Dear Lee, This summer, I’m being included in my (not yet) in-laws’ family holidays for the first time. We’re traveling together for a couple of days and staying at a family home with other relatives. I’m nervous, and I want to avoid as many awkward […]
I was surprised to discover in one of your previous columns that one could do so much to take care of peonies! I look forward to applying your advice. I have recently grown very fond of tulips. I’d be grateful if you could share some tips on how to treat these flowers.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write in! Tulips, like peonies, are another favorite flower of mine, and like peonies, there are many ways you can care for them to get the most time with them. I’m answering this question a bit late as I wanted to grab some tulips, and write down my tips as I cared for my very own. It’s been a week, and they’re still going strong. I hope this helps!
My thirtieth birthday was this past month (yes, you owe me a present), and here on June 30th, I thought I would share with you, dear readers, thirty things I know for sure. I’m the oldest member of The Attic on Eighth, and I like to think of myself as the oldest sister of this group, so let me, your super cool older sister (Are kids these days still saying cool? Let me know.) share some things I know for sure, little bits of advice I use to live a happy life.
FYI: These are in no particular order; I wrote them down as I thought of them. I could have gone back to organize them but honestly, who has the time?
No. 30 — Not a damn one of us is drinking enough water. I know this is boring advice you’ve heard over and over again but I’m going to say it again: Drink more water. Seriously. Do it.
No. 29 — Your health is all you have. I mean, I also have a nice shoe collection, but you get what I’m saying. At the end of the day, it is truly all you have. Be good to it. Over the years, I’ve had various health issues from minor to less minor, and I so wish I took better care of my health starting out years and years and years ago. If you are lucky (I cannot believe I’m saying lucky when referring to health care…) to have health care please remember to take advantage of it.
Here’s a short list, it is not comprehensive but a good place to start:
Gynecologist — Every year or every three (depending on your situation)
Physical — Yearly.
Eye Exam — Every year or two.
Dentist — Every six months for cleanings.
Dermatologist — Yearly.
No. 28 — Somewhat related to No. 29. If you sense something is off with your health, please have it checked as soon as possible. I consider myself a pretty private person but let me open up a bit here and tell you why this is important. Despite my age, I had quite a hard time getting pregnant. I felt from the very beginning, before even trying to have kids, that it just wasn’t going to work out for me. Doctors suggest trying on your own for a year before you seek fertility help, and I fully understand that but to me, that’s a year wasted. In the end, I did receive fertility treatments (happy to talk more about this in another article, if you’d like) and the treatments worked (we have a very happy baby!) but again, it felt like a year wasted to me. And in classic Lee Clark fashion, I was right; please let the record show that I was right. I know of other people who have had health issues, that they have ignored, or set aside, and had to deal with harder consequences. So, please, if you feel like something is off, it might be. Get. It. Checked.
No. 27 — Be careful with yourself. I say this all of the time to my son. He will get into things or accidentally hit himself in the face with a toy, etc. and every time the first thing I say is, “Be careful with yourself.” I suggest you apply this to yourself. I treat myself well but not as well as I would if I were caring for my son, or if I was caring for myself as a small child. Think of your little self and take care of her because you are one in the same. This applies to small (crossing the road and looking both ways, so basic) and big, like No. 29, and making sure that little kid gets to all of their appointments.
No. 26 — It’s okay to say no. I don’t like obligations. Sometimes there are things that you absolutely cannot get out of but if you don’t want to go to something, or don’t want to go out with friends and you want to stay in, guess what? You get to say no. Life is too short to do things you don’t want to do, for the most part. Pick and choose your battles but really if you don’t want to do it, then don’t.
No. 25 — Be yourself. As Judy Garland said, “Be yourself, everybody else is taken.” So, so true, Judy (and fellow Gemini). Someone else is always going to have something better than you, and you should not waste time trying to either compete or replicate. I’m a massive Elizabeth Taylor fan, and I always wanted to look like her. That’s an impossible task, she was the World’s most beautiful woman, but I spent a weird amount of time trying to look like her. Now I’m just the best version of myself, not a sad wannabe Elizabeth Taylor fan. It’s better this way. Trust me.
No. 24 — Tell people what you need, and ask for help. I have a terrible habit wanting people to automatically know what I want and need. This is helpful to no one. I’m not getting the help I need and then I’m annoyed that the other person didn’t know how to help. People aren’t mind readers, of course. I have a policy now that if I need something, I ask. It’s solved so much.
No. 23 — It is easier to be kind. It’s a Pinterest quote (because it’s on my inspirational quote Pinterest board) but always be kinder than you feel. Sometimes when I feel like I want to be mean, I take a step back and choose not to be. I’ve worked retail and had people yell and be mean to me and it wrecked my entire day. Don’t assume that you won’t affect people greatly. I go out of my way now to compliment people for good work/attitude/service, and if it’s bad then I keep my thoughts to myself and assume something was off and that I didn’t need to add to it. Do a kindness and do the same.
