Julia Child is one smart cookie

September 28, 2013
Dior 1947

Dior 1947

Postwar Paris wasn’t all crepes suzettes and ladies swanning around in nip-waisted dresses.

You’ve got to love a chapter that opens like this.  It’s from Karen Karbo’s new book, Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life. It comes out Oct. 1 and whether you dig Julia or not, you have to admit she could probably teach us a thing or two about living with gusto. It was in that spirit that I decided to join some other bloggers in  “Live Like Julia for a Week” challenge that Karbo suggested to a group of “Kick-Ass Bloggers.”  Yeah, that describes me, and if you follow my blog at all, you know I’m all about savoring life and living out loud. So, I chose the chapter “Work Hard To Be Happy” simply because working hard was part of my past but not so much part of my retirement. And there’s been a cost to that.  Karbo sent me the chapter, so I’ve had a sneak peek. But no other compensation. I was curious–what advice would Julia have that could help me?  I opened the chapter.

The reference to swanning around hooked me on the chapter. But it’s a phrase on the next page that spoke to me:

…a life of ease failed to bring out her best qualities

That phrase flashed in neon pink.

Since I retired from my business career, I’ve had a life of relative ease, at least compared to getting up every day and doing client or corporate work.

And frankly, it hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be.

With fewer commitments and more time to focus on myself, for the first time I’ve started noticing little aches and pains. Issues that wouldn’t have even made it to conscious awareness if I’d been involved and working at my old pace.

Now, too, with so much time on my  hands, I found myself missing a reason to get up in the morning and sometimes even missing the hard-driving pace I had back then.

Ok, maybe not the pace.  I love having the freedom to travel and do what I like.

But, I fear, like Julia, a life of ease isn’t bringing out my best qualities.  So, I thought I’d try Karbo’s Chapter 6 advice inspired by Julia:  To Be Happy, Work Hard: Throw yourself into something big, even if no one else cares but you.

Julia’s days were all about cooking and they were long: she began at 6:30 a.m. and ended at midnight, with time in the middle for a nooner with her husband. Oh yes, Julia lived a full life!

But that’s what it’s like when you’re passionate about something–the time flies and before you know it, it’s past time for bed. And yes, she was younger than I. I wasn’t going to be that ambitious. Oh, sure, the nooner sounded good, but an 18-hour day holds no appeal these days.

My passion is writing and I’ve been doing it for years. Still, I knew I needed some focus and a structure to my days because I just wasn’t being productive with my time. After reading Chapter 6, I was inspired to make two changes in my life.


I decided to commit to writing every morning, either blogging or an essay and usually both.

Every weekday morning, that is. Let’s not get carried away–after all, I’m still “retired.”

An early riser, I’m at my best in the predawn hours and that’s a good time to jump-start my own writing. A natural break comes at about 8:30a.m., when we aalk our two dogs, and then again at 10am when I see my trainer, who I began to schedule a week or two in advance.  Because if I don’t, I see him less and less.

Home, lunch and back at my desk.  Hubby can fend for himself for lunch, at least for this trial week. I like eating alone at my desk while I work–maybe it’s a bad habit, but it works for me.  Too many breaks in a few hours can be distracting. I like maintaining my train of thought for a few hours and a schedule helps me do that.

A schedule also means no more aimless time sucks, which is such a temptation when you report only to yourself. My favorite time-waster is watching old movies on our DVR and I decided to make that an end-of-day treat. It’s working, too. I’m keeping to my schedule and avoiding the time suck of TV.

And you know what?

Having a schedule worked. I’m in my third week of living like Julia, two past my trial period, and it gives form and structure to my days. I didn’t realize how much I missed that until I didn’t “need” it.   I discovered I DID need it, to be happy.

2013-09-23 13.41.22MAKE A TO-DO LIST & FOLLOW IT

Call me old-school. It’s easy to ignore To-Do lists on my phone, but not so easy when a hard copy list is sitting on my desk. And a To-Do list was standard during my working years. It kept me organized.

So, I did one. And began to use it for everything from blog posts and writing jobs to traffic school and finding a new dermatologist.

