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  • Bonjour, Happiness!

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre, by Jamie Cat Callan

    You were warned! I have persisted. More with the Frenchwomen.

    The Saturn Return: Another chance to grab the brass ring, attend to leftover dreams. Last up to around age 59.

    Frenchwoman do not give house tours to their guests. They like to keep their secrets. They regard blabbing and dishing as very American.

    The secret garden, mentioned in Ooh La La!, can be the bedroom. (But not if all your guests see it.) The secret garden is for sleeping late, journaling, reading, and enjoying scent, candles, flowers. It is good to protect and nourish one's secret garden.

    Do not save the best for "best;" you will spend more trying to achieve pleasure that could be yours already.

    Changer les idées: Take a real break. Don't bring everything with you.

    The Frenchwoman is not ashamed of looking like she made an effort, because she DID.

    Frenchwomen do not buy in bulk. (Partly because shopping is a chance to flirt, and be seen.)

    Le regardez: Being seen, being appreciated. Frenchwomen like it. They like looking at themselves, too, and apparently do not feel ashamed for it. 

    And they will make an entrance. You hear them coming. Click click. (They're wearing heels, duh.) They frame themselves in the doorway, wait until they're seen, smile, make their grand entrance, click click click, bisous all around, unwrap their scarf, and everyone is hypnotised. Suggestion: Practice this move when nothing is at stake. 

    Dinner parties. They have them a lot. Here's how:

    • Store-bought desserts. No shame. Because their bakeries kick ass, so why not? But a lot of places around the world have good bakeries.
    • Keep it simple: kir royale, a little nibble, maybe a first course of a split fig with crumbled chèvre and mint, a simple cassoulet, store-bought bread (see above) with the cheese course, simple salad, dessert, then espresso. NOTHIN TO IT.
    • Warm the cheese on the counter for a while - don't pull it right out of the fridge
    • A trou normand - "Normandy hole" - is a palate cleanser, a little gap. Apple sorbet with a shot of Calvados.
    • Take the pressure off by only serving your tried-and-true recipes. You don't need a big repertoire. Serve the stuff that has make-ahead components.
    • Serve each course separately on little plates. 

    Some other things about eating:

    • "Manger" is something les animaux do. "Dîner" is what the people do.
    • Frenchwomen don't take seconds
    • Snacks are RIGHT OUT
    • and the kitchen is closed outside mealtimes

    Those lists of closet basics? Oh, yes, this book has one too: 

    1. Classic white button-down
    2. Pencil skirt
    3. Perfect-fitting jeans
    4. LBD
    5. Neutral jacket
    6. Cashmere pully
    7. Cardigan
    8. Trench

    (Note to self from my reading of this book in August 2016: I HAVE NOT ONE OF THESE. Shocking! Note from February 2017; Situation: Remedied. (Partly.))

    Things to consider:

    • Your handwriting should have panache
    • You could have a potted herb garden
    • See Babette's Feast (why have I not done this already?)
    • Take care of your sick neighbors with a covered dish. It's not hard.
    • Take dance lessons
    • Keep up your languages
    • Spa day. (This just keeps coming up.)
    • Always: good shoes or boots.
    • There is no word in French for "flirt." Because it's what they are soaking in?

    Quote

    "Money is not so important. Beauty: VERY IMPORTANT!" -I'm sorry this is just a note, not an exact quote. It's the right idea though.

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    If this book can be distilled into a single important principle, it is this:

    Happiness doesn't come from a giant leap, so take your pleasures frequently. For me, the cheese course.

     

  • Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Ooh La La! French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day, by Jamie Cat Callan

    Okay, a little background on this one, actually. I LOVE these "secrets of Frenchwomen books." LOVE. Cannot get enough. For a woman raised in a Puritan society <-me, there is always something worth the price of admssion.

    So there will be more Jamie Cat Callan, and other Anglophone observers on how the French do life. Especially the women.

    Now for the bits:

    The Frenchwoman will always choose pleasure over work. Thus, there is no "getting work done." Instead, there are massage, creams, seasonal spa trips, "taking the waters." <- New favorite phrase.

    Frenchwomen want to look beautiful, not young. "Take care of your skin and act your age." (They do like their cellulite creams, though - and apparently believe in their efficacy. Note to self: Investigate.)

    They believe that beauty originates within. Do as much to feel good as to look good. Go to the hammam and spend the whole day.

    What is this "guilty pleasure?" How can it be pleasurable if it causes guilt? How can it cause guilty if it's pleasurable? The guilty pleasure is an alien concept that makes no sense in the French context.

    Changer les idées! Change things up in a small way, frequently.

    "For Frenchwomen it is more important to be artful than to be beautiful."

    Mme. Poupie Cadolle, lingerie tycoon, is very dismayed by seamless, smooth bras. (Me, too! HATE THEM.) Why would you want to imply you are without sexy lingerie or anatomical features?

    A Frenchwoman will have a secret garden in the middle of life: Space for staring out the window, whether melancholy or happy, just being. Not being on the phone. 

    Frenchwomen like to be looked at. Have a dinner party; it needn't be complicated. For fun and frivolity, and to have an audience. It's okay to be a little theatrical. You're only middle-aged once! Participate in the theatre of life.

    "Mais monseiur, comme vous êtes compliqué!" Translation: Sir, you are so ... complicated. Meaning: You are being a jerk and seriously offending me. GTFO. (Memorized.)

