14 Ways Brownies Make You a Better Person

Screw Valentines! Let’s celebrate a holiday that will never make you feel lonely or less than–figuratively or Literally! HAPPY HAVE A BROWNIE DAY!! (And if you really want a Valentines Blog–check out my Survival Guide from last year). And if you feel self loathing go check out Love the skin you’re in now.
Instead of hearts and flowers, lets discuss 14 ways a brownie makes you a better person.

1) Chocolate triggers the same neurons in the brain that sex does–in other words chocolate wakes up your serotonin, which is the body’s natural antidepressant. So: eat more brownies and you’ll be happier. And probably nicer.

2) Cocoa/chocolate has a higher flavanol content per weight than most foods according to Health Herbal’s Website so it’s a better antioxidant than a glass of wine or an apple, according to the site. Get your antioxidants on by eating brownies!


3) The act of baking brownies allows you feel organized while slowing you down  When you bake you have to read directions, be organized, do one thing at a time–doing a recipe makes you go step by step and slow your life down.

4) Inversely–the waiting for the brownies to come out of the oven returns you to a state of childlike innocence–which we all should have. Waiting in anticipation for the ooey-gooey chocolatey goodness to come of the oven makes me feel like I’m 10 again. I liked being 10.

5) No one really wants to eat an entire pan of brownies by themselves–so brownies encourage fellowship. Here’s 52 ways to make new friends from

The Food Network: 50 Brownie Recipes

Black Bean (Vegan) Brownie by Happy Herbivore

And. A grain free Black Forrest Brownie by my friend Tamika at She Flew The Coop


6) A brownie can also make for good alone time. If you don’t want to make friends–or want to be sensible about calorie consumption here is a recipe for “brownie in a mug”
1/4 c flour

1/4 c sugar–plain white, not big chunky sugar

2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

3 TBSP water

2 TBSP oil–I suggest vegetable or coconut oil. (Olive tastes a little weird)

Pinch of salt. (Optional)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

Put dry ingredients in a cup and mix. Add wet ingredients. Mix. Put in microwave for 2ish min. Let cool a little–it will be molten lava hot. Add ice cream or whipped cream if desired and eat!!

7) Making brownies make you you in touch with your creative/artistic side. No one needs to make brownies–they are a want. A desire. Anything that isn’t just a fuel food, and even those, I recommend you slow down and take the time to–without trying to sound overly hokey or new-agey–be in touch with the food. It really does taste better. I’ve stopped making food when I’m not in a creative mindset when I start. Especially baking. It always comes out better and it’s not as stressful a process for me.

8) It makes your house smell good. Which makes you happier. (Is it cheating to go back to “happier”?)  Seriously–who ever walked into a house and said, “Yuck, your house smells like brownies”? Happy, yummy smelling homes are always lovely. Sometimes I put a pot on the stove with lots of water and I sprinkle cinnamon and cloves in the water and put it on to boil…


9) Brownies make you smarter–or at least after you read a few facts on Brownies, you can wow people at parties. Like the origin of brownies according to Sweet Tooth Design, The Brownie came from a chef at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel during the late 19th century. It all started when Bertha Palmer wanted to requested a special dessert for ladies attending the Chicago 1893 World Fair. What she wanted was a dessert that is smaller than a piece of cake, though still retaining cake-like characteristics and easily eaten from boxed lunches. Eventually the first brownie was made, specially topped with walnuts and an apricot glaze. It was an instant hit at that time and this same recipe still remained and served today at “The Palmer House Hilton” in Chicago. If you want to be a super nerd–go to your favorite search engine and look up brownie facts–it’s a black hole of chocolatey goodness.

10) Sugar is energy and energy is good! (Ok, so you’ll probably sugar crash…but hey, after eating a brownie or 6, you might be motivated to write that novel or clean out the garage or practice your OCD!)

11) Make yourself a brownie conversationalist! It brings out friendly debate: nuts or no nuts? Chewy or cakey? Corner or center piece?  Which mix is the best (Ghirardelli double chocolate is my fave, but Munchkin is chiming in and likes Duncan Hines)? Everyone has an opinion–go ahead, next time you’re with people, start a brownie conversation!

12) They make you smile. It’s impossible to say “brownie” without smiling…. Well you can. But the “eeee” sound at the end of the word lifts the corners of your mouth.  Go ahead–try it… especially in front of a mirror or your phone in selfie mode… Its fun!

13) They remind you to have options!  Some days you feel like double chocolate. Some days: nuts. Some days: chips. Some days: Classic standard.  Make your days or your hours, your dinners or your lunches, your clothing or your routine different–give yourself different options each day!


14) Fill your life like brownies fill a pan. It might have starts out a whole lot of different things, but it melds together into a magical yummy treat.

Ok. So some of these were a stretch and some of these just made you hungry. But too many people take certain holidays seriously… I just wanted to remind you that it doesn’t have to be.  Go out and celebrate all of the February holidays and Live ClareLesley!
Clare

If you have a comment scroll down past the tags below (or up, if you’re on the main page), or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com   We LOVE your feedback!!   Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for DAILY inspiration!



