembered in more than one way? I want to be the employee that is remembered as the hardest worker, the one who knows how to have fun, and the one that they never could figure out how she managed to look that good every day. I’m mostly kidding. Mostly.

To my friends who are classified as future millennial employees, it’s time you start dressing appropriately. And what better way to practice this then my dressing well it’s and modestly at school? I’m not saying that you need to wear a business suit to class, I’m simply suggesting you start dressing modestly and in your own style. Modesty rules are pretty darn close to office appropriate rules. But please don’t lose your individual Style. If your style is boho chic, go ahead and rock that fringe vest. If you like that glam rocker look, rock the metallics and black leather. And if you happen to prefer colorful and classic, well then you can where you are petal pink skirt and peep-toe heels. Or if you’re like me you can rock a mix of it depending on the day of the week. Here are a few of my favorite outfits. Don’t you love how I model garage doors, fences and ferns? #notapaidfashionblogger #thatdoorthough

Bibidi-Bobidi-bam! That is how to dress for your internship. Thank God for fashion fairy godmothers.

Go Live Your Dream

go live your dreamWhen I was a little girl Princess Ariel from The Little Mermaid was by far my favorite princess. She got to live in the ocean, craved adventure, had funny animal friends, and loved to sing! That’s my kind of princess!

Skip forward about 10 years or so and suddenly my favorite princess has competition with Disney’s Rapunzel in Tangled. She too has a great animal companion, loves to sing, and is handy with a frying pan, but most importantly craves adventure beyond the window in her tower.

Little mermaidNow you might be asking yourself “Why is this princess nonsense important?” Well, I realized what a big impression these two princesses made on me as I was flying home from Austria listening to The Little Mermaid soundtrack looking out at the sunset over Germany. Both Rapunzel and Ariel simply wanted to see more of the world, gain new perspectives and understandings, meet new people and live out their dreams.

I have always had this same sense of adventure in me, always wanting to go out there try new things, see new places, meet new people, sing new songs (yes I break out into song every so often just like a Disney princess. No shame! You should see me Vacuum. It’s like Mrs. Doubtfire meets Disney Princess)

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Anyways, getting back to this “Go live your dream” business. I had wanted to see the Swiss Alps and Austria for so long! And this past Easter that dream came true in a trip that truly only God himself could have made so perfect.

During my time in Austria I got to live a little bit like a local and a tourist at the same time, experiencing local cafés, walking through pastures, and seeing the sights. I was awestruck by the beauty of the mountains. So different from the peaks in Colorado. The Austrian Alps are jagged, incredibly steep, and meet green grassy valleys at their base.


The village in Reutte, Austria had homes that were really modernized barns from when the village was primarily a farming village. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, we did not have to walk far to have great stargazing. The living room window looked up at some ancient ruins while the kitchen window had a view of the Alps.

Innsbruck, Austria captured my mind in a completely different way. The mountains surround the  capital of Tirol mountains are practically straight up! I cannot decide if the view from the streets of the old town or the view from the top of the Olympic ski jump was better. Honestly, so long as those mountains were in sight, I was content to gaze and take it all in.

The buildings in old town Innsbruck also fascinated me. They are so different from anything I’ve seen. Tall and colorful, old and ornate, the detailing just fabulous and the stone streets friendly quaint atmosphere.

The buildings in Salzburg, Austria were even more charming! They had an added element of old-fashioned mystery with their little tunnels in between the old houses-turned-stores. The tunnels would either lead you to a different narrow street, or to an inner courtyard that might be home to more stores, or in one case, our favorite café! You never knew what you would find and I loved that added adventure. My travel buddy probably got tired of my constant “Ooo lets go down this alley!” mentality.

 

Salzburg’s old town was unique in more than that way however, because it was filled with massive old churches all with their own distinctive style and impressive domes. We were there on Good Friday or else I am sure we would have heard amazing bells from their towers! My favorite view was not looking up at these giants, no the best view of Salzburg was from up on the hill in the age-old fortress!20160325_145306

Exploring Hohensalzburg Castle brought out the little kid and little nerd in me once more. Curiously imagining what it would have looked like during its hay-day, with servants bustling about, horse drawn carriages, men working the cannons…What secrets were told here? What love stories unfolded? Where there are people there is drama, what was life like here?…

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On the opposite side of the fortress you could look down at the house and lake from the Sound of Music. But the greatest disappointment was the clouds blocking the view of the mountains that the Von Trapp family ran off into.

