Julie or Julia?

It’s a question I am asked a lot – and have been asked, for most of my life.

Not by friends or family, though  – everyone calls me Julie (and sometimes, Jule or Jules). So, when asked, even though Julia is my real name, I say “Julie.”

It’s just, well, simpler that way.

“Julia” never quite stuck (except for that brief * period in the 80s, when it did, with everyone at the office; after I quit my job to stay home and raise kids, it got unstuck again).

I don’t mind that it didn’t stick – I’m happy with either. However, I sign my name Julia (usually), and once I began writing books, after fleeting thoughts of adopting a pen name, I decided to sign use Julia.

First, Julia is more popular now than Julie. My evidence: my daughter knew several girls in high school named Julia, yet no one named called Julie.

Second – and this is the more important reason – Julia is my real name,  just like a Cathy might have the real name Catherine, or a Jim be a James.  (Then again, I imagine that most people named Julia are called Julia, the way a Maria is called Maria, not Marie.)

But my parents named me Julia, so there you have it.

There are some famous Julia’s (Julia Child, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julia Roberts, and even a Saint Julia, I’ve learned), and some famous Julie’s (Julie Andrews, Julie Christie, Julie Newmar). Perhaps, like me, some Julia’s are also, or always, called Julie. Does the last letter really matter that much?

Not really. Make that Julie.


“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
– W. C. Fields


* Actually, about six years…

Habit (partie deux), plateaus and follow-through

“Best advice I’ve ever received: Finish.”


– Peter Mayle

Last June,* I wrote about habit and routines, and my readiness to examine my own. My creative side has always resisted them: I wanted to choose what to do and when to do it, letting spontaneity rule. On the other hand, I was happy I was practicing good health habits (like eating a light, healthy breakfast and exercising regularly) and I was ready to dispose of my bad ones (like drinking too many diet Cokes).

Two truths from a book I had just read were helpful:

1. Replacing a bad habit with a good one works much better than just discarding the bad.

2. Routines save mental energy: you’re freed from making daily choices, and can focus on more important decisions.

I decided it was a mid-year’s resolution time, and I made changes. But it wasn’t until three months later that I began to hold myself accountable to them.

In September, instead of just drinking fewer sodas, I cut them out completely and replaced them with water. I started keeping track of exercise and meals, and when the right choices (soon) became habit, they were much easier to maintain. I felt as though I had discovered the secret (for me) of a healthy lifestyle.

I didn’t make my new choices routines impossible to practice, and since then I’ve stayed on track. Because I was afraid I’d jinx myself (or maybe because I didn’t want to have to defend my decisions), I didn’t tell many people about my newfound resolve or progress. And when others offered unsolicited advice, I smiled, listened, and carried on. What I was doing was working.

I had to be more flexible when it came to my work routines – not what they were, but when to perform them. In the fall, I worked my writing schedule around taking a seriously ill family member to her medical appointments, but I managed to keep it up; thankfully, she’s now healthy again.

Then there was the publication of my novel MAKE THAT DEUX. A short interruption in my writing routine, it took a little time and effort in October to travel from my computer files to e-readers and booksellers. Then, I added marketing to my routine.

But in health – and in writing – I’ve hit some plateaus….which can be very frustrating. I’ve learned something very important about them, though:


Helicopter views of plateaus in the Grand Canyon

photo copy 3

They don’t go on forever…and to get past them, you have to keep going.

I’m an East Coast girl: I love Atlanta and the Appalachian Mountains, where my ancestors lived, and I’m not crazy about the rugged majesty of the Rockies. Sometimes, when I hit a plateau, I feel like I’m out west facing a beckoning frontier, but one that’s not getting any much closer.

Mais, il faut continuer.

Which brings me to follow-through. I like to bring my endeavors to completion – I don’t like to start unless I feel that I will, come what may. It may sound inflexible, but it’s not; flexibility is key to finishing. I try to save my choices for when I’ll need them: to adapt, to redirect, to coach myself, to revise and improve. I’m determined to get it done, so I keep going, and then…I finish.

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”

-Henry Ford

* See my post of June 6, 2012: D’habitude: routine

Call me, maybe, but don’t break my heart: Sortir avec quelqu’un

From what I’ve seen, dating has changed since mon époque.* But I wonder why les jeunes filles gens of today sometimes make going out with someone more difficult than it used to be.

