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Claire Marie Carter Posts

Why Things That Absolutely Suck Are Actually The Best For You

We all know what’s good for us: running, getting up early, eating a salad instead of a burger, ect. That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

But what about when situations don’t go our way? Is that unpleasantness, in fact, good for us?

Anyone who has ever been dumped by someone they love knows the gut wrenching emptiness that comes with it. We cry and scream and swear the hollowness we feel in our chest will never be filled again. We drink too much or forget to eat anything for days.

But weeks pass and months go by. With perspective and distance, you start to realize it wasn’t such a perfect relationship after all. Maybe someone new and perfect for you comes into your life. You become incredibly thankful that you went through a horrible breakup because it freed you to meet someone better.

Or maybe you take a chance you never would have if you had still been in the relationship. You move, take a risk at work, or discover a new passion. You become happier and more fulfilled in a way you never had been.
The pain of a breakup can be a catalyst for someone or something greater in your life. It is absolutely horrible at the time, but you live and you learn right?

One of my biggest disappointments in the past year is now something I’m thankful for everyday. I’m involved with an organization and I wanted to be president for three years before I actually ran. When I lost, I was devastated. It had been my goal for so long that I felt adrift without it and I didn’t know what to do.

It was the best thing that never happened to me. I was beyond upset at the time, yes, but a year later I can see I wouldn’t have been happy in the role. The time commitment would have kept me from doing other activities that I love. Not getting what I wanted opened my life up to move to Spain for four months, spend a summer in New York, and master my yogi headstand. I figured out how to be content with who I am — without a title.

I suppose that validation was really what I was looking for all along. I just didn’t know that I could find it in myself.

Life doesn’t always give you exactly what you want. It does, however, give you consistent opportunities for growth. Sometimes situations suck, people are mean, and you might feel totally lost. Breathe. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It might just be way better than what you originally thought you wanted.

This post originally appeared on Thought Catalog.

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Summer in NYC: Week 1

I’m officially a New Yorker!  I moved to the city and have survived the first week.  The energy here is unlike anything else and I’m loving it so far.

Week 1 went well.  There was a lot of settling in and figuring things out: how to take the subway, where to buy groceries, and finding a gym and yoga studio.  I joined Modo Yoga and feel completely at home.

There’s an enormous sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something that makes you nervous and succeeding.  I took the train to NYC all by myself and was able to check in to my building and make it to work on time the next day.  #adulting

I had dinner with my cousin on Wednesday night at Jack’s Wife Freda.   My salmon over kale was quite tasty and the cheese plate appetizer was some gooey goodness.  It was wonderful to see her and spend time together.

Work is fascinating thus far and I like my coworkers a lot.  They’re awesome people!  We went up to one of their rooftops on Thursday and had this beautiful view of Midtown.
Midtown NYC Rooftop View

On Saturday, my roommate Jess and I checked out Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.  There were over 100 food vendors to choose from with everything you could imagine from vegan barbecue to Po’ boys. I’ll probably go back at least one more time this summer.  Eating by the East River and meandering around Williamsburg after lunch was the perfect way to kick off the weekend.Smorgasburg Brooklyn

We split the freshest pizza I’ve ever had.  It was baked right in front of us!

Smorgasburg Brooklyn Pizza

Enjoying lunch by the water.

Smorgasburg Brooklyn River View NYC

Can’t wait to see what Week 2 brings!

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Green City Market

My family and I were able to check out the Green City Market during my week home in Chicago.  It’s ah-mazing!  The farmer’s market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday all summer.

It was cool to chat up the vendors; they all have signs on their tents with information on their farms and how far they travelled to get there.  I snapped a few pics with my new camera.  Enjoy – and go to a farmer’s market when you have the chance!

Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's MarketMy dad made a strawberry rhubarb pie sweetened only with Stevia.  It tasted like summer!
Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Maple syrup by the Wisconsin Fermentation Company.  You can see the sign with their farm info on the right.

Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Families picnicking in the park!

Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's MarketHad to stop for a doughnut!  The Toasted Almond was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

The rear of the Doughnut Vault.  I just love the colors and retro effect.

Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Green garlic and rhubarb

Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

This guy fed the goats that morning!  The black pepper goat cheese made for an incredible arugula salad with walnuts and strawberries.  Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Compost stationGreen City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Butter lettuces
Green City Lincoln Park Farmer's Market

Anyone else enjoy farmer’s markets?  How do you find the best produce?