Another one of my favorite experiences in Salzburg was the hipster café we ate dinner at on Good Friday. You try to find good food that is gluten, dairy, and meat free in a town that loves bread and sausage. We stumbled upon this gem of a restaurant walking back from the old town in the rain (One of my “lets walk down this alley” adventures is what led us to this!). By the end of our meal the place was full of well-dressed, late 20-somethin’s looking for a good time on a Friday night.

Easter in Austria was not my typical wake-up-go-to-church-eat-brunch-play-street-hockey kind of Easter. The day was spent hiking up to the ancient Ruins in Reutte and praising God for the views of the Austrian Alps. Oh and walking across a Guinness Book of World Records bridge. My fear of heights made this a…laughable experience. Nervous laughter mostly.

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We enjoyed two types of Austrian Easter Lamb, a bread one that was cute and sweet, and one that was mm-mmm delicious! Sorry lamby.

Easter Monday is also a thing in most of Europe, to which I think the U.S. sincerely needs to adopt. You get to celebrate and spend time with family on Sunday and Monday! We spent Easter Monday back in Innsbruck and I spent my day with the sweetest 8 year old, who stole my heart more than the mountains had! She spoke mostly German and I spoke mostly English, but we really communicated through silly faces and running around like airplanes and dinosaurs…#nevergrowup

I wanted her to feel as included as possible, so she was my ultimate selfie buddy.

After Easter we took a day trip to Munich, Germany to visit the grand Deutsches Museum. There were so many different exhibits with old technology we would not see in the U.S. simply because it never existed here!

Then there was the Neuschwanstein Castle that is made famous in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and is the inspiration for the Beauty and the Beast castle. Again, we just do not see this kind of work in the U.S.! The man who built the castle was a little insane and unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but the best room was the gold thrown room with Jesus sitting on a rainbow…cheesy much? Oh! And the castle had the ultimate man cave! It was a hall built to look just like a rock cave, almost like a mine.

Our last day in beautiful Innsbruck we enjoyed watching glass art be made by our hosts friend, Suzi. Suzi makes delightful jewelry, wine glasses, little figurines, and more, all out of glass. She made me a little glass piggy and offered both my friend and I a piece of jewelry. I felt like a kid at a candy store looking at all the colorful beads. You can order from her at www.brennero.at I highly recommend her art if you are in need of a wedding present or unique birthday gift!

Finally, there was Switzerland…less than 48 hours in one of the most expensive countries on earth. $13 for two tall Starbucks drinks. Yikes! We stayed in a friend’s apartment in the heart of Zurich. Zurich felt like a dirty, smoke filled, pornographized version of New York City, with the old fashioned style of European architecture. Some views were quite nice, but walking around felt like a rat race and all the nicely dressed people sitting in the bars looking down on us peasant tourists. Ok so maybe that is a bit overdramatic, but you get my point. I much prefer the peacefulness of Reutte. I am turning into a small town girl more than I thought!

Luzern, Switzerland was an entirely different experience from Zurich. We arrived early in the morning, before the onslaught of tourists. The quiet, sleepy old town was a good change of pace from Zurich, but still not as quaint as the beautiful old towns of Austria.

Luzern is home to the Chapel Bridge, or Kapellbrücke, that was built in 1333. It might not seem like anything special, but I had been wanting to this particular bridge for so long! Pinterest boards dedicated to Switzerland so I could one day see this bridge. I fully admit to doing a happy dance in public when the bridge came into view…my travel buddy can attest this.IMG_20160401_110231

And so our time in Austria, Germany and Switzerland came to an end. My friend boarded a train back to Florence, Italy, I hopped on a plane to Munich where I sat for 7 hours. Luckily it is a very nice airport with free Wi-Fi and free coffee stations. In all I did not mind my layover.

One of the little details of the trip that still stands out to me is how God brought things full circle in the end. Day one of the trip when I was boarding my plane from Frankfurt to Munich I walked by all the well-dressed businessmen and women in the 1st class and thought to myself “One day I will be one of those people, dressed nicely and off to change the world”….little did I know. As I scanned my ticket to board my flight home from Munich to Gothenburg the machine paused and then printed a new ticket stating I had been assigned a new seat, 3A. Business class. Instead of sitting in the far back, row 25, I was suddenly going to be sitting right up front. It was almost like God had a little inside joke with me and I had missed the punch line the first time. “You are out there changing the world…” He whispered and immediately this bible verse came to mind:

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12

I pray I can live up to the standards of that bible verse and continue to live out my life as a grand adventure with Christ.