The physical act of crossing off each item–keeping it still visible–allows me to feel the forward momentum and  enjoy a sense of accomplishment–I really am getting things done.  Although I have to admit to losing it for a few days –and I went into a panic. Because at this age, memory ain’t what it used to be. A To-Do list keeps me focused.   And, I’m still using it, three weeks later.

Do you use one?

Here’s my favorite Julia Child rule:


Everyone who knows me also knows that’s been my rule, too, for my entire life, and the secret to my happiness. I don’t like housework, never liked it and am more than happy to pay a service every two weeks to take that chore off my list.  When we moved to our new house, I got a few maids through referrals and interviewed them. I picked the one who had the lowest fee and best recommendations and I haven’t been disappointed.  Whether it’s once a week or once a season, if you can avoid drudgery and use that time to do happiness-inducing things, by all means do so! On that, Julia and I are completely aligned.

Thing is, to Live Like Julia, you don’t have to set up a huge infrastructure of rules. For me, my two new retirement activities–have a schedule and a To-Do list–plus my commitment to avoiding housework like the plague–were enough to significantly impact my sense that I was actually doing something. And having fun.

But don’t take my word for it.  Julia-Child-Rules

Here’s Karbo’s book–a fun and insightful read that can change your life. Even if you aren’t retired, like me.   It’ll be out in just a few days and is available for pre-order, too. Let me know what you think!


18 comments on “Julia Child is one smart cookie
  1. Julie Phelps says:

    Carol, it seems as if the lack of daily structure after retirement is a problem to many people. It should be especially problematic to those of us who’ve always been seriously hard workers. That book sounds like a “must-read” that will benefit many.
    Like you, it is helpful to me to have a written list.
    My entire being responds well to routine – which can mostly be of my own making. My past life was probably that of a cat, since ritual and certain routines keep me steady and purring.

  2. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Carol, you and I are birds of a feather. I am also struggling to find more structure since I left my full-time job three months ago. The plan was to spend most of the day writing that soon-to-be best selling novel! But I haven’t been able to discipline myself as I had hoped. Sigh.

    • admin says:

      I know–there’s so much competition for how we spend our time. Well–live like Julia for a week and see what happens! 😉

  3. I went into a lifestyle like the one you’ve described with a vision. I won’t do this, I will do that etc. I found pretty quickly that big change can only happen as a result of smaller, changes that are made one at a time. Pretty soon, I had a strand of new routines, each of my own making, and things are beginning to look like that original vision. For me anyway, I had to construct, before I could start.

    • admin says:

      What’s most brilliant about your comment is the knowledge that big change requires smaller changes made individually. You’re so right on that. A good reminder and a good plan.

  4. Valerie says:

    Awesome post, my circumstances are a bit different since I’m supposed to resting up after breast cancer. However, the guilt and discontent is the same, especially when I neglect phone calls, messages, appointments and answering email. I do find that if I’m really slovenly for 3 days I’m really productive on the fourth. I really enjoyed reading this; I’ve always been a Julia fan!!!

  5. catherine gacad says:

    this is great advice. i cannot live without my to-do list. it keeps me honest and productive!

  6. Bouncin Barb says:

    What a fabulous post. I popped over from the Blog Carnival (it is so cool isn’t it?) and I’m so glad I did. I have just recently blogged about how I am going to make changes so I can write more. I need a schedule. I need a to do list. Your blog spoke to me! lol. Will be following for sure. Thank you.

  7. Deb Stone says:

    Loved this! Yes, for lists. Yes for scheduled writing times. Yes, yes, yes.

  8. I need structure and to do lists to be happy, too. Schedules don’t work well for me, but committing to work 2 to 4 hours on my writing each day does work — sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes both.

  9. Susan Cooper says:

    Julia Child is a definite inspiration to many of us. She is someone who took charge and didn’t let anyone stand in her way. I would like to think I am of the same mindset. I too do not like housework. 🙂

  10. Jackie says:

    What a great post! Forget “Living like Julia”, I think I’ll adopt the “Live like Carol” philosophy.

    Seriously, great advice. Thank you.

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  1. Blog Carnival V13 - The Indie Chicks says:

    […] Daily Inspiration for Creating Our Best Lives: Julia Child is one smart cookie – Living like Julia Child for a week as part of a book promo changed my days for the better –plus it’s a brilliant book promo method we should all consider. […]

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