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The Ultimate Wellness Reading List for Summer 2016

I’m a believer in the transformative power of reading.  We can learn so much from books and the knowledge they contain.  Got a problem that can’t be solved?  Read about it.  Chances are someone else has gone through something similar and shared their experience in the written form.

My reading choices for this summer are centered around wellness and living life to the fullest. You might also notice a common theme of simplifying due to my growing interest in minimalism.

*Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links meaning I may receive a small percentage of any sales that occur.  I don’t have advertisements on this site to make the experience for the reader more enjoyable. Thank you for understanding!

Without further ado, here are the five books I’m reading this summer!

The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation

The Buddha Walks Into A Bar

I really enjoyed Lodro Rinzler’s writing in his joint book with Meggan Watterson How to Love Yourself (and Sometimes Other People).  You can read my review of it here.

The Buddha Walks Into A Bar caught my eye with it’s similarly entertaining title.  It offers spiritual advice for the modern man and woman.  Learning to apply mindfulness and still getting to enjoy a glass of wine?  Sounds like a good program to me.

Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Résumé

Wellth

Jason Wachob is the founder of MindBodyGreen, a health and wellness website where I was featured for my piece How Yoga Made Me Respect The Hell Out Of My Body.

In this memoir packed with advice, he gives a different perspective on what defines a successful life.  Rather than focusing only on the accumulation of material things and wealth, a new definition is offered to give purpose and direction to one’s life.  This is “Wellth”: living with joy, health, and a depth that can’t be bought.

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own

The More of Less

Joshua Becker is the man behind Becoming Minimalist.  He and his wife and four children take a minimalist approach to life.  They’re a normal family – minus the stuff!

Becker lays out the argument for why owning less can lead to more happiness and fulfillment.  He offers detailed outlines and practical advice on how to apply the principles of minimalism in your own life.  Basically, you get the why to and the how to all in one book.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Big Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love which is likely why Big Magic has already received a ton of press.  In this book, she delves into her own creative process to help teach others how to live a life filled with meaning and creativity.  Inspiration, power, and wonder can all be found inside these pages.

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste

Zero Waste Home

Bea Johnson writes about her family’s zero-waste lifestyle on her blog: Zero Waste Home.  They produce almost no trash at all, and the waste they do create for the year fits into a mason jar.  Bea’s book lays out how to apply the principles of zero-waste to your own life by applying the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle & Rot.  Plus, living this way can save a ton of money on household expenses.  Win, win.

If you found value in this post, please share and Pin it so that others can benefit from it too!  Thank you! 

The Ultimate Summer Reading List

What’s on your summer reading list?

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How Yoga Made Me Respect The Hell Out Of My Body

This originally appeared on mindbodygreen.  You can see it here.

Claire Marie Carter in Scorpion Forearm Stand

I can remember my 10-year-old self looking into a full-length mirror and thinking I was “bigger than the other girls.” I wasn’t. Yet an unhealthy relationship with my body persisted from that day on.

Years of volleyball, starting in grade school, made my thighs bulky and muscular. I stuck to dresses and never wore jeans or shorts for fear of looking heavy in my lower half. Black became my default wardrobe when I read in a teen magazine that the color was slimming. Every time I looked in the mirror, I found something that wasn’t good enough, something that I would change.

I wasn’t alone in this either. I heard it in the lamenting “Ugh, I look so fat” from the girl next to me at the sink in the high school bathroom. I’d watch my friends untag themselves from photos because they didn’t like how they looked. Dissatisfaction was the norm and still is today for many women.

The expectations placed on us and how we’re supposed to look are nearly impossible to achieve. It’s no wonder that I struggled for years to make peace with my body! Now when I think about the anxiety and hours I wasted obsessing, all I wish is that I could have that time back.

Yoga changed everything for me.

I’d always been flexible so I tried out a yoga class because I figured I’d be good at it. I was immediately hooked. The quiet space, cool people, and natural high I felt after a class kept me coming back for more.

Even in the yoga studio—the one place that’s supposed to be free of judgment—I often caught myself playing the comparison game. I would try in vain not to stare at the beautiful people in their standing splits. Jealousy would rear its ugly head, and I’d wonder why I didn’t have so-and-so’s body or why I couldn’t yet make a headstand look effortless.

Until one day in class the voices in my head quieted long enough for me to catch a glimpse of my own power.