And if living like a dreaming Disney princess and a princess of Christ was not enough inspiration, I turn to one of my favorite female role models Eleanor Roosevelt.eleanor_roosevelt_quote

Until next time, go live your dream!

Dream Big. Live Courageously! And Thrive!!

Xo Lo

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

My time in Sweden has not been all sunshine and daisies. Do not get me wrong, I have been extremely blessed with good friends here to support me, a good church to be my temporary church home, and wonderful adventures in and around Sweden, and for all of this I am extremely grateful. But there was a not so secret battle going on with my living situation here in Sweden, and it was taking its toll on me. My health and safety (and sanity!) were in question and there were people in Colorado and Sweden all trying to coordinate and find solutions, real solutions, and I was caught in the middle trying to coordinate, explain what was truly going on, all while trying to learn in school and enjoy being with my friends.

Luckily, with the Lords good timing, just as I hit my breaking point I got to take a true break from the chaotic drama: a week-long trip with all of my friends to the Lapland’s of Sweden.

Early Monday morning, Leap Day, we all piled on a bus that would take us on our long 24 hour journey to Kiruna, Sweden. Sitting still that long, even with rest stops, was not comfortable but was worth it once we arrived. We went straight to a little camp where we got to go dog sledding and snowmobiling! The dogs were so excited once they got hitched to the sled that you could barely hear over their barking. We sat 4 to a sled that had reindeer fur on the seat and we had a retired dog sled racer for a driver. The view of the surrounding area that we sled through was covered in diamond like snow, with sparkles dancing in the sunlight. The snow was easily waist deep in places. The trees all had snow frozen to its branches and the rounded mountain tops in the distance seemed that much whiter next to the crystal clear arctic blue sky, a blue like no other. 12821612_10204789416048946_6470594364625368751_n

The smell while dog sledding however, was not so pretty. The dogs literally go to the bathroom while running and so the person in front (luckily not me!) gets hit sometimes with their mess. I think that the dog sledding might have been more exciting had we gotten to drive the sleds because sitting there just was not as exhilarating as maybe I’d dreamt.

We met up at the halfway point with the other half of our group who had just finished snowmobiling. After a quick fika (Swedish coffee break) and spending some time petting and loving the dogs, we switched places and then it was our turn to drive the snow mobiles! I was nervous at first letting my friend drive me since she had never done it before, but she handled it quite well! I was even more nervous when I got to drive because I did not want to hurt either of us! We got going quite fast and the trail was super bumpy which made it fun. I imagine it might be similar to the way driving a motorcycle feels, like you could fall off or tip over at any moment but instead you just go faster and hold on tight!20160301_113552

The next day we enjoyed a tour of the famous Ice Hotel just outside of Kiruna. It stays a balmy -5 C (23 F) inside the hotel. The Ice Hotel is made out of ice from the Torne River just behind the building and a mixture they call “snice” which is blended up snow and ice that makes a strong insulator and structural snow material. Every fall they construct a new hotel and let artists from around the world come in and for 2 weeks they get to design their own room. My favorite designs were the animal ones, there was an elephant, a peacock and a room called “Counting Sheep” that was my favorite!

That afternoon we met a traditional Sami man who owns a reindeer farm. We fed the reindeer, ate reindeer meat, and listened to the Sami man give us advice while we sat around a fire in a little hut. The wind was bitter cold as we fed the reindeer so that wasn’t as much fun as we had hoped, but it still was a good experience! A few of the reindeer were quite pushy when it came to getting the food from us, while others were shy and stood as far away as possible. Then there were the reindeer who would stir up trouble and would cause the whole heard to start running around us! That made me want to climb up in the tree and get out of the way of the mini reindeer stampede.

We then drove even further north to Abisko, Sweden where we stayed 2 nights in a charming hostel with a view of a completely frozen lake and some beautiful mountains. I think the pureness of the blue sky and white snow is what makes the arctic landscape so unique. I could have stared out the kitchen windows for hours taking in the view.20160304_103944.jpg

Abisko became a place I never wanted to leave because we were having so much fun. We enjoyed sledding down some steep hills, racing Mario Kart style on these tiny hand sleds, laughing and screaming the entire way. There was also sauna at the edge of the lake with an ice hole that you could “cool off” in.