Advertisements

101 pieces of advice

We started out this blog, 99 posts ago (a whole year and a half ago), because we are told we give good advice and are always asked for it. Self-proclaimed, self-help junkies—we love and absorb ideas, knowledge and advice. We both love to expand the mind, quest for happy living, and search for analysis and reasoning in human behavior. Here are our 101 favorites from our blog, and from a few of our favorite bloggers (note that if you want to read more, just click the link at the end of each quote!):

  1. “OWN being in transition.”  Transitions
  2. “Help yourself out. Sort through all the issues in a simple and effective way: Make a list.”  Regain Control of your life- Make a list!
  3. “Things, life, kisses, don’t always happen the way you dream or plan.” First Kisses
  4. “Change needs to happen. Not all of it is drastic. Sometimes little change is good. It keeps you on your toes.” Patterns vs Change
  5. “You already know the answers.”  Breaking up was RIGHT to Do
  6. “It’s completely OK to know what you want but not want it now.” Don’t want it now
  7. “You really don’t need to keep things. Really.”  5 things I have learned from Moving
  8. It doesn’t matter where you lay your head, as long as you have a place to lay it.5 things I have learned from Moving
  9.  Be vulnerable. Take a breath. Ask for what you need. “ 5 things I have learned from Moving
  10. “… remember to breathe through the painful moments and just keep moving forward. If nothing else, you’ll figure it out as you go.” 5 things I have learned from Moving
  11. “Like any good relationship, a good friendship brings out the best in ourselves.  If you’re not seeing your best, you’re not in the right relationship anymore.” Growing out of Friends
  12. “Its time we make connecting in real life a trend again!”  Eye to Eye
  13. “Cut out the excess chatter and find that peace within.” Text-a-Bitch
  14. “It’s tough out there but don’t try giving advice that 1) wasn’t asked for 2) puts your friend in a place that makes her second guess herself 3) that isn’t leading to a positive feeling towards oneself.” No more projections please
  15. “‘No’ is a full sentence.” The Olsen Twins said that.  Basically…life’s too short to do anything you don’t want to do, or anything that makes you uncomfortable. You always have a choice.–Honestly Libby’s Blog
  16. “A flirt is really just a compliment of you being alive and in this spot at this moment.” Flirting: A How To Guide 16332829367_ddb088af60_k
  17. As cliché as it sounds, love will happen when you least expect it… The most important thing to do is make sure you are living a full life. Fill your days and nights with the things you love, your passions, your family, your friends. Don’t wait for love to happen.–This That and The Other Thang’s Blog
  18. “…. do it with bells on—figuratively that is.” Duty Dating
  19. “Statistics are like a bikini – what they show is interesting but the important stuff is covered up! In a world where we rely heavily on data, it’s people who are at the heart of what really matters and numbers can paint a very different picture, whether good or bad.”– Aloada Bobbins’s Blog
  20. “We all have our lists of wants and needs in a mate. If you don’t experience it in the flesh how do you know its something that is a deal maker or breaker.” Duty Dating
  21. Treat dating as a hobby. If you’re too busy with life, or not having fun, stop. Don’t stop your life, just do it in your spare time. First, dating should never be your number one priority.”  Duty Dating
  22. “Whatever happens, we are responsible for our own happiness and success.”– Lessons From My Daughter’s Blog
  23. “Truth sometimes hurts, but lies are ultimately more painful. Let’s stop lying to each other and make this a more truthful world.” Lying: is it really worth it?1438336432_0904c3f0be_o
  24. “..not every date will be someone you want to date again. It’s nice to set boundaries until the date becomes the partner.” Whats in a Name? 
  25. “Maybe you want to be distracted by a 6 out of 7, but 7’s and 7 Plusses do exist, and are out there for the finding.” Move On From a “No”
  26. “If you want it and are willing to work for it, you can make it happen!  “It” can be anything.”–Lessons From My Daughter’s Blog
  27. “The thing about callings is that once you’re called you have to answer!” Leap of Faith
  28. “Chances of winning the lottery are increased significantly by actually buying a ticket.”–Suzie Speaks’ Blog
  29. “If you want to buy fancy undies, or fancy wine, or have a fancy shave: do.” Am I an Amy
  30. “It’s wonderful if they call, it’s great if they take you out, but if you’re not being introduced to friends or other people in their lives after a month or so, there is a reason.” Professing
  31. “…forgiveness isn’t letting down the protection walls. Its more of the mental version of just releasing unneeded tension and relaxing your shoulders.”  How to Apologize to Yourself
  32. “Only tell others things that you wouldn’t mind the rest of the world knowing unless they have consistently proven that they are trustworthy.”–Suzie Speaks’ Blog
  33. “…acting like a queen means watching and kicking lots of jester’s to the curb but one day your king—do not settle for a prince!—will show up.” RESPECT
  34. “You can change anything in your present.  You can take steps to cure your own unhappiness.” Stick Your Neck Out
  35. “Sex one time or multiple times does not a mate make. If you’re having sex to land a mate…” The Best Sex
  36. “My advice for you is dream big.  Work that dream backwards until you have something “small” to work with.” Climbing the Career LadderSONY DSC
  37. “…moving and doing creates options.”  Round Peg Square Hole
  38. “…the excuse “he/she is not my type” is out the window. If you’re single and alone, its obvious your type hasn’t exactly gotten you a home run. So, try on a different pair of ‘jeans’.” Because He ASKED
  39. “If something makes you want to scream, it’s the absolute wrong answer. Step back. Put the item down.”  Holiday Sanity
  40. “Desire: the sexy Live ClareLesley way to prepare you for a positive path for your future! It’s the Fuck Yes way to set your “goals”. If you don’t desire the outcome, it’s a Fuck No!” Desire
  41. “Happiness is ALWAYS just a perspective.” Happiness
  42. “Sudden change of who you are shouldn’t happen just because the calendar changed, but instead because you want to become a better, upgraded version of your current self.”  New Year, Same You: Upgraded
  43. “Once you start sneaking in the time to create, you’ll start making time for yourself to create.” Competitive Progress
  44. “Get off that “woe is me” train! Grab you happy side up ticket and drink a glass of Self Love.” In Your Social Face
  45. Make your own damn plans.”  Valentines Survival
  46. “Shed those red flag preventing glasses and see your own wants, desires, happiness.”  Red Flags
  47. “Don’t make yourself smaller for a mistake.” Stop Saying I’m Sorry
  48. “ANYONE that you kiss, sleep with does NOT a Relationship make.” Sex with Friends
  49. “Remember, the right one isn’t “out there” but instead is inside of you.”  How to be Single
  50. “You’re exactly where you need to be right now. Isn’t that Amazing?” Climbing the Career Ladder