I looked in the mirror and saw the strong, muscular legs that I had hated for so long. The epiphany hit me that those legs allowed me to hold poses that the twig limbs I once longed for couldn’t handle. I saw my shoulders and arms that were tight and toned from countless chaturangas. My skin glowed with health and newfound calmness as a huge grin broke across my face.

I left that yoga class walking on air. A shift was starting to take place in the way I looked at myself. Rather than criticizing my body based on what it looked like, I began appreciating everything I was capable of doing. I no longer cared as much about looking a certain way. Instead, I started to work toward accomplishing feats of strength and flexibility. Working toward advanced poses (and achieving them!) has made me grateful for a body that can move and bend and hold itself upside down.

It’s still a challenge at times to stay positive and not fall back into old habits of criticism. Maintaining a regular practice helps, as does pausing to take a deep breath and mentally list three things I’m grateful that my body can do.

Nowadays, when I notice myself looking in the mirror and thinking about what I’d change, I redirect my thoughts to be thankful for my health. Yoga gave me the perfect body by helping me to appreciate the one I already had. I don’t have washboard abs, and I’m OK with that. But this beautiful, capable body is the place my soul calls home, and I’m making every effort to respect that.

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How to Improve Your Language Skills From Your Couch

The ability to speak another language can open countless doors.  Not only does it make travel easier, but it can allow you to connect with other people in a way you couldn’t before.

Some of my favorite moments in Mexico and the Dominican Republic came about when I chatted up the locals.  People’s faces lit up when I responded en español.  My Spanish wasn’t great at the time, but I laughed and smiled a lot and was able to communicate in an authentic manner.

I think a lot of Americans don’t make the effort to attempt speaking the local language.  Instead,  they assume everyone speaks or should speak English.  I still cringe when I think of one overweight gentleman who continued to increase his volume when a waiter clearly didn’t understand him.  That’s not what I want my country or myself associated with.

It’s important to remember that you’re a guest in someone else’s home place!  Making an effort to respect that goes a long way.  By being friendly, I ended up getting local scoop that most tourists don’t and a free jet ski ride!

It never hurts to improve your proficiency in a language or keep yourself sharp between travels.  Here are some ways I’ve honed my skills, mostly from the comfort of my living room couch!  I’ve chosen to focus on Spanish, but these are applicable to any language you’re working on.

How to

1.  Duolingo

I’ve written about this incredible free app before, but it deserves another mention.  This is not sponsored, but Duolingo has added enormous value to my life so I want to share it with others.  Grammar and vocabulary tutorials are available for a ton of different languages.  The app even helps you practice your pronunciation!

2. Changing the Settings on Technology

I changed the language settings on everything I could think of to Spanish.  This includes my Mac, iPhone, Facebook, and Gmail account!  Sure, I’ve had to search a word or two online when on my laptop and Siri now gives me driving instructions in Spanish.  The extra few minutes has resulted in me learning a lot of new words!  It also keeps my brain engaged with a second language throughout the day.

3. Reading the News

I started keeping up with current events and reading the news in Spanish.  My favorite online news source is now El País.  I also recommend Buzzfeed as a place to practice reading pop culture.  The settings are pretty easy to change, and you’re probably already wasting time on the internet anyway.  At least if you’re doing it in another language you can feel better about your life choices!

4. Watching Television

I’m a huge fan of soap operas, mostly because of how dramatic they are.  Netflix has some great options for foreign films and series.  Turn on the subtitles, not in English, to make it easier to follow along with rapid native speakers.  This might be a bit difficult if you’re a beginner but is great for intermediate speakers.

5. Music

Pandora, Youtube, and Spotify all make it easy to access free music in any language you choose.  I’m partial to Pandora because I can add my favorite artists and the station will automatically introduce me to similar performers.  I’m currently listening to Marc Anthony, Jesse & Joy, and Shakira.

Couch and world map pillows how to improve your language skills

How have you improved your language skills?  I’m always looking for new tips!

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3 Reasons to Keep Writing (Even When You Feel Like No One is Reading)

It’s easy to get discouraged sometimes about writing.  Whether you’re blogging or attempting to get published, it can be a challenge to stay motivated – especially when you don’t feel like you have anything to show for your effort.

J.K. Rowling received not one, not two, but twelve rejection letters before she published the first Harry Potter.  And we all know how that turned out…

Here are 3 reasons why you should keep writing (even when you feel like no one is reading)

To gain new insights

The act of writing allows you to sort out your thoughts and see things in a new light.  When I write about something, it forces me to think about the issue or concept in more depth.  The exercise can result in new insight and understanding.

