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Oct
13

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my week of living like julia child

Lois Alter Mark channeling Julia Child

Julia Child and I have so much in common, we could be soul sisters – if you disregard the fact that I don’t cook.

This revelation was as surprising to me as it probably is to you, but I felt such a kinship to her in chapter 9 of Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life that I almost felt like I should be whipping up a Tarte Tatin. (No surprise that I didn’t.)

Julia Child Rules, which comes out next week, is the latest book in my friend Karen Karbo’s “Kick Ass Women” series. To celebrate its launch, she asked if I, a Kick Ass Blogger (ha ha ha!), would pick one of the nine rules in the book and “live like Julia” for a week.

At first, I was a little wary because, as you may know, my kids used to ask what the food man was bringing for dinner when we lived in Manhattan. I’ve used my dishwasher as a file cabinet and been on a first-name basis with the people behind the counters of my local take-out places. You would never mention me in the same breath as Julia Child.

But, as I discovered reading chapter 9, well, maybe you would.

Julia Child Rules book cover

Although I was intrigued by rules like “Live with abandon” and “Learn to be amused,” I decided to go with chapter 9, “Make the world your oyster (stew),” since that’s exactly my philosophy about travel – minus the stew, of course.

As it turns out, I couldn’t have picked a more appropriate chapter.

Because I was heading off to the TMS Family Travel conference last week, it seemed like the perfect time to embrace that rule and try to live like Julia.

Now, this was a conference I had never attended before and I didn’t know anyone who was going. I was also the oldest blogger there.

I was a little nervous, so I turned to Julia because, according to the book, “No one told Julia that middle-aged women weren’t allowed to hog the spotlight, or that if they did, they could only do it if they passed as someone much younger.”

This was very empowering to me, and instead of sitting quietly in the background, I volunteered to go on stage for a magic trick and I conducted an interview on video, two activities which are way outside my comfort zone.

And, in an attempt to surpass Julia as “the Best Middle-Aged Woman Ever,” I went one step further.

I had to miss the biggest sightseeing day of the conference in order to get to the Social Good Summit in New York and I was concerned that they would all forget about me and not invite me to the next one because I was leaving early. I loved this conference and couldn’t let this happen.

I jokingly (but not really) told our amazing host, Michelle Blackley of the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation, that I would print out a photo of myself that she could bring along with the group and Tweet some pictures so it would be like I was there with them. She thought that was a great idea, and here are some of the photos which I re-Tweeted and which got a lot of exposure. Thank you, Julia, for the inspiration.

Whirlpool Jets

Niagara Falls Whirlpool Jets

Apple picking

Apple picking at Becker Farms

Freedom Crossing Monument

Freedom Crossing Monument, Lewiston, NY

Becker Farms

Dinner at Becker Farms, Gasport, NY

“Middle-age was the time of Julia’s life,” according to the book. Yes! This is the message I always try to get across to women. In fact, it’s why I created Midlife at the Oasis. Since turning 50, I’ve hugged koalas in Australia, studied with Martha Beck in Africa and won a couple of writing awards.

Like Julia, I am working my ass off but can’t wait to get to that “work” as soon as I wake up in the morning. I am as passionate about writing as she was about cooking. It took her 284 pounds of white flour to master Pain Francais, and it may take me 284 drafts to write my own masterpiece de resistance, but that’s okay because “It was this kind of dedication and enthusiasm that kept her grounded and optimistic about the future,” writes Karen.

I can’t think of a better way to approach midlife.

I completely relate to Karen’s observation that “Her hands have age spots, and yet Julia still thinks what she has to say has merit.” Although my children may not always agree, I’m convinced that wisdom – when you can remember it – does come with age, and you provide a great service by sharing it.

For better or worse, I also relate to the fact that “Julia spoke her mind, even when it was out-of-step with the times, even when she was wrong.”

I sort of did this with the video interview I told you about. I was interviewing the very knowledgeable Alex de L’Arbre of Ski.com and I wanted to make the conversation personal and chatty so I started talking about my daughter, the snowboarder, and how she could be an aspiring Gold Medalist like Shaun White. Really? She hasn’t been on a snowboard since she was maybe 10 years old but it sounded so natural that I got caught up in the story and just kept going. It seemed like something Julia would do.

One of my favorite lines in the chapter, and one that really resonates with me, is this one: “Of Julia’s many stellar qualities – her optimism, stamina, determination, and loyalty – living with tortured ambivalence was not one of them.”

This week, I was invited to a couple of events that would have been fun but would also have taken away time from people I don’t get to spend a lot of time with. Rather than endlessly debate what I should do, I asked myself, “What would Julia do?” I skipped the events, enjoyed my time with my friends and never looked back to stress over whether or not I had made the right decision. This was so liberating.

Julia was 54 when she was crowned Our Lady of the Ladle. I’m 54 and am not sure what title I’m pursuing. Our Lady of the Label Sticking Out of Her Shirt?

I want to use words the way Julia used butter – to add richness, depth, comfort, joy.

I may not be able to bake her Queen of Sheba cake but I can step forward to lead an amazing life just like “Julia did, wielding her eccentric personality and joie de vivre like the fright knife she waved over her head on The French Chef.”

Now, that’s one recipe I actually can follow.

Here’s why I love Julia: Check out 6:57 when she says, “If no one is watching, you can take the sides of your hands and shape it together.” Crying laughing!

Comments

  1. “I want to use words the way Julia used butter – to add richness, depth, comfort, joy.” Beautiful, like you. xo

  2. you were totally sitting right next to me at the whirlpool jets 🙂

  3. I love Julia! And I think your photo bombing was a brilliant idea! Nothing better then being on two places at once!

  4. I especially love that you chose friends-time over a session or gathering or whatever and didn’t stress about that.
    I say, always choose friend-time if it’s an option.