  51. “We decide when we want something to be done, and we arbitrarily pick dates and times and abilities that we think we should be able to do.” New Year: Same You. Upgraded
  52. “Remember, breathing is the opposite of nerves—if there is plenty of good warm breath in your stomach, there aren’t room for butterflies!”  Nerves: Squish Those Butterflies
  53. “You rest, you rust! Seriously. When I think about rust I remember this old wheelbarrow out in the back yard where I grew up. Do you really want to become and old wheelbarrow?”  Love the Skin You’re In
  54. “…dating should be fun. It should be treated as a hobby. No one freaks out about or overthinks yarn, book club, or collecting stamps.” Dating:  Straightforward From the Beginning
  55. “Texting does not a relationship make.” No Waiting Dating
  56. “Get your face out of your phone. Actually talk to people, see what happens.” Crying wolf on social media
  57. “Sometimes we set goals and then we grow out of them. Luckily we write goals on paper, not in stone.” How To Stop Avoiding Your Goals
  58. “How do you fight the distortion?  Fight it with truth. Get down to the nitty gritty. Get naked.  Find a full length mirror you trust, and take it all off.” Love Your Skin Now
  59. “It’s nice that someone is contacting you. Wallpaper is nice my friends; your relationship should not be just nice.”  Texting is not a relationship
  60. “If you don’t eventually demand your worth, people will think you’re worthless, or worse, take advantage of you.” What Is Your Worth?
  61. “Sometimes the dream we have had in our head since childhood isn’t the one we really want to achieve.” 5 questions to help you focus your dreams
  62. “You are a beautiful snowflake, and you travel however you want to.” Age–Does It Really Matter? 11445631923_df52846c49_o
  63. “Be ok with changing your timeline.” Are you in a trough of sorrow?
  64. “It is great to be altruistic, but you have to take care of yourself if you are going to be any good to anyone else.” Rest IS good for you
  65. “Just like a stockbroker doesn’t put all his money in one companies stock. Don’t out all your stock in dating online. Keep yourself available to meet people multiple ways.” 5 ways to change up your dating game
  66. “I will survive my crisis. You will survive yours.” How to survive your own personal hell
  67. “Your life shouldn’t be supporting your business; your business should be supporting your life.” 5 steps for getting out of your own way
  68. “Even if you walked the same path, at the same speed as another person, you would have a completely different experience. If you open up your eyes and have no expectations, you’ll have enjoyed the journey much more; you see more, experience more, gain more.” Age–Does It Really Matter?
  69. “Slowly progress into the schedule you need to hit the goals you have.” Love the Skin You’re In
  70. “What do you really want? Re-tailor your life to that dream!” 5 questions to help you focus your dreams
  71. “Go, picture the life you want to live, ignore the negative voices, try something new and have fun while doing it.” I Said Yes
  72. “Understand you are not on a timeline/time crunch/expiration.” 8 tips to survive your friends wedding announcements
  73. “Be careful what you say: your brain is listening.” Be careful the things you say: Your brain is listening
  74. “Love the person, leave the label off, and let your expectations and demands on a relationship fall away.” Labels are for Soup, Not People
  75. “You will not die from rejection.  The odds are better than any other form of gambling.” Just Ask Already
  76. “Build your business around your lifestyle not the lifestyle around your business.” 5 Steps to get out of your own way
  77. “You are never “too” anything… so stop thinking that way!!” Why the word “Too” is just an excuse
  78. “That is the first thing you have to understand and realize is that all “single” means is that you’re not in a pair.  It doesn’t mean that you’ll always be–unless you choose it.” How To Be Single
  79. Wouldn’t you rather be your own original story? Knockoffs and remakes are rarely as exciting as the original.” How to deal with a barrage of green grass 2680294816_e710a43d3b_b
  80. “Partners take time. Just like friendships take time. They deserve to take time. Like a fine wine, tea or beer…fermentation is a good thing.” Sex with Friends
  81. “Focus on yourself. In this time that you’re waiting, think about things to do for yourself, or that you need to accomplish.” 6 Ways to Stop Your Waiting Anxiety
  82. “Stay Hydrated. Drink in lots of self love, big picture thinking and how this storm will prepare you for the future.”  5 tips to beat the heat of life
  83. “Don’t value the actual money more than you value time.” What is your WORTH
  84. “Don’t create realities that aren’t really happening.” Make like a Blondie Song and Call Me
  85. “Breathing may be difficult, but you’re the only one who can control that. So it is up to you to keep breathing and keep moving on.”  How to Survive Your Own Personal Hell
  86. “You are in control of your life and your thoughts. Remember you have choices.”  5 tips to beat the heat of life
  87. “Maybe you’ll succeed. Maybe you’ll fail. No matter what you’ll try something new and you’ll learn something.” How writing a novel made me a better person
  88. “The thing is, you’re never alone in your crap.”  What to do when Shit Happens
  89. “Forget about “you only live once.” You only die once, and its getting closer every day.”  How to Face your Big Fears
  90. “Change it up! If freestyle isn’t working there are other strokes out there. The important thing is to take action. You’ll feel more in control of your situation.” Just Keep Swimming
  91. “Remember the beginning is always slow, but you have to just slog through it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll get there eventually.”  How writing a novel made me a better person
  92. “Take a look around you. Say a general thank you to the positives in your life.”  The Power of Thank You
  93. “Let’s stop being virtual recluses!  Go forth and have conversation.” Make Like a Blondie Song and Call Me
  94. “Being yourself, having fun and making eye contact are all things that attract someone to you and your personality.” Could your next date be at the grocery store?
  95. “Sitting around complaining about it and doing nothing to change it seems pretty silly don’t you think?  Unless you do something to change your situation, nothing will change.”  How to Let It Go2512983749_ee38b41e0d_b
  96. “By creating a new schedule for yourself the bad stuff won’t seem so bad because you are living the lifestyle you desire.”  5 Steps to Getting Out of Your Own Way
  97. Make mistakes. Make choices. Take chances.How to Listen to Life Lessons
  98. “I understood that I would be even more unhappy and unfulfilled in my life, which would actually be worse than the possibility of failure and the humiliation.”  How to Face Your Big Fears
  99. Being kind only takes a moment of time, but it will earn you moments, hours, and years.–Clare
  100. The true definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You can be the luckiest person in the world if you want to be.–LL
  101. Go out and be great.  Or at least enjoy the ride!–LCL