No. 22 — You can be whoever you want to be. Dita von Teese started out as Heather Sweet. Google it. You can be whoever you want to be, you can do things that interest you, live how you want to live, look how you want to look. Just don’t be someone else, see No. 25.
No. 21 — You are deserving of love. I often thought that I didn’t deserve my husband because he was too good for me, which is absurd. Now I feel like he’s not good enough for me (that’s a joke, he’s my favorite person ever). But please value yourself enough to know that you deserve love.
No. 20 — You deserve to be happy. Related to No. 21. Just how you deserve to be loved, no matter what, you also deserve to be happy. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
No. 19 — Have a go-to activity that makes you happy. If I’m in a bad mood, I find that it can dramatically improve if I take a long walk. Or a manicure. Or both. Just find a way to stop being such a moody asshole sometimes but maybe that’s just my problem.
No. 18 — Life is too short to not have dessert (or cheese fries). If you want dessert, or cheese fries, or both (see No. 14) then get it. If you’re concerned about weight, then take a long walk or make an adjustment at a later time but there’s a balance to be had. Generally though, I partake of dessert because cake equals happiness. That’s just a fact.
No. 17 — Do not let anyone treat you poorly. Across the board. This goes for friends AND FAMILY. I could write a book, and should, about my family situation. It’s complicated (by Nancy Meyers) yet here I am, living a happy life despite all of that. I made a choice in life that I was going to be happy, and anyone who wasn’t adding to my happiness or who were not being lovely to me, had no space in my life. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve never been happier.
No. 16 — Your home should make you feel safe, comfortable, and happy. Fill your space, whether it’s a dorm, an attic space (that sounds dreamy, can I come over?), your room, a mansion, or other MASH possibilities, with things you love and that make you happy. My house if full of old family photos, assortments of matchbooks swiped (legally) from restaurants and businesses, and some fondue forks I actually did steal from a restaurant, and all of these items make me happy. I do not suggest stealing but I really love those fondue forks…Anyway, make your house yours, and fill it with happy (thoughts!) and things.
No. 15 — Be open enough to course-correct. If you’ve read my bio on here then you’re aware that I’ve lived in a lot of different places. This is due to various universities, degrees, and jobs between me and my husband, and also the fact that we’ve been open to saying yes to good opportunities that come our way. Or, in hard moments, when we aren’t fully thrilled with the path we are on, we explore all possibilities. This had lead to our current happiness. Our move from the Midwest to Texas, then to New York City, then to California, and now to the D.C. area. Open your life up enough to make big decisions like schlepping your life across the country, or even to another country. Whatever it is, don’t get stuck with something you’re not thrilled with. You have this one life, please love it.
No. 14 — When in doubt, get both. This is a popular phrase amongst us editors at The Attic. We’ve had such a long text thread over so many years and a lot of times someone will ask which dress/shoe/bag/lipstick we all prefer when buying. We always say, “Both.” Because that’s the kind of friends we are. When in doubt, if you can swing it, both. Related, Jean Disclaimer: If you find a pair of jeans that you like, please buy both (or two) because a good pair of jeans is hard to find, and you’re going to want another. I say this as a woman who only has one type of jeans in her house because that’s how much I hate jeans. I own two pair. Of the same type. They’re from J. Crew FYI.
No. 13 — Do things with slow mindfulness. I do this with my son. I never rush him, if I can help it. I want to live as in the moment as I can be so I try to be deliberately slow. Being deliberately slow lets me and him (and my family) enjoy the little things and live in the present moment. It’s helped my anxiety quite a bit. I have my moments of rushing, of course, but when I get caught up I remind myself to go slow. See if this makes a difference in your life as well.
No. 12 — Be punctual. I hope you’re not thinking, “Hey, this doesn’t make sense with No. 13, Lee!” Because actually, it does. Being late is a form of selfishness and it assumes that you think your time is more important than others. If you are late to something, please acknowledge your tardiness and apologize. By not acknowledging it, you assume that people are happy to wait on you, and that’s terribly rude.
No. 11 — Be happy for others. It should not affect your happiness. If you are truly happy, then the happiness of others should not cast a cloud over yours. Be supportive and happy for your friends and family. It’s truly so easy.
No. 10 — Love should be conditional. I think unconditional love is almost an abusive phrase. My love for my friends and family is based on how well they treat, love, and respect me and themselves. That’s how it should be.
No. 9 — Smell is the strongest sense tied to memory. In each place I’ve lived, I’ve created a once cold impersonal space into a home. Scent has helped that quite a bit. I have favorite candles, hand soap, body lotions, perfumes, etc. When I smell a scent from a specific time, it immediately brings me back to that moment. Cinnamon and vanilla are scents from my childhood, and it’s a happy memory. I work to infuse my home with scents, and hope that my son will form some strong ties to these and look back fondly on his childhood. Try to think of happy thoughts and scents tied with those and bring them into your space. I think it creates an extra layer of happiness.