And we also took a day trip to Norway to see a beautiful Fjord. It was another view that I just wanted to soak in. Give me a camp chair, a really warm blanket and a thermos of hot cocoa and I could have sat there happily for a very long time. The boys on the other hand, much preferred throwing rocks as far as they could and having rock skipping competitions. It was entertaining to say the least.

By the last night of our trip, before the long bus ride back, I had crossed 4 things off of my Swedish bucket list: dog sledding, snowmobiling, the Ice Hotel, and seeing Norwegian Fjords. But one very important item was still on the list: the Northern Lights. Every night had been too cloudy up until this point and we all were hoping and praying that we would see them. We stayed up late in anticipation, and finally went to bed around 1 a.m. setting alarms for 2a.m. and 4 a.m. to check the skies. Just as we had tucked ourselves into bed our phones starting going off, the northern lights were here! So we jumped out of bed, put on our warm clothes as quickly as possible and rushed outside.

We got outside and I think my exact words were:

“Omigosh that’s them!! Omigosh! Omigosh that’s them! The Northern Lights! Thank you Jesus!”

We ran to the clearing at the top of the sledding hill and just watched in awe. The green foggy lights danced across the sky, similar to a heart rate monitor, but more graceful and fluid in moving. The lights entertained us off and on for 30 minutes or so until they gave us their final encore.IMG-20160305-WA0002

This is my favorite picture because 1. It shows the way the lights were dancing 2. There appears to be a cross amid the lights. Professional cameras capture the lights much better than our eyes can process them, so I did not see this cross until I received the photo from a friend with a camera. While watching the lights I was half stunned in silence and awe and half praising God in silent prayer. And so to see that He was right there just as I was praying and thanking Him for His spectacular gift, it makes this picture, and my memories, all the sweeter.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

Laughing in the snow

Well just like that, in one week I had crossed 5 things off my Swedish bucket list! Six if you count the two 24 hour bus rides, even though they were not on my list to begin with I am counting them! Mostly because I never want to do that long of a bus ride again!

Until next time,

Dream Big! Live Courageously! And Thrive!

Xo Lo

(Photo Credits: Nadja, Chud and myself)

Norway Looks Good on Me

Nine pages of pictures and writing later and I am thinking to myself: there has got to be a better way to tell everyone about my enchanting weekend in Oslo without boring them to tears or expecting them to read pages. So here we go: my weekend in Oslo in about 500 words.

20160220_093921Crazy snowy drive from Sweden to Norway! Felt like driving in the Rocky Mountains even more so when we stopped for coffee and stepped out into the cold air!

Colorful houses and a graffiti filled town with tiny streets, and we drove through so many tunnels under the city.

Walking around the city, even in the snowy rain, was quite enjoyable! We bundled ourselves up as best we could and made our way to the city center of Oslo, first stopping by the Oslo Opera house. The sleek design made for some slippery footsteps! But inside was a spiral, wooden masterpiece and we could hear a gentleman giving an operatic performance. The music nerd inside me was tickled pink to hear opera singing at such a well-known opera house.

A little ways further and we found ourselves at the parliament building looking down the busy city center street. We were taking in the view of the bustling Main Street / mall area when we realized that big yellow building with the flag of Norway on it, was in fact the royal palace! As far as palace architecture goes, it is not all that impressive, but a palace none the less!

Up next the Oslo food hall Mathallen! Hello Good Pie! Can you say yum! The best part was our quiet corner of the Noodles restaurant with colorful strand lights and a warm friendly atmosphere.

What would a girl’s weekend be without a pj movie night? Complete with the best mini pies I have ever tasted. Mmmmm Yum.

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Sunday morning pancake breakfast (#pancakequeen right here!) enjoying our quaint Airbnb apartment and coffee.

20160221_103211.jpgWe then made our way back through Oslo to find St. Olav’s Cathedral. The stain glass windows, the high arching ceilings, the sun light coming in… yes it was good to be “home” at church.

A walk through the quiet city to the old fortress at the fjord. Beautiful clouds reflecting on the icy water made for some picturesque pictures.

Up the snowy, switchback highway to Holmenkollen we went! The sight of this ski jump tower is something else. It’s so steep! We all asked each other: “would you do that? Would you even sled down that hill?”