Thank you!  Here is to hundreds more blogs, stories, and pieces of advice!

xoxo–Clare and LL

If you have a comment scroll down past the tags below (or up, if you’re on the main page), or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com   We LOVE your feedback!!   Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for DAILY inspiration!

Photo credits–all photos from Flikr Creative Commons: 100 (by Ash); lightbulb (by Beat Kung); Create (by Dana Bateman); Truth (by T); Snowflakes (by MayYeo); Dream Big (by Heidi); Ant Heart (by uditha wickramanayaka)

How to Let It Go

I am lucky to work with people on a daily basis. Actually an hourly basis. I hear their joys, wows, and the dreaded “I can’t…” I don’t mind a good mental download. Sometimes you just have to unload.  But, how many times have you had the dame complaint? How many times have you complained about that today or this week?  Even worse or even how many years have you had the same complaint?

I have caught myself playing the complaint game, many times. Woe-ing over what is happening with a certain person, place, or thing.  Acting as if it is all happening to me, personally. That I have no control over any of it.  But, then the Universe, or Clare, or my Husband knock some good loving sense into me.  They help me see the big picture, or the other side to the story.  With this new adjusted view, I actually have to let go of said complaint and own my role in the situation.  When I step back I see that I have to then control my control-ables.

6273248505_43d0b56424_o

I know, I just made that seem easy-peasy.  Truth… it’s not so easy to let go over the issue that is bothering you.  For example, a friend of mine years ago and I both worked together. He would complain on the daily and sometimes find me a few times in one day to complain about his job.  First, it was too easy, then too boring.  Then his company wanted him to do things he was uncomfortable with or he didn’t feel was in his job description.  Next, he would complain the job was suffocating him.  For months I had to listen to his complaining.  Until, one day I didn’t.

I grabbed his shoulders in a loving way.  Looked him in the eye and said: “This isn’t the only job in the world. If it’s not lighting your fire then go, find a job that does. But for heavens sake, and my ears, do not let another negative thing about your job come out of your mouth. You do not have to do this job.”

FullSizeRender

He was shocked.  I was too.  It was the first time I took someone and was so direct; I could have lost our friendship all together.  Or worse, been head butted!Of course after this harsh reality check, I hugged him and told him I loved him no matter what. But, he is the only one who can make himself happy.  No job would.


You are the only one who can make you happy. 


A week later he had made a decision to leave the job.  It’s been 3 years since his decision and, I have to say, he looks happier with every year.  His last day he almost floated out to his car.  Did I miss working with my friend on the daily?  Yes.  But did I really miss the friend he was when he was working with me?  NOPE!  Our friendship is even better now.  He took ownership over his own life. He went on a path truer to him and his goals.

You can too!  I know you think it’s too late, too much money, or you’re too invested in the path you are on.  Go read Clare’s Blog on her feelings about the usage of the word “too.”  But seriously, we are living longer and longer these days.  Don’t you want to?  It’s been proven more times than Google has pages, that happier people live longer and healthier lives.  If you’re unhappy ask yourself why.  Then take changes to turn that frown upside down.

4331097922_7694d187e8_z

If you’re job is causing you stress, angst, displeasure:

  • What exactly is the stressor?
  • Can you pinpoint it?  Narrow it down to one or two or three things.
  • If its your commute then you don’t need to change your job.  Change the commute or how you spend time commuting.
  • If it’s your co-deskmate ask you boss to switch your desk, or invest in the top of the line headphones and rock on (or not but let people think you are).
  • Boss…what about your boss? Is it how they talk to you? How they treat you? Or just that you have a boss?  If it’s how they talk to you go to HR. Or have a meeting with them, and politely express how they are making you feel. Bosses can often change too. If you just don’t like working for a boss then take the steps to work for yourself!

If the stress is coming from a relationship with a friend, family member, or significant other, figure out:

  • Is it how they treat you?  Just be straight up.  Tell them: When you say or do this _______ it makes me feel like this______.  If they don’t get it, understand what you’re saying, or refuse to change, then you can remove yourself from the situation for a time period.
  • Is it how they treat themselves.  Tell them!  Seriously, people put themselves down all the time and it can be so hard to stand next to that. What kind of friend are we if we don’t help them see how awesome they are!