To improve

The only way to get better is to practice.  Even when it’s boring and putting words on the page feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle, you’re still learning a ton.  Consistency and showing up are key to improving your skill as a writer.  It’s one of the main reasons I started writing in the first place!

To establish a foundation

This somewhat builds off the previous point.  As your writing improves, it’s likely that more people will end up reading it.  You want to have an established backlog of essays and posts to keep your readers interested.  The foundation you work to build early on can also serve as inspiration for later work: a storyline or post idea might be sparked by something you previously wrote about!

3 reasons to keep writing

Keep on doing your thing and writing!  Readers will come with time, patience, and passionate work.

Why do you continue to write?  Any tips on staying motivated?

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9 Things I Learned When I Stopped Drinking in College

Ah college.  The beer flows freely and there’s never a time when it’s not appropriate to drink.  Tuesday night, why not?  Sunday evening, I mean, we’ve got a big week ahead of us so yeah….

After a few too many (time) wasted weekends and growing concern for my liver, I challenged myself to 30 days without alcohol.

*I would like to note that I am a relatively normal 21-year old college student.  I’m social, in a sorority, and have an incredible group of friends.  So yes, I know how to have a good time.

This was by no means an easy 30 days and there were definitely times I felt tempted to drink.  Nonetheless, I stuck with my self-imposed experiment and finished it out.  Here’s what happened.

1.  I had more money and didn’t have to stress about paying my credit card bill.  It was wonderful to reach the end of the month and have more than $1.50 in my bank account – you know you’ve been there too.  Even with college bar prices, it’s easy to drop $30 or more on a few drinks.  Combine that with pregame liquor store runs and it adds up to a serious drain on the finances.

2. I became happier.  We all know that alcohol is a depressant.  Not having it in my system resulted in fewer mood swings and being generally more pleasant to be around.  My roommates can attest to this!  I felt happier overall and was less cranky and irritable.

3.  I worked out more.  Not drinking resulted in a huge increase in free time.  Have you ever thought about how much of a time suck being hungover is?  Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to get motivated when exhausted.  I’ve hit the gym almost every day this month.  Before, I rarely made it once a week.

4.  I ate healthier.  Not drinking automatically reduced my junk food intake. Usually the only time I let myself have it is when I’ve gone out to the bars with friends.  My mom was right: nothing good happens after midnight.  Not eating late night pizza or Jimmy Johns has been great for my waist and my wallet (see #1).

5. My sleep was better.  Not staying out until the wee hours of the morning resulted in a more consistent sleep schedule.  Feeling well-rested meant I didn’t even mind waking up early!   The rest that I did get was of higher quality because I wasn’t tossing, turning, and trying to sleep off whatever I drank the night before.  Plus, I made it to all my 9am classes.

6. I was way more productive.  The extra time and energy I had meant I got a ton of stuff done.  I started working on assignments a week before they were due (gasp) instead of the night before.  My grades went up.  I even had time to read for pleasure, clean out my closet, and sell stuff on eBay: all things I always meant to do but never seemed to get around to.

7. I realized what I actually like.  I didn’t miss shots at all, but I longed for a glass of red wine.  A lot of times in college, we drink whatever is available and/or cheapest.  Taking a break from alcohol forced me to think about what I actually enjoy.  I no longer feel obligated to drink what’s in front of me, especially if I don’t like it.

8. I figured out who my real friends are.  It’s no secret that it’s brutal to be around drunk people when you’re not on their level.  I avoided it when I could by going to pregames but not bars or meeting people for coffee instead. I came to realize that some of the people I had previously spent a lot of time with on weekends were not who I wanted to spend time with sober.  Evaluating the relationships in my life helped me realize who’s important to me.  The time spent with them became that much more valuable.

9.  My confidence increased.  It takes a lot to stick to not drinking – even if it’s only for 30 days.  Andy Ramage puts it best: “Alcohol is the only drug in the world that, when you give it up, people berate you.”  I experienced this first hand.  People didn’t get what I was doing and often seemed threatened by the fact that I wasn’t drinking.  I would either a) smile and continue to refuse the offer of a drink or b) bring tea or something else in a tumbler so I didn’t have to explain.  It was a good exercise in doing what I wanted to do rather than what others expected me to do.

