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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Of stinky feet, solutions and success (and a little bit of sweat)

Crystal Crescent Beach, 2013

Stinky feet

During my Master's I received a scholarship that involved being paid for supervising our French Literature department's library and assisting professors and students with bibliographic research. It was a great job, and a great way to spend time, surrounded by books and other like-minded bookworms! One of the friends I made during those wonderful years was A, a PhD student about 12 years older than me and who soon became my mentor. She was both incredibly smart and incredibly funny (and a great storyteller!) It might have gone too far as I'm not sure her boyfriend of the time would have appreciated that she retold us their "weekend activities" in the slightest detail, but we sure enjoyed listening!

Now, poor A was afflicted with a great problem. And like most people with big problems, she needed to tell someone about it. The someone she chose was me. I was expecting everything and anything from her (mostly in the like of kinky party stories), but not what she told me the fateful day she opened up and confided in me that... her feet reeked. 

(I hope x-boyfriend was not a foot fetishist!!!) 

She assured me she washed her feet every day. She had tried everything, she said. All the soaps, all the creams, all the powders. To no avail. She said her feet had the foulest smell that had ever existed. (When she offered that I take a sniff I politely declined.)

Looking for comfort, she asked me: "Do your feet stink? What do they smell like?" I could sense we had reached that intimacy level friendship is made of. I said "Er, my feet smell like... nothing at all!

She looked even more disheartened: "Okay, so I'm the one who's not normal, then. But I don't know what to do! What do I need to do for my feet to stop stinking like that?"

She was genuinely distressed and I started to feel sincere compassion for her predicament. That's when I went out on a limb and asked her "Do you change your socks every day?"

She looked at me, puzzled. "What do you mean, J? Do you change socks every day?"

"Well, ya!"

A decided to apply my state-of-the-art strategy. It worked. Her feet never reeked again! Well, that was easy!

Looks complicated, but it's not:
Just follow the path
Crystal Crescent Beach, 2013


I'm using this little anecdote to demonstrate something that I think we too often forget. The solution to our problems usually is pretty simple. There is a well-known principle to attest of that simplicity; it's called Ockham's razor or lex parsimoniae: this "principle of parsimony, economy or succinctness, used in logic and problem-solving, states that among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one" (source: Wikipedia).

Yes, the simplest explanation, and the simplest solution, often are our best bet. Some examples:

You want to be fitter? Exercise every day.
You want to become an author? Write every day.
You want to lose weight? Eat less.
You're tired? Go to bed earlier.
You don't want to binge on chocolate ice cream? Don't buy any.

Those are but some of my personal strategies. They work!

I would add this piece of advice: make sure that each and every one of your choices and actions takes you in the direction of your specific goal(s). Beginning now. There's no time to waste! Tomorrow is already too late! As far as I know, we get only one shot at this (life). 

(Although, based on some of my peculiar interests, I could very well be a reincarnation of a) a Holocaust victim b) an Indian Brahman c) a Tibetan monk d) a French novelist/poet... but that's another story.)

Long before the movie Catch Me If You Can was out, I had read Frank Abagnale's autobiography. This guy might be the biggest impostor of all times, "claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer" (source: Wikipedia). One of the anecdotes I remember from his book is that while he was pretending to be a doctor, a woman once came to him complaining of chest pain. He offered: "your bra might be too tight". She bought a bigger size. No more pain. Problem solved!

I do not advise consulting quacks, especially for medical issues (and certainly not for chest pain!), but in this case, the simplest explanation was the right one!

What do you do to ensure you reach your goals? Are there any simple solutions in your life that prove themselves time and again?

If you feel you are doing everything you should, and still are not reaching your goals, maybe this article could help (Why we read and follow money tips but never become rich)http://moneyning.com/money-beliefs/why-do-we-read-and-follow-money-tips-but-never-become-rich/

Again... so simple! And I'm pretty sure the same principles apply to many other areas of life! Think about it, and let me know what you come up with!

At the end of the path lies...
Happiness and beauty.
Crystal Crescent Beach, 2013


I was browsing my local library branch in search of vacation reading (one of the greatest free pleasures of life!) when I noticed a special "success" display. As I flipped through some of the books, I noticed that the notion of success, in those books, was all about money and fame and status.

It struck me as a very partial definition of success at best. 

To me, success is attained when one finds 1) balance 2) serenity. Money, fame and status may or may not be in the picture. They have nothing wrong with them per se, but they are certainly not sufficient! Here's a personal anecdote to illustrate my thoughts on this topic:

A few years ago I was working A LOT. Way too much, actually. The nice part of it is that money was coming in, and at one point it was used toward a whole new living room: new couch, new rug, new curtains, new coffee table, new lamp, new TV, new fireplace, name it. Beautiful. I loved my new living room. Six months later, however, as I was briefly admiring said living room, I realized I had spent at most 2 or 3 evenings in it. The reason? I was working all the time! I had money to spend but no time to myself! How ridiculous is that? In the following months, I readjusted my life balance so that I would have more time, even if it meant less money. I can say without any hesitation that I am much happier now (and richer, albeit in a different way).