Maybe it’s your home, apartment or car:

  • What exactly is it about your abode that you don’t like?  If you really sit down and think about it, maybe a new rug or lamp will fix the inside.  Or a quick search online you might find your perfect haven.  If the problem is larger, work out what you might need to do to fix your frustration with your living situation.   Sitting around complaining about it and doing nothing to change it seems pretty silly don’t you think?  Unless you do something to change your situation, nothing will change.

If something is bothering you, or you hear yourself on repeat, figure out exactly what is the bother. Narrow it down. Then, ask yourself if it’s something you can fix or if you need to make a get away plan.  You are (or should be) the conductor of your train. Take back the control. Stop relinquishing it by blaming another person, place or thing. Go and do!

4156079184_b51d873f89_b

I am currently taking steps to rid a complaint from my life. The moment I made my game plan the moment a felt a huge weight off my shoulders and have found excess time in my busy schedule. I want that for each of you. Please feel free to share your experiences with Clare and me, either in the comments, or email us.  We’d love to help you rid that woe.

Xx~LL

If you have a comment scroll down past the tags below (or up, if you’re on the main page), or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com   We LOVE your feedback!!   Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for DAILY inspiration!

Photo Credits: Alan Cleaver (stress eraser), Bernard Goldbach (eggs), !unite (strongman).

BIG NEWS!

Half of Live ClareLesley was married last weekend!!

CONGRATULATIONS LL!!! 

IMG_5778

I’m sure you’ll see many more of the photos from the wedding in the weeks to come!  It’s rare that LL and I are on the same coast, let alone the same room, so we documented it.  My trip last weekend was amazing.  It was fun to meet some of our west coast readers! (And don’t worry, our LL will still have zany stories and advice to tell from the other side of the wedding march!)

–Clare

If you want to show us some love scroll down past the tags below (or up, if you’re on the main page), or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com We LOVE your feedback!! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for DAILY inspiration!

Valentine’s Survival

I wrote this January 10th and while starting thought: I’m writing, ugh, a Valentine’s Blog. (We’re trying to get ahead so we can spend more time editing the book…yes, its coming. Get excited. Stay tuned!) Just to think about Valentines so far in advance makes me take deep breaths, and requires me to relax my shoulders.

I’ve been single every Valentine’s Day of my adult life. The rational part of my brain says, “its just another day.” The anti-greeting-card-gal thinks, “there are 364 perfectly other good days of the year to say ‘I love you’ so why are you all doing it today?” The 10-year old inside urges me to buy the kiddie valentines and give them to my friends when I see them. I’ve spent a few sad Valentine’s Days feeling sorry for myself for being single, but I refuse to do that anymore. Instead, I choose to give and observe, love and caring instead. I know it sounds cheesy, and I’m still fantastically single, so I totally understand if this statement makes you cringe. Nevertheless, here is my recipe for a sorrow-free or at least a sorrow-less greeting-card-holiday.

1) Screw the red and pink hearts/flowers/balloons! Unless you like it all… then share it, respectfully! Reach out to those closest to you: Mom, dad, best friend, lover, child, roommate, pet, music teacher, bus driver, barista, writing partner. Tell them in some way you appreciate them. Feel free to make a monetary gesture if you feel it necessary, but love is best exchanged in heartfelt words.

2) Make your own damn plans. If you have a significant other or not, if you have friends, children, pets—if this is your holiday, go make your own plans. How do you want to spend the evening? With strangers at a bar? With friends around your own home cooked meal? Serving a meal to the homeless? With family members cuddled on the couch to watch a silly movie? Drinking a bottle of wine while on the phone with your mom who has a similar bottle of wine at her house? Don’t wait around to be picked—no one EVER liked being the last one picked in kickball at recess… screw that feeling. Do what will make you feel the happiest on this day. Plan it early, plan it late. Answer this question now without thinking: What will make you the happiest? Do that.

3) Don’t put so much damn pressure on your plans. I cannot begin to tell you how many Friend-en-tines parties I’ve thrown or attended, or even just made dinner plans, and put so much pressure on them that they were doomed from the beginning. This holiday should be about appreciation of relationships you share. Its been 6 weeks since our last major holiday to get together… relax and remember that you enjoy the people in your life. Spend the evening with people that make you laugh, food that makes you happy, and go places you won’t feel lonely.  Keep the day free of expectations!

4) Be prepared. If you throw a party, there might be a crier. There will probably be a few engagement announcements the following day. You might or might not get laid. Someone might give you a heartfelt something, making you realize that if they were picking kickball teams, you wouldn’t be last.  If any or all of these happen, take deep breaths and roll with it. February 15 is a day away. All will go back to normal tomorrow.

Valentine’s Day isn’t my holiday. Some years I get into it, and others I don’t. I’ve found that the best, and most memorable (or least memorable, depending on your perspective) Valentine’s were low key and spent with people who love me. I am so incredibly grateful to have so many incredible friends, most who would drop everything when I’m in need, to text me and tell me they’re available in 5 minutes. Just kidding—most would drop everything and run to me in a heartbeat.  (I love you all so much, and am infinitely thankful we’ve found each other.)

In every tribe there is a gatherer, a shaman, a group leader, a healer, the mama. I’m that person, in most circumstances. The hard part of that is not the being needed, instead it’s the asking for help and love when I need it. When I’m truly hurting, it hurts even more to ask for love. I’m telling you this because I understand the depths of despair and loneliness that holidays bring. I also understand that once I get over myself, and just ask for care that I want or need, it is given. Immediately. Wholeheartedly. Without hesitation. Don’t be afraid to ask for love.  Especially on Valentine’s Day.