We stopped to slide down this ice sculpture hill (I screamed the whole way).FB_IMG_1456089883522.jpg And then made our way up the steps to the gift shop and museum of the ski jump, purchased hats, and tickets to go all the way to the tippy top of the jump!

Now if you know me, you know I hate elevators and am not that fond of heights… somehow both of which I forgot until we were next in line to get into the elevator. None the less we rode to the top and took in the view.

Yes I think this view stole a part of my heart. The view of the snowy mountains to the north with snow clouds made me “crave adventure in that great wide somewhere!” (Beauty and the Beast anyone) There is so much more to Norway and I think I want to see it! A frosty fjord anyone?

Ok so it was 573 words, but there is so much to tell!

Lauren’s fun facts from Oslo:

  • Tesla seems to be the car of choice in Oslo
  • Norway is not gluten free friendly :p
  • Norwegians are much friendlier than the Swedes from what I can tell!
  •  So much graffiti!
  • Norwegian waffles are offered basically everywhere
  • There is definitely a romantic, upscale part of Oslo (Marc by Marc Jacobs!) that needs to someday be explored
  • Norwegian style is not so boxy and black and white like it is here in Sweden

Until next time Oslo!

Dream Big! Live Courageously! And Thrive

Xo Lo

Have Courage, Be Kind

We all know the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”

We also know the saying is not true.

One sentence that was spoken to me 3 years ago still comes back to haunt me from time to time.

“Man Lauren you were an ugly little kid”

It was my last week of high school, right before graduation and my 6th grade class members  and I were sitting in our elementary school cafeteria watching a slide show of us a as kids. Super cute right?  As if high school wasn’t hard enough, rarely feeling beautiful compared to the other girls, my “friend” had to say that in front of everyone. 

“Man Lauren you were an ugly little kid”

From time to time the devil loves to use that simple sentence to lie to me about my worth, my dignity, my beauty, my true self. But those words are not true. The truth is it was a bad picture. The truth is I was and am beautiful. I want to speak the truth to myself and others.

We all know words stay with us, why aren’t we more careful? We know how words can hurt, why don’t we think long and hard before we speak?

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“It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions”

That bible verse, James 3:4-5, was one I read in my children’s bible a long time ago and it has also stuck with me. It’s such a strong picture. Our words, so small, have such a great impact on the course of our lives, on the lives of others.

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Pop culture gave us a strong reminder of this earlier this week at the Grammy Award show where Taylor Swift gave a short, powerful speech, standing up to the hurtful words of Kanye West.

Swift could have used her words to take down Kanye West. Instead, Taylor Swift chose to, in under 100 words, defend herself and inspire and encourage others. She used her words for good and those words are going to stick with some young women (and men!) out there.

We all want to be heard, loved, and have a voice of our own. But as for me, I want to have a positive voice shouting out amid all the negativity. We have a choice. I know I have words I wish I could take back. I am not perfect in this matter, but I have become quieter in conversations, thinking more, trying to choose my words wisely.

Now this blog would not be complete without a solid Disney reference so here you go. Cinderella is told by her loving mother to:

cinderella

So my challenge for you is this:

Have Courage: the courage to think twice before speaking

And Be Kind: use your words to love and build others up.

And if the Disney quote wasn’t enough I stumbled upon this beauty:

:

Have courage be kind bible

Mixing Jesus with Disney. Delightful.

Until next time,

Dream Big. Live Courageously! And Thrive!!

Xo Lo

I Can Go The Distance

Ok full disclosure: I wrote the following on a train from Goteborg to Trollhättan when I was experiencing great homesickness. I even texted my roommate back home “taking crying in public to a whole new level”. So the following is raw, harsh maybe, but honest truth.