I’m proud of myself for making it the full 30 days.  It was definitely a good exercise in self-awareness!  While I’m not giving up alcohol forever, I’m happy with what I learned from the experience.  Not to mention how pleased I am to have wine back in my life…

Has anyone else tried to give up drinking for a period of time?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Baby Steps towards Minimalism

The simplicity of the minimalism movement appeals to me. It’s not just about having less stuff, though that is part of it. Rather, the real focus is on making space for what’s of true importance in life.

I’ll be living in NYC this summer before moving to Spain for four months. I can’t pack much for either trip presenting a perfect opportunity to identify what I need.

In preparation for my travels, I’ve begun reducing the number of my possessions. Inspired by Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve gone through every single item of clothing and asked myself if it brings me joy.

I “thanked” the pieces I no longer use or need for bringing joy into my life and serving their purpose. I then sold on eBay what I could and gave away the rest, filling my trunk twice in the process. (I drive a Mini Cooper so this is less impressive than it sounds.)

I haven’t given a second thought to anything I’ve gotten rid of.

I’ve thankfully never been in debt, but I am guilty of shopping too much. My habit of chronic returning helps balance this out. More often than not, I arrive home only to realize I don’t even like what I purchased. While returning allows me to get my money back, it still eats away at my time.

Enter Minimalism. It allows for the distancing of oneself from blind consumerism and consumption. By identifying what we actually need, we no longer make impulsive purchases. When I went through my closet, I felt ashamed by how many items I found with the tags still on! They served only to make me feel guilty every time I saw them.

To further streamline what I wear, I’m planning to experiment with a capsule wardrobe this summer. Post coming soon, I’m still deciding on the exact breakdown!

After going through everything, my space is much less cluttered. I can find the things I need with ease and I’ve been sleeping better. Maybe dealing with the chaos of physical stuff has helped me to declutter mentally as well.

Joshua Fields Milburn of The Minimalists put it best in Everything that Remains, a thought provoking book which I recommend to anyone looking to add value to their life. I finished it in less than 24 hours!

For the first time in a long time, things are clear – clearer than they’ve ever been. I’d been running in one direction as fast as I could, chasing this abstract thing called happiness, but I’d been running the wrong way. I was sprinting east looking for a sunset, when all I really had to do was turn around and walk – not run, just walk – in the other direction.

I don’t consider myself a minimalist, but it’s something I’d like to work towards. Call me a minimalist grasshopper? I’m not ready to take off the metaphorical training wheels, but I am beginning to apply the principles to my life.

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Why write?

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that my earliest intentions to blog were not the best.  Rather than create for its own sake, I had a simple desire to emulate .

I wanted what others had: picture perfect lifestyles.  The bloggers I looked up to supported themselves from whatever beach they’d chosen to visit for the month.  Their bodies were flawless, their wardrobes enviable, and they had thousands of followers.

My eagerness to follow in the footsteps of these blogging deities led me to a rather naive conclusion.  It looked something like this: make a website, write about shoes, take pretty pictures.  Voila!  My life too would be perfect.

Except that’s not how it works.

It takes passion and a whole lot of grinding to give the appearance of effortlessness.  Hours of effort go into creating flawless.  Seeing the finished product and wanting it is easy – we didn’t have to do anything.

“I started with nothing and I didn’t make a dime for 2 years.” – Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential

Success comes from believing in our ideas.  It comes from being willing to out-toil the competitors because the belief in our work is beyond any doubt.  We must be willing to take our own path, not copy someone else’s.  Real achievement comes from a place of motivation more powerful than any incentive money can offer.

So I ask myself:  why do I want to blog?  Why write at all?

I’ve always had the aspiration to be an author.  It niggles in the back of my head like an itch that surfaces in sporadic bursts.  To make someday a reality, I need to improve my writing today.

Don’t wait for permission. Get started, write all the time — it’s the only way to get better, and it’s the best possible way to sounds more like yourself and develop your personal style over time. – Colin Wright

I want to have a record of travel and adventures.  The little details that are the best part of a trip are too often forgotten.  A well-written post with gorgeous photographs would provide a portal back to the experience.  It could also contribute towards others’ journeys.  By all means, please learn from my mishaps and varying degrees of packing success.

I’d like to share and explore ideas to reach a better understanding of them.  I’m looking to question and scrutinize and learn.  Blogging and posting provide a forum to achieve this aim.

On such an odyssey of inquiry, I look to connect with like-minded individuals. I can be a part of something larger than myself and pick up some knowledge along the way.  We all crave connection.  Maybe it’s possible to find it through writing.

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