I found my soul mate at the end of last year. Its kind of ridiculous, because its nothing like I would have assumed or expected. Its not storybook, or text book, and there isn’t going to be a traditional happy ending with us riding off into the sunset to a picket fence and kids and dogs… which I’m actually joyful about. It’s actually less pressure to know that someone who makes me immeasurably happy, and a better person just by standing near me, isn’t someone I have to be romantic with, but that I can just love and appreciate for everything he is. I’ve always known love comes in different forms, shapes, colors, and speeds. I appreciate and try my best to adequately reciprocate any love that comes toward me. That is the ultimate challenge, and goal: to simply love and be loved in return. Love might not be in your life in the picture perfect vision you seek, but I’ll bet you that you receive more love than you realize. I believe that love, like matter, cannot be created or destroyed, but it instead changes forms. I believe that all the love you want or need comes at you at any given time, it just might not all be from one direction, or from the direction you would prefer. But like my handsome soul mate is for me, love will be there for you, when wanted and needed.

So, my dear ones, as the cardboard hearts, flowers, and balloons flood your visions this Friday (and probably all weekend), remember that love begets love. The more you open your heart and share, the more you’ll find in return. I KNOW it sounds new agey, and dumb… but its true. Spend the day with someone you appreciate, and will appreciate you. If you can’t find a human, find an animal; find a view; find a park. Breathe it all in and know you are loved. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.

LOTS OF LOVE from both LL and I!!  Go, Love ClareLesley!

–Clare

If you have a comment scroll down past the tags below, or email us at liveclarelesley@gmail.com We LOVE your feedback!!

Happiness

There are some days that being happy seems like the worst chore. It should be easy—laughter, happy moments, smiles; when not forced seem to just happen automatically when the moment is right. But, when it is forced, when you’re just trying to find a modicum of hope, its more frustrating than sorting quinoa by hand, kernel by kernel.

However, happiness is really just an adjusted perspective. No, really, it is. The way or the view you have of something today can be different tomorrow. You like your job and are happy in it one day, but through a chain of events, your perspective is changed and you’re not a fan tomorrow. Maybe it’s something simple like a co-worker that you thought was an ally is now a questionable foe. Maybe you failed to complete an assignment, and got a slap on the wrist for it. Maybe you realized that you’ve got a higher calling in life and this job feels like its holding you back. Or any number of other things and combinations of factors. The point is, today your perspective of something that made you happy, has now been altered. You’ve shifted. Now that a kernel of doubt is seeding in your head, it starts to grow—for better or for worse. Sometimes you think and analyze the thing that happened, and sometimes you let it go, and it quietly changes within you. It creates unrest—and in my experience, unrest is never a happy feeling. Nothing is “wrong,” per se, but its no longer “right.” You can feel a crossroads coming—but you’re not quite there yet. I think because we start to feel the brink of change, that we feel this unrest. To give you a visual, you’ve been walking along your path for a while, somewhat blindly, because it has just a slight incline—one that makes you think that you’re going in the right direction, because a road that leads uphill must lead to something that will better you. As you feel yourself starting to edge up and over the top, you see—still off in the distance—but a change or a crossroads where you have to change or adapt. Well, I guess you don’t have to… you could turn around and go back down the way you came. But, it is my belief that even if you choose the wrong road, you’ll eventually wind your way back around to where you’re meant to go. But I digress.

If you’re looking for more on change, I wrote about that earlier here. Back to happiness. Change has happened causing unease and possibly anxiety. Anxiety, not sadness, is the opposite of happiness. This seems to be true in my life. I would wager it’s the same in yours. The thing is, whereas happiness seems like the easiest fixes to make, it is one of the hardest things to continually achieve. Partially because its an emotion open to interpretation. Partially because human beings tend to like things like answers, closure, and reasons. Because of this, the question we ask most is: Why? (Second only to asking where the closest bathroom is. Too many years of customer service have led me to live that statistic.)

Happiness, although we would like to believe it is simple, really isn’t as easy to achieve. Its not like it prepackaged at the local drug store—although the big pharmaceutical companies would like to tell you that it is. (By the way, I would like to pause for a moment and say that if you find yourself unchangingly depressed—GO SEEK HELP. There is nothing to be ashamed of, especially during these cold, depressing wintry months. Please seek out someone to talk to you. There are programs for low income therapy, and life coaching out there—just an internet search away.)

Back to the point: Some days you might just find yourselves visiting the doldrums. You know the feeling of unhappiness. Sometimes you find yourself there—nothing is specifically wrong or caused unhappiness, but something is just… off. Whatever this momentary feeling is, it’s been a few hours or a few days and you know that you’re the only one who can solve your unhappiness. This is a general rule. You’re the only one who can truly make yourself happy or unhappy. Again, it’s a perspective. How other people affect this is your view point of their actions. Its not that he didn’t call, its how you feel about him not calling and letting it affect you. Its not about the asshat at work who threw you under the bus, its that you let the asshat get under your skin. Happiness is ALWAYS a perspective.

I wrote this part in a green notebook on the subway on my way to my survival job. The train keeps making long stops at every station causing anxiety, unrest, and yes, unhappiness: I’ll probably be late, even though I left enough time. Today it’s a bigger deal that I’m on time, but there really isn’t much I can do. My happiness doesn’t depend on the train performing as it should, but instead rests in my brain. As an adult and a high functioning human, I have already made all of the connections in my brain which are this: Oh no! this train will make me late; my boss is in today and will be paying attention to my arrival time and will think that I regularly coast in like this every day when normally I’m on time, if not early, and I might get reprimanded, or even fired; and then I’d have no money and no place to live and I can’t take that Cancun vacation I had planned and I’ll have to move back in with my mother who will ask me daily about any number of my life choices from underwear, to detergent, to men and will point out that I’m doing it all wrong!