    Quote

    "We transfer the handicap, and make it an asset! We fight against the beauty norm!" -Josy Mermet, style consultant. Translation: FUCK BEAUTY NORMS. If I say it's an asset, IT IS. 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Short term: Hit the hammam, and spend all day. There's a very affordable one in San Francisco.

    Long term: Participate in the theatre of life. Refuse to feel bad about wishing to be, on occasion, a tiny bit of an artful spectacle.

  • Love Warrior

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton

    The "representative": a false self that Glennon sends to attend high school and take her real self's place in other dangerous environments. This representative eventually becomes a problem for her, especially in marriage.

    Note to self: GDM may fire her representative in favor of living in a fully authentic manner everywhere she goes, but I love the notion of a representative. Personally, I have several representatives on staff. I'd never promote one to CEO, but they're fantastic for talking to bank managers and cops and the IRS.

    How (NOT) to respond to someone else's calamity:

    • Shovers cram your tragedy into their story, and make everything tidy. "Everything happens for a reason! You'll be fine! Off you go now! I've fixed you and given you hope!"  
    • Comparers got no room for your particular grief. It's just like theirs, or someone they know. "Why you acting like a baby? Nothing special about you, twas ever thus, I got more examples if you want em."
    • Fixers know exactly how to clean up this catastrophe. They read a book about it and if you can hang on for a second, they'll look up the title. "No need to spend one more moment in pain if you will just do what I am telling you."
    • Reporters are just connecting so they can extract the juicy details and pass them on ASAP, usually under the cover of concern.
    • Victims are people who are wounded that they didn't hear news of your troubles sooner, from you. Why didn't you call them right away? "I thought we were friends!"
    • God Reps (few in my world, but if you go to church, and Glennon does, I guess you're pretty vulnerable to this class of hardship vulture) need to tell you what Jesus wants you to do about your difficulties. Since God religions are mostly, by definition, patriarchal, this kind of approach is going to stick in your feminist craw. 

    Note to self: Obviously, there's only one way to receive news of someone else's devastation: Listen without prejudice, unless they're paying me for advice.

    Very important corollary note to self: When anyone offers unsolicited advice, it is safe to assume that anything they say is about them, and not you.

    ^^^ This is why I read books like Love Warrior. Not for advice, but for backup.

    Quote

    "I'd rather lose [Craig, Glennon's husband] forever than lose myself ever again. I will never abandon myself again. That is all I know." 

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    Next time someone shares bad news, listen kindly and stay stumm. Repeat forever.

  • Max's Notes: Year of Yes

    Like CliffsNotes, only not. Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading.

    If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane, useful and funny. Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

    "You just have to train yourself to love salads." --Betsy Beers, Friend of Shonda. Like Shonda, I thought that was some kind of punitive restricting dressed up as being healthy. I've rearranged my thinking about that as I've trained myself to love vegetables more than cheese-n-bread.

    Quote

    "Bulk cheese never hurt nobody."

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    As Mr Jones thinks that my love of good cheese is the thing that will turn him into a bag lady, I have begun to say Yes to bulk cheese.

    First, though, I priced Velveeta because I thought it would be good for big lulz when Mr Jones opened the cheese drawer. Guess what? Velveeta is expensive, y'all. You might as well get Mt. Tam.

  • Max's Notes: Better Than Before

    Max's Notes are my personal takeaways. No background at all, just the standout usable bits I want to remember from my reading. If I write about a book here, you can know that I found it sane and useful - and most likely it made me laugh.

    Use at will! Take what you need, leave the rest.

    Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin

    "Every time you break the law, you pay, and every time you obey the law, you pay." -John Gardner [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

    "Identify the problem" [suck list, 5 why's]

    Bedmaking correlates with wellbeing

    Foundation! First things first - and we decide what's first.

    "Obligers" really do want accountabilitiy

    Therapists teach you to be accountable to yourself. Coaches keep you accountable to the coach. [MAYBE.]

    People will pay more to get less of a desirably bad thing (Halloween candy)

    Nuclear option: Donate to terrorists if you don't keep your commitment. UGH.

    "Starting is harder than continuing."

    "'NOW' is a an unpopular time to take a first step."

    If asked to commit to something far in the future, imagine it's happening next week - or tomorrow - to get your real answer

    No finish line

    Abstainers and moderators are VERY DIFFERENT [People Vary] - and very judgemental of each other

    Make it EASY to do what's good

    Make it HARD to do what's bad

    Inconvenience strategies:

    • Increase energy required (put things away)
    • Hide cues
    • Delay (expl: email only after 11am)
    • incompatible activity / distraction
    • raise cost (tax)
    • block altogether (expl: toss tv)

    PLAN FOR STUMBLES (use if/then rules)

    A stumble is not a reason to give up

    It's VERY hard to get up. Try to avoid stumbling AMAP even tho you can't avoid them completely.

    Rather than "starting tomorrow" maybe think about morning, midday, afternoon and evening. If you "blow it" in the morning, you can still reset today.

    Consumption snobbery is a GOOD HABIT

    Wait 15 minutes / distractions

    Pairing: When I do X, I do Y also (physical therapy and podcasts; mascara and meds)

    Get clear about what you REALLY want (i.e., identify the problem). Do you want to spend $$$ on couples therapy? Or could you just spend $ on hiring a cleaner?

    Identity: "I'm FUSSY. I'm the FUSSY one."

    Takeaway, or One Thing I Will Do Different Now

    • Cook a fresh pot of brown rice on Sunday evenings, so it's ready to go for weekday lunch base (make it EASY to do what's good)

Stop bingeing and overeating. Immediately.

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