It’s been years decades since I’ve sorti avec mon copain — gone out with, or dated, my boyfriend (or any other guy – but not au même temps, of course). And though my husband and I have gone out on many a “date night” during our marriage, well, once you’re married, you’re not dating anymore.

But way back when, we were dating. Normalement, he would call me, ask me out, I would say “Yes,” and we would set up a rendez-vous (date). He would call me from a “land line” or even a pay-phone similar to the one in the photo, and I would answer the phone. If he called and I didn’t answer, it meant I wasn’t there, and he would call again. When the time for our date came, I would be almost ready, and we would go to a movie or out to dinner.

I’m not one to changer d’avis (change my mind) very often, so it worked.

But back then, when a guy called and asked you out, if you said “Yes,” you didn’t cancel on him at the last minute (or even before that), unless you got sick, someone died, or you had an accident. Yes meant yes, and it didn’t mean maybe. There was no easy way to cancel, anyway, like there is today. So you just went out — and had fun.

Like lots of people, I’ve enjoyed listening to a popular song recently that demonstrates (I think) how different dating is now:


Hey, I just met you,

And this is crazy,

But here’s my number,

So call me, maybe?


Hmm. Is she going to answer the call, I wonder? When I first heard those lines, it reminded me of a song that mon copain at UNC and I liked, featuring these lines:


Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby 

Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around 

And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby 

When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still 

I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin’ 

You know that I have from the start 

So build me up (build me up) Buttercup, don’t break my heart 


In my novel — about to be released — characters go on dates, and (because they live in a time before cell phones, or even answering machines) they don’t stand up their dates. They live up to their commitments, even if they’ve only committed to Saturday night. “Oui” means “Yes.”  

And like today, no one wants a broken heart.

* Autrefois, or back in MY day

D’habitude: routine

I like (and don’t like) my routines and habits.

A few weeks ago, I read on my iPad The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. You may have heard of the book — published in late February, it has remained on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list for months. I don’t always read best-sellers (and let’s don’t even talk about the current best-selling fiction books). But this book was appealing, not because so many other people found it so, but because I was ready to examine my own habits, to keep what worked and to change what didn’t.

I’m still working on some of the changes, but I’ve successfully adopted a few of the more basic (and very important) ones. I’ve cut out almost all (diet) Cokes from my diet — for those of you non-Atlantans, Cokes = all carbonated drinks. I’ve shifted my choices of what to eat for lunch at home from whatever we had in the fridge (like leftovers) to what I ate every day as a younger mom: albacore tuna fish or cottage cheese-and-fruit — and when eating out, I’ve made much healthier menu selections. I’ve increased my weekly cardio routines from three times a week to five or six.

I’ve been doing these things not quite long enough yet for them all to feel like habits; they still feel like choices, causing me to think (see book mentioned above). But with each day, I’m getting closer, and as my husband says, it can be all right to make a different choice occasionally, as long as you get right back on your routine afterward. That’s key for me. Aside from health-related issues, however, I’ve also tried to apply what I learned about routines to my work life as a writer.

In some ways that’s been difficult, but in other ways it hasn’t. When I sat down one August to write the first draft of my first novel, d’habitude I worked every weekday from 9 am to 1 pm straight; I was finished by May but didn’t realize that revisions would take just as much work and a lot longer. Much as I know what daily and weekly habits work well for me, and even though I feel comforted (less mentally stressed?) by them, I also feel rather constricted by them. There’s a part of me that’s figure-it-out-as-I-go and, well, more creative (which is essential when writing fiction). My spontaneous, imaginative, only-as-organized-as-I-have-to-be side has always battled against my productive, organized, good-habit-keeping side. This was even the case when my children were little and my occupation was stay-at-home mother — with four kids, I had to be organized. However, I fought and surrendered to that necessity. Hopefully, no one noticed.

Now that I’m writing full-time, I’ve found that I can balance creativity and productivity while making an effort to re-institute my working routines. Dialogue and scenes (the fun part) appear in my head and on the page more easily once I’ve got the story’s plot fine-tuned. My game plan can and does change along the way, but it keeps me focused when the words aren’t coming.  Aside from a two-week vacation with mon mari this summer, I’ll continue my work schedule even when life’s demands get in the way. And I’ll enjoy (more than he will, I fear) the break in routine. I’ll get to think more, I hope, while maintaining my healthier habits.

I’d better bring some paper, a pen, and my iPad!

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