Woooooooah, Tiger!! Its JUST a train. Just a few minutes. And my mother isn’t that bad—actually my mother just recently turned in her application for sainthood, but that sounds like I’m bragging, and anyway I digress. Again… Lets go step by step backwards. I won’t have to live with my mom. There are other people I can live with, plus my roommate is super understanding, and we can call the landlord if needed. But it won’t be needed, because I won’t lose my job over a few minutes.   And even if I did, I will just apply for unemployment and other jobs in the interim. But really, my boss isn’t that bad, and is less stressed about time than I am. Deep breath. And once again the train is moving. (I actually was only two minutes late that day, and my boss wasn’t even there, so the point was moot).

Again, was all of this train nonsense a reality? Nope, it was perspective. Once I stepped back and told myself that all was ok, and took a breath, I was fine. Actually, I was happy to have an extra few minutes to write out my thoughts in my notebook, so I could get this inspiration written.

In those moments of unhappiness, step back. Go from the craziest thought first and debunk it. Breathe. Take it one step at a time, and come back from that negative ledge. All will be right again.

You deserve to be happy. You also control your happiness. Yup. Go ahead, read that again. You DESERVE to be HAPPY and are IN CONTROL of your OWN HAPPINESS. Stop the madness. When you feel your brain spiraling out of control, take it step by step backwards through the muck. Rationalize all of those thoughts. Most won’t happen. And for the ones that have a good chance, make a plan or two or three to give yourself the strength to deal with it. I don’t know each of you individually, but I’m sure you have some sort of resources at your disposal. If you’re reading this you’re already on the internet… just internet search some ideas!

Now, for the things that make you continually unhappy, think about how you can change them. Stop the idea that you can change another person—that DOESN’T work. However you can express to the other person your needs or concerns. Recently, a good friend of mine approached her boyfriend because she needed more communication… she asked if he would text and call her at least once a day, and that she needed some sort of reply to the texts she sent him. She wasn’t trying to change him, she was just expressing a need. Just because you express the need doesn’t mean you’ll get it, however in just saying it out loud to another person, you might also find that you don’t actually have that need, or it isn’t as big of a need as it seems. I am learning to ask for help when needed.  To read about it, go here.

You’ll find the moment you start to take control of your own happiness, you’ll actually find happiness. What a freaking mind blowing concept!?! Make your own happiness. Again—you deserve to be happy. So, go out, Live ClareLesley, and make your own happiness.   You’ll find that you’ll actually attract more happiness and will double your own return!

Clare

Making the Bed and Other Daily Habits That Matter

I’m a Gemini, for better or for worse. I don’t religiously believe in astrology, but there are some irrefutable traits that I have that are totally and completely “Gemini:” I’m fun, out going, happy, creative. But I’m also fickle and I don’t always finish things—I can’t begin to tell you how many projects I have laying around waiting to be finished.

It is really frustrating to me that I don’t finish things. It’s even more frustrating that I seem to not be able to keep healthy habits going. I regularly berate myself for not doing some sort of physical fitness. However, I do have two daily habits: coffee every morning—and an hour of quiet time to myself, when possible; making my bed—every day, without fail. This sounds like something that is just a daily task, without a moral. But its not. I didn’t start making my bed daily until about 8 years ago when I was in my late 20s. I’d love to tell you that there was some lovely dramatic story to this, but there really isn’t. As a kid, my parents encouraged a clean room, but it didn’t always happen, and wasn’t enforced. As a teenager, I just didn’t care if my bed was made or not. In college, I was convinced I could only sleep well if I configured my blankets and pillows in a certain way. This configuration was not to be disturbed, so I NEVER made my bed. After college, I moved into an apartment, got a grown up job while still pursuing my dream on the side. I dated, and had men over. I still didn’t make my bed. It just didn’t matter.

Then one day, it just did. I read something that said if you’re stressed out in your life, you need to organize your living space. To try to channel this, I think I did everything BUT make my bed. I cleaned out my closet, organizing my shoes and putting all items by type, season, and color. I went through my drawers, and organized and refolded everything. I cleaned and organized all surfaces, my desk, my nightstand, the top of my dresser. This overhaul took a few days, and I still didn’t think about making my bed—I think I pulled up the sheets to make a flat surface for organizing, but I didn’t actually make it. Now, in my terms, “making the bed” is straightening sheets and blankets and any flat to be straight and pulled to the edges, sometimes tucked. Pillows are fluffed a bit and sat straightened. Any extraneous blankets are folded neatly at the end of the bed. I have a queen bed. This activity generally takes me no more than five minutes. I rarely do it right when waking up, its usually after I’ve been awake for a bit.

The first week I started to make my bed daily, something interesting started to happen: I was happier. Not from making the bed, but instead from randomly entering my room and seeing that my sleeping space was just waiting for me. And the opposite is very true as well: if I don’t make my bed and I walk back into my room, I’m grumpy and frustrated until I make my bed. Its so bizarre. I’ve also figured out that if I leave things on my bed, taking up its space, I am frustrated when I come back and see the mess on it. I’ve also learned that if I need to remember things, I write myself a note and leave it on my pillow—those things ALWAYS get done. And, if I need to take anything with me for the day, I put it on my bed, I never fail to remember those things.

I wish I had better daily habits. I wish I got up and did yoga, Pilates, stretching, meditation, vocal warm-ups, eating healthily, writing, even brushing my hair, regularly without fail (yeah, sometimes I walk out of the house and haven’t brushed my hair… I’ll confess that. It happens. After having super short hair for over 10 years, I forget to deal with long hair some days. But I digress…) Instead, I have my coffee and bed making. Both make me happy. Both make my day go more smoothly, and thereby make me a better person.