No. 8 — If you buy wisely, home pieces are forever. I never feel guilty for buying nice things for my home because for the most part, I’ll have them forever. Save money to buy a high quality item than continuing to replace stand-in option(s) is much better in the long run. You’ll end up saving money too. Money to buy…BOTH of something.
No. 7 — Overhead lighting is a travesty. Sconces, table lamps, and floor lamps will save you. These lighting options create more of a mood than usefulness, which I appreciate. I only need usefulness in a study/workspace and in the kitchen.
No. 6 — If you’re buying (and saving up, let’s be real) for a nice sofa, please do me (and yourself) a favor a get a slipcovered one. We have (had, more like) a beautiful white natural duck cotton feather sofa from Pottery Barn and it got a stain (not my fault), and it is now impossible to clean. If you get a slipcover, you can get it dry cleaned, or professionally cleaned, or even replaced completely. We now have a slipcover for the same sofa but have learned our lesson. Buy the slipcover in the first place.
No. 5 — Create a signature go-to look that you feel amazing in. If you don’t love or feel confident in what you’re wearing, it’s going to show. My signature go-to look is an all-black look, a fresh (home) blow-out, my favorite heels, and signature my hot pink lipstick (NARS Schiap). It makes me feel like I could rule the world. Now maybe I look absurd in it (or maybe I look amazing) but I’ll never know because it makes me feel good and that’s literally all that matters.
No. 4 — Sometimes you just need to sit at home all day in front of the television and sort of feel sorry for yourself. I’ve had days where I’m so over it, that a walk won’t even cure me (see No. 19). These are the days where I do my at-home self care, which usually revolves around pizza (Am I a cliche? Yes. Do I care? No.) and watching favorite old shows, like Will & Grace and The X Files (I’m truly a woman of many interests). It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself or have an off-day or be so over it that you can’t even deal with seeing or talking to another person. Give yourself the day to wallow. That’s totally acceptable and I encourage it. You get to feel your feelings. Just don’t let the wallowing turn into a week, because that’s called depression and you should see a therapist and get some help.
No. 3 — No shame in seeing a therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist. I’m of the mind (joke!) that we pretty much all need one. If you can afford it, or have great health insurance that covers mental health (my god, can you believe that not everyone covers MENTAL health?), then take advantage of it (see No. 29). Just even talking to someone who is (paid) to listen, can be so beneficial. Consider it.
No. 2 — Having a pet is life-changing and wonderful (but it’s so so so hard sometimes too. And expensive.) but if you have room for a pet in your life, you won’t regret having someone who loves you so completely. My dog is the love of my life, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. And thank god I won’t ever know because she’s going to live forever and ever.
No. 1 — If your partner isn’t your best friend, then what the fuck are we doing here? But honestly, if your partner isn’t your favorite person in the world, then I will truly never understand you. Being alone is preferable to being with the wrong person. My husband makes me laugh every single day, and laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. I tell him everything, and he does the same with me. We are best friends and partners. I hate seeing couples who think it’s funny to complain about their spouses/partners/significant others. If you don’t want to be with that person, then don’t. The end.
Well, this was a truly long list and I hope you enjoyed how bossy I was telling you how to live your life.
“Help! I have people coming over in an hour, what can I serve them that takes no time?”
“My BFF is expecting, and I have no idea what to get her, or the baby!”
“A close family friend died, I’d like to write a card to express my sympathy but I don’t even know where to begin.”
It’s been my dream to write an advice column, so I’m quite thrilled to tell you I’m doing just that.
Luckily, I can help you out with all three scenarios above, and many more. I tend to be the older sister, or even the mother (before I even became an actual mother), of my group of friends so they often come to me for advice. This advice ranges from flower tips, to dealing with boyfriends and girlfriends, and the best places to eat in Texas. My goal for this column is to provide you with what I know from my own experiences. I’ve long been a fan of etiquette and manners books but so often they are out of date, and sometimes, out of touch for the modern person. I’m here to offer you practical advice. I hope you take me up on it.
For this advice and etiquette column to work, I want to hear directly from you, regularly. I plan give you realistic advice with candor. Please email me at email@example.com, or feel free to leave comments on the Ask Lee articles. I will answer a question, or time permitting questions, every Monday. If you prefer to remain anonymous, please let me know, and I will honor your request. If your question is time sensitive, please let me know that as well. Contrary to what I believe about myself…I don’t know everything. If I find I do not have the best answer for you, I’ll do my research to provide you with what I would do in that situation. Or, direct it to one of our other lovely The Attic on Eighth editors, all of whom have a wealth of knowledge different than my own.
I hope to hear from you, and I hope I can help.