    Love your attitude!

  5. Vicky Tarulis says:

    Delightful video of Julia….one of my favorite chefs. For Christmas 4 years ago I made her Boeuf Bourguignon… it took me over 4 hours… but never tasted anything so delicious before or since…. and I love to cook.

    I love your idea of becoming a “Flat Patty” or in your case “Flat Lois.” A great way to be present, yet not.

    Keep the writing coming…. I am enjoying it very much. Hugs to you.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Isn’t that video hilarious?! I am very impressed that you made her Boeuf Bourguignon. I volunteer to be a tester if you ever do it again! Thanks so much for the nice words, Vicky, and hugs right back to you.

  6. Matthew's Mom says:

    We love Julia Child! Very inspiring – there is a lot to learn from her.

  7. I just spent a week traipsing around D.C. One of the places I visited was the American History Museum. Have you been? There is a whole section about Julia. We sat and watched a video of a much younger Emeril Lagasse cooking up a boil for Julia. The littles and I enjoyed it 🙂

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Wasn’t that so much fun?! We also visited her kitchen at the Smithsonian, which was so cool. Maybe you’ll raise a future Julia- or Emeril!

  8. I’m heading to a conference tomorrow and one of my best friends can’t make it last minute. I totally want to print out her picture and take photos around the conference with “her” in them. 🙂

  9. What a great idea, and a great rule to pick! I’m not even sure that age is necessary to try to follow Julia’s examples – I’m a thirty-something and I would probably be just as outside my comfort zone as you were! I’m inspired by your challenge – might be a good exercise for all of us.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Totally agree. Following Julia’s example is a great exercise for everyone — it was just so interesting that I picked a chapter that focused so much on middle age. Next time you’re faced with stepping outside your comfort zone, just go for it and know that Julia and I are right there with you!

  10. I love the way you are embracing middle age-hood (is that a phrase??). Sounds like you had a wonderful time living like Julia Child for the week!

  11. “I want to use words the way Julia used butter – to add richness, depth, comfort, joy.” Just so you know, you do. 🙂

  12. I think of Julia Child as the patron saint of late-bloomers. I love how she inspired your adventurous week!

  13. I love the photo idea–so perfect; and they really worked it. Missed our Cronut this time around, but sounds like you had a great time with everything you’ve been doing.
    Estelle

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      We will have to make a Cronut date next time I’m here. This week has been crazy! They definitely worked the photo idea — they were awesome! Miss you, and hope you had the best birthday! xo

  14. I loved Julia and I love you. I love her spirit and yours. I love her cute little sayings and I love yours. Get the picture? You were the perfect person to write this. Your personality comes through with every word, and I think wherever Julia is, she is proud of you and thanks you for your honesty, laughter and spirit.

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      Oh, Cathy, thank you so much. I love you, and hope you have an amazing trip. So glad I got to see you even though it definitely wasn’t nearly long enough. xo

  15. I love Julia! The photo idea was totally awesome!

  16. Love your post and you are so funny! I was always a fan of Julia and wish I was 1% the cook she was. She certainly was one inspiring woman. Thanks for the uplifting and humorous read 😉

  17. How fun is this?? Love the way you think. I’ll have to pick up a copy of this book.

  18. Boy does that video bring back memories! When my daughter was little, and I was a poor single mom, cooking egg salad and more egg salad, because eggs were so cheap, I used to do an impression of Julia that she got a huge kick out of. Your friend’s book sounds delightful and full of good advice, as is this piece. You could substitute the word age or midlife with heavy or short or with any of life’s other self-imposed afflictions that keep us from letting ourselves shine. This would have been a great read for me to memorize and chant to myself before BlogHer ’13. I’ll keep it in mind for next year!

  19. I love your opening line. It’s the point of Julia Child Rules, isn’t it? That she has qualities we share or can cultivate to enjoy the live we’re leading? I enjoyed the photo touring too.

  20. Living without tortured ambivalence. Now that’s a mantra I can use! More than almost anyone else, Julia was always her own person and everyone loved her for it. So many lessons to learn from the ole gal even if we don’t know our way around the kitchen!

  21. Wait a minute. You don’t like to cook? I just don’t know what to do with this information 😉 I guess when you come to Ottawa, I’ll be Julia Child in the kitchen and you can be Julia Childs testing the wine. Love this post btw. 🙂

  22. “I want to use words the way Julia used butter – to add richness, depth, comfort, joy.” Cosign, Lois. Definitely cosign. We’re living the best of times here in our 50s!

  23. Since I’m not a great cook and am really not interested in cooking per se, I skipped the whole Julia Child book/movie saga, but now, through you, I find her to be such an interesting person! You are truly rocking! I love how you’re grabbing each moment with both hands and making it count!

  24. Oh Lois, such beautiful and fun writing! I look forward to each of your pieces and, yes, you use words like Julia’s butter~ 🙂

  25. I’m so glad Karen Karbo linked to your blog, your voice is so fun and inspiring. Maybe we could make “What Would Julia Do” bracelets? I love the way you are truly embracing age and defying stereotypes. Too often, I get lured by an article or blog claiming to embrace age, and they end up telling me how to avoid wrinkles. You’re really living it, with joy and vivacity: thank you! I will be sure to keep reading your lovely blog.

Trackbacks

  1. […] was bringing for dinner) gave Rule #9: Make the World Your Oyster (Stew) a vigorous work out. She took her midlife self to a big blogger conference where she hurled herself far, far outside her comfort zone and had a great, life-changing time, […]

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