The point I’m trying to make here is that daily habits you have should make you healthier in some way. The gym isn’t a healthy habit, if you find you can’t live without being there for at least three hours daily and aren’t getting paid for it. The coffee intake isn’t the healthiest choice, but the time I spend with those cups (and ultimately myself) is. Taking five minutes to make my bed isn’t a lot of time, but ensures happiness. Yes, I do other things for health and wellness, but nothing else is a daily priority. Truly, I’m ok with it. So, yes, I’m a Gemini. Yes, I’m a creative. Yes, I’m a coffee drinker. Yes, I’m a bed maker. I often bemuse that I don’t have better consistency, but I’m consistent for the things that matter to me; when I need to be consistent with something, I am. What makes you happy, and how can you make it into a habit? Do you have good daily habits? Are they as good for you as you think they are?

-Clare

Patterns Versus Change

Life is full of patterns. Your daily routine is just that: a routine. A pattern. You wake up, make breakfast, get dressed, go to work, eat lunch, go to the gym, go home, make dinner, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. There are things you add in from time to time. You go to the theater or the symphony, you go out for lunch, you have friends over for dinner. Aside from these variations, we live patterns and routine.

It’s the moment we glimpse ourselves outside of that, when we see that these patterns no longer serve us that we crave change. Most of the time without realizing it. We complain about patterns. However, we bitch about change.

I was in a job that I knew wasn’t right for me. It started out as a temp job, and turned into a permanent position. For the longest time I told myself that it was a dreamy job because there were so many things that a person should want in a job. I won’t go into them here. I also was in a relationship that I thought was good for me. And in my down time, I was performing in local theaters—not getting cast a lot, but I was performing some. However, I was unhappy.

Life decided it was time for change. I lost my job, my relationship ended, and I got incredibly sick during a show and almost had to quit because of stress. It took me at least eight months to recover, and I still find myself, years later, talking about the situation with disdain.  I am not a failure, but I failed at a moment in my life facilitating all kinds of change. Even though that moment of my life brings me painful and frustrating memories, it was the best thing to ever have happened to me. The man in my life was creating a lot of tension and was no longer good for me. The same with the job. Although it took me a little while to recover and regain my footing, I found myself on unemployment, going back to school to get a Masters Degree in Psychology, and making plans to move to New York City to pursue my dream to be an actress on Broadway.


I am not a failure, but I failed at a moment in my life facilitating all kinds of change.


Looking back at all the things that happened between then and now, reevaluating the change that occurred, I can see that it was many little differences, alterations, and thoughts that formed plans and feelings that made the change come about. I knew change was in the works, but didn’t want to admit it. I started making choices in my daily work that ended up effecting me in the long run. The same thing was probably happening in my relationship. I was living in a pattern that I thought was good for me, however I found a few things that made me take a deeper look at that job and myself. My opinions changed, or refocused, and every day, a little change was happening. My pattern was no longer an exact replica. It changed a tiny bit each day. Was this change inevitable, was it already in the works? Or did I finally open up my eyes and see what I really wanted, and once comparing it to what I had, I realized they weren’t the same thing? No matter what, no matter how I analyze it, I know it was a bit of both.

When I was a kid, I had one of those flip books. (This goes together, trust me. I didn’t just flip to another topic.) You know the kind. The ones that have a similar picture on each page, but if you held the spine in one hand and let your opposite hand’s thumb control the speed of page release—the quicker the better—it would look like it does in the movies. The characters on the pages come to live. Mine was a Cinderella book. She dances with the prince. Now, being an analytical child—for better or for worse—I would look at each and every picture after flipping through a few times to see if I could spot the differences. Upon close inspection they could be seen, but they were minimal. They had to be, otherwise when flipping through, fanning the pages to see them animated and “moving” you would notice a huge jump or a jerk. This being the change, the shift. Life is like that too. It’s not a picture. It doesn’t stand still. Every day there is a miniscule change. This change creates movement through your life.

Life changes a little bit every day. It moves toward something different. It must. You learn something every day, or if not you experience things that change you. You grow older, wiser. Unless you live in a vacuum or a cave, which neither is possible if you’re reading this blog, you are going to change. We often don’t notice change until a lot of it has taken place. Often as soon as we notice it, we notice how we don’t like what is going on around us and we see our patterns and we get frustrated. The frustration comes from both realizing we are stuck in a pattern, and that we no longer want to be stuck. Often times the patterns we have help us keep in our daily routine because it felt safe or easy. When the moment comes and change is happening, we cling to the pattern with such tenacity because we are afraid we are making the wrong choice, the scary choice, the painful choice even if the change is needed and/or inevitable. All change is good. It might not feel the best as you’re going through it, and its terrifying because you don’t know where you’ll end up on the other side, or if it will be as comfortable. But the point of change is to get you out of the comfortable. To make you better. To make you stronger. To make you live a greater life.


Life changes a little bit every day.


 

I needed my job and lifestyle change to happen. I couldn’t make the choice for myself, so I willed it to someone else. Even though I was hurt badly, probably because I didn’t and couldn’t make the choice myself, I rebounded. And you know what? I’m incredibly happy. Change needs to happen. Not all of it is drastic. Sometimes little change is good. It keeps you on your toes.

Change will happen. There is no stopping it. Well, ok, you could go move into that cave, or live in a remote location, but that is really not a likely option. Just let change happen. Take deep breaths. Think of change as a new roller coaster that you’ve never ridden before: it might be scary at first, but just put on your seat belt and enjoy the ride (this advice coming from a girl who used to hate roller coasters). At the end, you’ll be done with it and come out a different person for it. Just keep your eyes open, breathe, and know that there is some good in every outcome. You will be a different person, a better person, for having gone through the experience.

–Clare