What's YOUR definition of success?

How do you find balance?

To remind myself of the fragile balance of life, I read Le blog d'un condamné, this autobiographical blog by a man in his fifties who's now, according to his doctors, 9 days from crossing the Styx. Yesterday, after meeting a fellow palliative care patient, D, who's a 34-year old dad and about to die as well, the "Condamné" writes:

"Une infirmière m’a confirmé qu’il était relativement courant de voir des jeunes aux soins palliatifs. Chaque hôpital connaît des cas comme D… alors qu’à l’extérieur, les voitures s’embouteillent, les gens pestent pour cinq minutes de retard et ignorent ce qui se trame dans cette grande tour grise qui s’élève sur l’horizon."


"A nurse told me that it's relatively common to see young people in palliative care. Every hospital has cases like that of D... while on the outside, cars get stuck in traffic jams, and people complain of being 5 minutes late, oblivious to what is going on in this tall, grey tower that rises above the horizon".

Let's remember this when we feel that our life is an entanglement of problems!

Why look far when the answer is so close?
White sand, turquoise waters, ... Nova Scotia!
Crystal Crescent Beach, 2013


It's been scorching hot here in the past few days... but I won't complain, as summer is a reason to rejoice, not to whine! What gives me a better reason to sweat, however, is one of the assignments I have to do today. I have 3 lines to translate... for which the client has agreed to pay my hourly rate... but it being a perfume description (for advertising), it might take me the whole hour to make it sound appealing! I first have to decide which one of those words would more accurately and appropriately capture the meaning of a manly scent that is "sexy and bold" (I'd love to smell that!): is it téméraire, hardi, énergique, intrépide or audacieux? I opted for the last. This perfume would also be exhilarating. I'll make sure I don't translate it into hilarant, for that would mean it makes people laugh so hard they wet their pants. Now that would make for an interesting fragrance...

(Isn't it interesting that some people will base their choice of perfume on a colorful description? How about... smelling them!)

After sweating on that I will be back to my comfort zone, reviewing and editing a translation about a Cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitor. Yippee!

And tomorrow... vacation time! Double yippee!

Have a great day! And don't forget to have some fun!

Enjoy what life gives you!
Crystal Crescent Beach, 2013


  1. Several good messages here, Julie!

    We have Crescent Beach here also, and a Crystal River! Nice to see them as one.

    I think smell plays more of a role in relationships than people are aware of.

    A real doctor would have had her take her bra off to examine her, and though slower, hopefully still would have reached the same conclusion. :-)

    1. Smell is extremely important in relationships. I can think of 2 guys who were very interesting in every other aspect but that I could never be attracted to because there was something about their smell that I didn't like at all. Sad but true.

  2. I love the way you write ! You are super lively and funny ! A lot of wisdom here that we should take home and ponder.

  3. I think people like complicated solutions. common sense is a rare quality I'm afraid. or maybe it's just a way of finding excuses for not getting things done, I don't know.....

    1. I think you have something right! This might be part of the problem indeed. Thank you for your comment!

  4. I agree with PPs. Often people think that the solution to their problem is way more complicated than need be often skipping out on an obvious one.

    1. Maybe that's because simple does not mean easy. :-)
      Thank you for commenting!

  5. Sometimes we make things so complicated that we never get anything done. Great reminder and I love, love, love the pictures!

    1. Wow you are so right! I find that sometimes with massive problems I have to break them down into simple, little chunks and I can get it done. IF I focus on the whole issue it seems impossible. I think I need to look more closely at some of the issues in my life and see how I can find some better solutions! Simple and obvious get overlooked too easily.

      PS that beach is stunning!!! Where is it? And wearing dirty socks... ewww!!!

    2. A lot of wisdom in the comments! :-)

      That beach is in Nova Scotia, Canada. I did not mention it but the water was very cold and will only be "swimable" late-July and August probably. However it is a beautiful place, with a nice path overlooking the ocean. Love the place... and it's close to home.

  6. I have two relatives that are both experts in their fields, very renowned in their fields of study, and Ph.D.'s Like your friend A they tend to over intellectualize the process. They are so cerebral that many times they lack common sense. The simplest solution is usually best and most obvious. I would have smelled her feet though, cause that's just the way I roll. It might have helped you with the perfume name. A good antonym for that odor:)

    1. I sometimes fall in that overintellectualization trap myself, and some of my friends who did not go to school as long (I have a Master's) are way smarter than me when it comes to common sense and simple, every day solutions. I try and learn from them! :-)

  7. It really is easy to get caught up in a problem and miss the most obvious answer. That's why I like to talk it out with others - someone will usually catch it eventually :)

  8. Hahaha, loved that story! :D

    I think the problem with obvious and simple solutions often times is that they put the burden on the self-worth of the person.

    If losing weight simply means eating fewer calories, then you for years weren't aware of something very simple, very obvious. However, if losing weight requires a strict nutritional regime that includes drinking the milk of the rare Peruvian mountain sheep, then the solution is complicated and requires following rules someone else set up - someone who apparently is much more knowledgable about these things than you.