Sometimes the most profound things don’t make sense, and that’s why they’re profound, right? 
Some definitions and synonyms of profound are as follows:

  • Penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding:
  • Being or going far beneath what is superficial, external, or obvious:
  • The deepest part of something, especially the ocean:
  • Deep, complex, difficult, enlightening, intense

 You see when it comes down to it, I don’t want to be here in Sweden, living in a dorm apartment across from a cemetery, and a miles walk away from school. No, I want to be home in my sweatpants playing Mario kart with my siblings and my beagle snoring in my lap. Because that’s my comfort zone. But you see, even if I was in Colorado right now I wouldn’t be in my comfort zone because I would be away at school, living with my crazy, loving roommates, working and going to school.
All those profound clichés about growing as you step out of your comfort zone, they’re true. I can’t get where I want to go by staying at home, by staying where I’m comfortable. Even if I don’t know where exactly I want to go, I know that I must keep going, walking, moving, crossing mental boundary lines and doing what scares me, but excites me at the same time.
So ask me again: did I make the right choice coming to Sweden? I look at my international family every time we eat dinner together, travel somewhere together, play card games together, laugh together and I say yes.  This is where I am supposed to be.
Do I miss home?  Of course.  Am I excited to go back?  Yes, but first, before I can go back to the place I love, I have to do something profound. I have the opportunity to fall in love with a new “home” and a new “family”. There are people here who I am called to love like Christ loves us. There are places here that I’ve never seen that are so filled with God’s beauty and He wants to love me by sharing that beauty with me, while I share it with my new friends.

Now a full week later I reread that and I laugh as I think “wow, I should stop trying to be philosophical!”

I knew from the moment I received my acceptance into this exchange program that it would be tough, wonderful, and something I absolutely had to do. I knew I would face culture shock and homesickness, but I decided that those were not enough to keep me from coming.

To my international family, I say thank you for sharing this adventure with me. To my family and friends back home, I say thank you for standing with me an ocean away. To my God who gives me the strength to do this, I say thank you for guiding me every step of the way.

Ok enough of my deep thinking! Time for a little catchup one what I have done since my last blog.

Most notably, I’ve gone to school! What? Yes, I have actually participated in the very activity that brought me to Sweden. Let me tell you, for all the things in the American schooling system that are wrong, there are a lot of things we do right! Here in Sweden I have 2 very similar marketing courses with 5 teachers each, 2 different books, one work group for both classes, and too many assignments of the same style to keep track of what goes with what class. So thank you U.S. schooling system for your uniformity and tech savvy classrooms! I wont take you for granted any longer.

I also went to the sea! We took a girls day and travelled by car to the Iconic colorful houses in Smögen, Sweden. Seriously if you Google or Pinterest search Smögen you will find these houses!

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Visiting the sea was a windy experience where I was literally knocked over by the gusts. But after we ventured around a bit we spent a few hours at a harbor café, glad to be out of the wind and watching the white crest waves crash from a warm building.

Two days following this adventure I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Goteborg to pick up my dad at the airport and spend my birthday weekend with him. He had just finished a jam packed business trip in Switzerland and well, since he was in Europe he thought he would see Sweden while he was at it.

I am so grateful for my daddy-daughter trip with him. We stayed in the very businessy, but very welcoming First Hotel G, directly above the train terminal. We explored much of the Goteborg shopping district and I was pleased to show him many of the “must see” things I had found previously on the internet (Pinterest!).  We also traveled up to Trollhättan and he got to meet my wonderful international family, see the church I attend, school, and my apartment. It was very much a whirlwind weekend, but I am so glad we had the time together.

Oh and I turned 21…. Which would have been a much bigger deal in the U.S., but I probably would have celebrated in a very similar way! A lunch with my friends and a quiet dinner to end the day.

Spray Tan FailI have also experienced the true Trollhättan. You see the wintery Narnia I described last time was a lie. Trollhättan is a rainy, blustery town, where the weather is as unforgiving as a tanning bed gone wrong.

 

 

Spring meme

 

But we did have 3 days in a row of sunshine! It was glorious, and still cold. I have been told that spring is here! Or at least coming….

 

 

On the home front I have enjoyed reading all of the Denver Post articles about the Broncos and Super Bowl 50! I am so thankful for technology and the ability to be connected, even if its just snapchats of the blizzard and other adventures back in Colorado. I even had the pleasure of waking up at 3am to facetime with my family at 7pm Denver time just last night! A birthday dinner for my two wonderful brothers and they were kind enough to invite me from afar.

It really is good that I am here in Sweden. I will continue to be the bright raincoat amid all the black and gray ones*, looking for the sunshine wherever I go.received_10204587164312779

(*I missed the memo that black is the trendy color here in Sweden. What can I say? I like to be bright and happy! Swedish fashion blog will be up soon I hope!)

More adventures to come! Thanks for hanging with me.

Until next time,

Dream Big. Live Courageously. And Thrive!

Xo Lo

Go the Distance